From cradle to grave

Today, I took my 9-year-old son to his football match. It’s normally Dad who does the football matches, but it had been almost a year since I’d seen my son play due to having the new baby and he asked if I’d go and watch him. He’s been appreciating some one-to-one time with me of late, which of course I love too.

While he was warming up, I automatically joined the other waiting parents by scrolling on my phone, but as I’m trying to be more active I realized I could use this as an opportunity to go for a walk, get my own blood circulating a bit. I wasn’t in an area I knew very well so I just walked out down the road and after about ten minutes I came across a small church.

I thought it would be good to have a little look around. There was a small graveyard just in front of the church, hidden by tall hedges. The graves looked old and weather-beaten, and I’m sure it had long since closed to new burials.

I first noticed five cross-shaped gravestones, lying flat in a line on the ground. On them were the details of men – figures in the community as their job titles were also engraved under their names, each from the 1800s, early 1900s.

The book of Ecclesiastes came to mind. (I’ve been reading over it this month.) In it, Solomon – the king – writes about accomplishments and the work we do, the things we put our effort into, the dreams we chase, and reflects how all of it is pointless once we’re dead. Not in the immediate years following our death, but the hundreds of years that see us but a distant memory, if that.

There can be great meaning to what we do, if through doing it we help others, but equally we spend a great deal of time doing or worrying about things that have no meaning.

Then I took a good look at everything Iā€™d done, looked at all the sweat and hard work. But when I looked, I saw nothing but smoke. Smoke and spitting into the wind. There was nothing to any of it. Nothing. (Ecclesiastes 2:11)

I thought of these men in the ground. Long gone. They probably were highly regarded in their day around the area, but who remembers them, or what they did today?

I then saw a small, quite beautiful, cherub angel gravestone. It was to mark the grave of a baby. I couldn’t tell how old the baby was as the dates had worn away. A little baby without its mother, a mother without her child. I thought of the mother having to put her newborn child into the ground here, the tears that must have been shed, nearly 100 years ago. Yet so many more have been born since – life has moved on at an extraordinary rate but this baby was here once, briefly. This baby’s short life mattered.

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I saw other graves. Some in fairly good condition, others nothing more than a nub of stone sticking out of the ground. No matter what condition the stone, what the status was of the person buried there, or what age or situation they died, they were united by sharing this space. They had once breathed and created memories, but they all ended up as dust and mud, under a gravestone, forgotten or barely remembered.

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I was struck by this stone of a weeping angel.

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It was of two sisters, buried together. One had passed away at age 19, the other had died later age 35. I thought of the parents having to cope with two of their children dying, having perhaps adjusted to the loss of one daughter, only to lose another. Or perhaps they had died too? Who knows the story behind this family’s plot. Who even cares?

There was a striking stone marking the grave of a toddler. Clearly the child of someone of some wealth or importance at the time to afford such a memorial.

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Of course, 100 years ago infant mortality was high so child burials would have been common, but the diversity of the graves in this one tiny patch of churchyard just seemed so poignant to me. Those who lived long, buried next to those who never grew up.

Each one would have been mourned, by wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, friends and relatives… who now themselves may have departed. How did they live out their lives – happy, depressed, lonely, content…? How did grief shape their futures?

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon sees that bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, the wise know more and die, just like fools who don’t know anything and die too. Life is for living he concludes, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously, we can chase any number of dreams but without God there isn’t much point to life at all.

As I headed back to watch my son’s football match, I considered today, this next hour, my ‘work’ was to be there for him. To see him smile at having Mum watching from the sidelines. This memory would stay between us two. And when I’m dead and gone, and he’s dead and gone, this moment will be forever gone too.

But, today, it mattered.

 

Keeping perspective in blogging

I had a rare moment of ranting yesterday. I suddenly realised I felt irritated. Irritated by people I don’t know talking about emotions I no longer understand. And I again doubted whether this blogging world was something I could be part of.

(For readers who aren’t bloggers, blogging behind the scenes is a community of people who connect on social media to read and share each other’s posts. It’s a supportive community, but like any large gathering there are always people you relate to more than others.)

I try hard not to let my grief cloud my judgement of people’s opinions, but sometimes it sneaks up and catches me unawares.

I’d been catching up on some blog reading. I read lots of the big professional parenting and lifestyle blogs as well as plenty of what I call ‘normal’ blogs, of all sizes. I’m not saying the big blogs aren’t normal, they’re just in a different league.

I came across yet another post where the writer was expressing emotion at blogging. Stressing about upcoming awards. Crying over it. Seeking love. Wanting reassurance. (I’m not naming names, this isn’t what this is about.)

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Taking time out to heal

We needed some serious downtime! We last holidayed in August 2014 and had a mostly lovely time in the New Forest, interspersed by terrible guilt trips and the stomach aches that hit you when you feel to your bones that it’s all wrong.

But since then, life’s been, well, difficult. We endured the back to school strain of my second daughter starting secondary school and also reaching her twelfth birthday (the same transitions we saw with Abi only two years before). Abi’s 14th birthday, Christmas and New Year followed in quick, emotional succession and then, to top it all, the second anniversary of her death, after which we had to prepare to celebrate my rainbow baby’s first birthday. Loss and Life so closely entwined. A rollercoaster is an accurate description of the emotional journey these events took us on. We’ve felt burdened by the strain of our loss and trying to cope with normal pressures of family life. Continue reading “Taking time out to heal”

The Gallery: Trees

When I saw that the theme of the week for The Gallery was trees, the first thing that came into my mind was my daughter’s memorial tree.

I paid her a visit (at the cemetery) and took some snaps. Her tree, a pink cherry blossom, while bare of leaves, stood out as it’s covered in ribbons and ornaments that we and others have left. The decorations really reflect her personality and are pretty to look at, especially in these bleak months.
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Halloween just got scary

[I didn’t post this blog about Halloween at the time, I suppose to avoid offending anyone or to put a damper on the fun, but reading back on it, it’s certainly worth sharing. It’s not a major worry for me now, and who knows how I’ll feel about it in the years to come, but it’s a classic example of how trauma and grief can distort things.]

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Coping (or rather not!) with a tween’s grief

I feel like I’ve been winded. My tummy feels tight.

I am crying. The tears started and didn’t stop. The happy feeling dissolved.

My heart hurts and I don’t know which way to turn. How to act for the best.

An argument with my 11-year-old daughter caused this. I have to write – I really have nothing else.

I’d said something fairly subtle about finding happiness again and she jumped down my throat.

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Tears for Abi at bedtime

Perhaps it was because I’d just told my six-year-old son that he looked a bit like Abi when he gave me a cheeky grin.Ā  It wasn’t to make him feel sad, it just slipped out. Is it bad to say things like that? I don’t know.

Last night, my son was getting ready for bed and was in his bedroom. He’d been quiet for a while and came into my room where I was feeding my baby son on my bed.

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Child Benefit… a sore subject for the bereaved parent!

Oh the irony. Having just had a baby, I’ve finally got round to filling out the claim form for child benefit, the same day we receive our first correctly adjusted and reduced payment (for two children instead of three) following Abi’s death 14 months ago.

Dealing with the Child Benefit department at HM Revenue and Customs has perhaps been one of the most upsetting things we’ve had to do since Abi died.

Having received her death certificate (oh how hard that was!), there were a number of practical admin type things we had to change: direct debits to clubs, savings accounts… and child benefit.

Continue reading “Child Benefit… a sore subject for the bereaved parent!”

A blob of gum

We cleaned our cars at the weekend, not a common occurrence I’m ashamed to admit especially with a newborn keeping our tired arms occupied enough, but after the recent sandy rain we couldn’t put it off any longer.

However, there’s one spot in my car (the family estate) which I’ll never clean… the boot side window. The reason? An old blob of bubblegum.

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