It’s been over a week now since Dad’s funeral. Over two weeks since he passed away.
The funeral is now a hazy memory. I remember shaking violently though I didn’t feel cold. I remember seeing so many of my dad’s neighbours lining the streets as we slowly followed his hearse away from his house. Many of them dressed smartly and respectfully in suits and ties. Heads bowed. I remember getting through my eulogy without breaking down. I remember the quiches and sausage rolls. I remember sobbing uncontrollably into the shoulder of my dad’s old university friend, who I realised later was trying to socially distance.
And time just keeps marching on.
Some days are harder than others. Some hours are spent weeping quietly. Others are spent bent double, silent sobbing – that ugly sobbing when it takes ages between breaths because your body is just too busy dealing with the grief to remember to do anything else. Some hours are quiet and contemplative, whilst others are busy dealing with bickering children, dirty dog paws or laundry.
I suppose it is still early days and this tumultuous ride of emotions is to be expected. I pick up my phone to call him several times a day – for the big and little things – it’s just an instinct. A habit I don’t every really want to break, because I don’t ever want his absence to be normal.
Is that normal?
Is the fear normal?
Fear that I will never be quite the same again. Fear that there is no safety net now. Fear that I will forget him, his laugh, his silly way of answering the phone, his funny habits and large, comforting presence.
A fear that I will never go through a day without absolutely everything reminding me of my dad.
A fear that I will…. that this will become normal.
There is strength in numbers though. Comfort in knowing I am not alone. My sister, brother and aunt are all feeling it and we share messages each day- messages of our grief, love and disbelief over what has happened.
My aunt mentioned in one message that she wishes mourning dress was still a thing, then people would know. Would understand why she is quiet, or teary or distant. They would see from afar that this is a woman in pain, and they would treat her kindly and with patience and care.
I laughed at first at her comment, imagining her in full Victorian dress – black veil and frills – but then I was in the supermarket the other day, silent tears running down my face at the checkout and the thought occurred to me, that perhaps she was on to something. Perhaps we could bring official mourning dress back. Or at the very least, a small symbol or bracelet would help to explain my tears to slightly alarmed and stuck-for-appropriate-words strangers.
But life goes on, doesn’t it? The kids still need feeding. My dad’s dogs still need walking. I am still getting calls asking me if I’ve had an accident in the last 12 months. Mum is still locked away in her care home, safe from Covid-19, unaware that her husband of 48 years has died.
She’s not eating apparently. Or not much. My brother gets the calls from them now. There are plans in place to allow visitors in the next few weeks, though it will be just one member of the family allowed and we have to book in advance. My brother is up next week to stay at Dad’s house, so we will send him in first. I am not sure my fragile heart will manage seeing her inevitable decline.
When Dad was dying – in those last few days – the wait was tortuous. There was a part of me that just wanted it over. Waiting seemed so bloody hard. The tiredness, the agony of watching him fade, the pain of seeing him so depleted….. I thought I wanted it over. I thought nothing could be worse than those days of sitting in the bed chamber, listening to his breathing. wetting his mouth and stroking his hands.
I feel a little like that now. I know the inevitable is coming with my mum. I know her decline will be very obvious as I haven’t seen her since February. I know she knows no one and sees nothing. And there is a part of me that wishes it would all just be over. That this is just too painful and an end would be better than the wait.
But I was wrong when it came to my dad. And I am probably wrong now too.
The finality of death is much harder to deal with than the pain of watching someone you love fade away.
My car has been at the local garage for a service and this morning, my kids and I ran the 3 miles back to the garage to collect it. I stumbled as I ran down a steep hill next to Mabel, my ankle gave way and I found myself skidding along the ground with my hands, the downward momentum also meant I fell forward onto my left shoulder and then face-planted the concrete. Skidding for good measure to a halt.
I struggled to my feet as I heard my kids shocked voices asking me desperately if I was okay. I clung to my face, thinking I was holding the skin on, thinking I had definitely turned into some half-faceless monster, but feeling quite pleased that I could still feel all my teeth in my mouth.
A nice man stopped to help and then we walked the short distance to the garage. Martha, heart-of-gold-child ran ahead to let them know and to call Hubby in case shock set in and I was in no fit state to drive.
The mechanics were peering out the door as I arrived, hobbling and bleeding. I felt stupid. Ridiculous. I felt like I should be telling them that I’ve been through a lot and normally, I wouldn’t just fall over, I mean, I’m a grown woman and quite capable of walking and running without launching myself on to concrete at speed.
Then at home, frozen peas on my cheekbone and grit washed out of my hands, shoulder and knee, I realised there’s definitely something in this mourning attire. The poor mechanics would have spotted it and I would have been able to cry openly, unembarrassed and unapologetic for my stumbling, snivelling state. There would have been obvious reason for my delicacy.
“You looked like you did a somersault on the road!” Mabel told me as I revelled in my kids’ care and attention. For the first time in weeks they weren’t bickering or arguing. Perhaps the dramatic fall was worth it! I laughed and picked up my phone, and started to call my dad.
NB: Thank you to everyone who has sent kind words and lovely messages. It is hugely and genuinely appreciated x
So funny sad. I was coming to just let you know that you’re in my thoughts during this morning period, and it turns out to be your topic…
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Sarah, oh, how I feel for you… And I completely understand what you mean about the finality of death. You may recall from my previous messages that both my late parents had quite advanced dementia and I said far too many times that I wished it would all be over before they diminished to nothing of what they were. Then they both died quite suddenly – Dad in October 2018 and Mum in October last year – and now I just feel as if I am left with a giant hole in my being. It is very, very early days for you and you still have your mum to worry about, witch will affect the grieving process. Be kind to yourself as much as you can. Love to you and your family. Helen xx
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What wonderful photographs to post.
Sheila’s comment about mourning dress is so true. Who would have thought. And what fortitude you showed to be able to read the eulogy. You are touching so many people with your blog and I feel privileged to be able to read it. The family has been in my thoughts and continues to be.
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Thank you, Sue xx
Hi, you don’t know me , however after a friend mentioned your blog here I am. I just wanted to pass on my best wishes and Let you know I think this is just beautifully written. I can relate to your feelings and think you are completely normal. Maybe wearing some item would be comforting to signal to people that we are grieving, Thank you for sharing your thoughts x
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Thank you Sandra – for your kind words and for reading my blog!
Believe it or not you are doing well ! You get up every day and you survive each day with the help of those around you who love you. As time goes on it gets more normal, you never forget or miss them less it’s just a different normal each memory which makes you smile and brings them close for a while, is a treasure. Let people love you it’s all they can do and they desperately want to help you cope. Our parents teach us so much but not how to go on without them that we have to learn for ourselves they made you strong you will find your own way. Love to you all.
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Thank you Jocelyn xxx
You know…there’s nothing stopping you from buying (or renting!) a black Victorian gown, maybe even a black veil to cover your face – I feel like there’s a trend waiting to be set here.
Beautiful post, and if you’re anything like me, you will start to make that phone call hundreds of times. My mom has been gone since 2016 and I STILL occasionally think, “Oh, Mummy will laugh at this.”
Much love, and wishes for all the best to you and your family xo