Monthly Archives: October 2015

Julie’s influence, Lessons to be learned?

I was sat in the garden one evening recently and remembered something Julie had said to me in her final letter. “When you sit in our garden, think of me and I’ll be sitting with you” These words prompted  me to think, especially with recent events across the world.

imageThis is Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux, most famous for leading and winning the battle against General George Armstrong Custer in 1876.

Custer, it has been well documented, was by all accounts, an arrogant man who had political as well as military ambitions.

Following the defeat of Custer, Sitting Bull said, and I quote ” Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights because no one has the right to take another life.  The warrior is someone who sacrifices himself for the good of others”. “His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenceless, those who cannot provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity”

The wise chief also commented ” Man belongs to the earth, earth does not belong to man”

Those quotes come from a great man who died 125 years ago but the philosophy should apply today. Our leaders throughout the world could learn from those few simple words.  As in Sitting Bull’s day, when Custer was in full warring and greed charge, these simple phrases seem to be just as important.  Maybe our leaders ( I have great respect for our Prime Minister), and the leaders of all the civilised world should read, digest and think how those words are relevant to the lives of all humanity as we war with each other and rape world of all its resources!

Finally, I was drawn to another quote from the Chief ” Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing so gentle as real strength”. I’m sure Julie drew me to this as sometimes I feel such emptiness until my family and grandchildren descend to our home and fill it with laughter???

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Signs from Julie

130Julie wrote letters to not only me but all those close to her before she died.  In her final letter to me she told me to”look out for the signs I’m still around, you can’t get rid of me that easily”. Perhaps I should explain.

When we rebuilt our garden, we did so to encourage bird life in as well as making it a pleasant place to sit.  Since we have finished it we’ve had all types of birds visit.  A little Robin comes and hops around picking up the mealworms the greedy Starlings drop from the feeders.  Percy our friendly pigeon chomps on the peanuts, Sparrows, Coal and Blue Tits along with Blackbirds, Magpies, Crows and the occasional Seagull all come and eat their fill but for over a year Julie and I tried, without success,  to tempt in Goldfinches!

This morning, I was working in my office, which overlooks our garden and conservatory, I look up there on the conservatory roof were a pair of Goldfinches.  “Julie would love these” I thought to myself and as I was thinking this a third Goldfinch flew in and perched on out lilac tree!  I couldn’t believe my luck! “Look out for the signs I’m still around” I smiled to myself then the icing on the cake…A yellow wagtail!! I knew then Julie somehow had a hand in this because when she saw my delight when I saw the Goldfinches she decided to throw in something extra, the Yellow Wagtail.  Thank you Julie xx?? imageimage

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Julie and I were never overtly religious, although she felt the need to get herself confirmed a number of years ago while she was searching for her faith.  I’ve always been more spiritual, preferring not to believe in the traditional ‘go to church and prove your faith’ method but to try to treat others the way I wanted to be treated, even when they’ve done wrong by me.  Julie, despite having the tongue of a viper when riled and the disposition of a hungry T. Rex when suffering from pmt, also became to believe this.  I realised around 40 years ago that life was about compassion for others and “The End Game”.

Someone told me many years ago, my insight and ability to read life was because I was an old spirit, one who had lived many lives before this one.  This small but significant piece of information helped me understand all the flashbacks, all the people only I saw when I was young and the generally different way I perceive life.

A local vicar once asked me “Are you a Christian Kevin?” ” If being a Christian is about helping others and trying to provide for your family, then I suppose I am” I replied ” If you don’t attend God’s house then you can’t call yourself a Christian” was the so called Man of Gods’ next statement. ” Then let’s just say me and God have an understanding, I don’t mess in his affairs so I don’t expect him to mess in mine!” The vicar stopped talking?

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Space, space and more space

imageYou know when you love someone for over 40 years, you tend to forgive all their little foibles.  When you lose someone after that amount of time, you also realise just how much they’ve taken over your life, and your office, and your attic, your cupboards and your wardrobes and drawers.  The lovely Mrs Atkins, pictured left, was an expert at covert occupation.

It’s been nearly six weeks since Julie moved on into the next life and her next adventure and things have become so much clearer both emotionally and space wise?.

Business has had to carry on more or less as usual, fortunately my two lovely daughters, photo(29)Leah and Hannah along with Nathan my strong son have got to “de-cluttering” the family home.  I’m glad they did because I cleared out the first set of drawers and produced enough underwear to fill a small department store, enough pyjamas and nightwear to kit out a Royal garden party and 50, yes 50 pairs of socks, I don’t think I’ve owned 50 pairs of socks my entire life??

I’ve a theory about all of this, I reckon you ladies get taught the art of slowly turning your homes into clothes shops and boutiques at school! I’m pretty sure, when you all got carted off for the “private lesson” without the boys (we boys thought it was about periods and sex) you were actually being shown the gentle art of “domestic occupation”.  Otherwise known as how to fill up your home with clothes, handbags and shoes.   As I’ve already laid out in a previous paragraph, my beloved Julie was an expert. Ha ha she could squeeze a hand bag inside a purse if it meant she could buy another.  Laugh about it we did but that was her persona.?

I digress. After a day of attacking our (now my) wardrobe, I returned from work to find Leah and Hannah a little upset, now I assumed their mood was because they’d been turning out their mum’s clothes, but no. ” Daddy” they announced ( they still call me “Daddy” even though they are in their thirties) “Daddy, do you realise how many clothes Mum had?” Asked Leah ” Have you any idea how few clothes you have Daddy!?” Hannah said with a genuine sadness.  “Come and have a look” they both were excited, then I spotted the sea of black sacks in the lounge.  “Jesus! What’s this?” I ask with shock.  “38 bags of clothes for the Charity shops!” I’m told “Mum had lovely clothes, sometimes the same top in 10 different colours!” One of the girls tells me.

I enter my bedroom and there it is….an eight foot long fitted wardrobe which the last time was that empty was when I built it!!  Leah and Hannah were right, my sum total of clothing was contained in 2 drawers, and about 10% of the wardrobe, that shocked even me!!

A couple of days later, I went out shopping for clothes for myself, as I wandered around various shops with firstly Hannah then Leah, I wasn’t extravagant, I never have been but gradually I began to feel less guilty about spending money on myself.  Julie never ever begrudged me anything and nor I her but I couldn’t see the point of buying for myself to put the clothes in a wardrobe where they would get swallowed up in an ocean of dresses, tops, blouses and trousers!

Nice to be able to see what I have to wear now and nice to have a choice but do you know what? I’d sacrifice the lot just to feel her hand in mine again or to smell her hair or to stroke her soft skin xx

????, to be continued.

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September 7th: The End Game

julieIt’s October 6th, I’ve only just got to write this post because I needed to think hard about it before putting pen to paper.

June and July were busy months for Julie and I, we built her garden, she had her party and we spent lots of time together and with our family.  June, July and August were to be among some of the happiest times of my life.

During those last three months or so, our three grown up children spent as much time as they could spare with Julie, not crowding or showing pity, she didn’t want that, but being normal and supporting to their Mum.image

For Julie and I it was a time to grow even closer than we already were, a time to be strong for each other.  I had come to terms with the fact she was going to move on during the weeks after being told she had incurable cancer.  Julie, despite living with the death sentence never gave up.  Both of us knew the next phase of her existence would be starting soon.

August arrived and Julie started to lose her mobility because her legs had become swollen with fluid.  Her good friend Trudie Hall, also her district nurse, persuaded Julie it was time for a wheelchair. I picked one up from the local Red Cross station, bought it home, then the hard part, getting Julie to sit in it.  “If you think I’m going to get into that, think again”she told me.  You see Julie saw every  pill, every dose of morphine, every moment of sleep as submitting to the disease.  “Well we won’t be going very far then will we?” I countered back.  A couple of days later we visited Hinton Ampner, a National Trust property and after about a hundred yards of walking Julie sat in the chair and allowed me to push her.  I enjoyed pushing her and secretly I think she was glad she had the chair. She reminded me of a regal matriarch?

DSC_0112August wore on, Julie and I spent many evenings sat in our garden talking, surrounded by candlelight and plants.  During this time I noticed  she was becoming more and more tired, she could fall asleep at the drop of a hat, we would be talking then all of a sudden her head would drop and I knew she was asleep.  I’d let her nap for a bit before gently waking her and helping her up the stairs to bed, ensuring she had plenty of drinks to hand.   Those last weeks were, I suppose, thinking back, quite stressful.  Julie became more lethargic and it became more difficult to get her to take her medication, understandably so because at one period she was taking around thirty six pills every day! During the nights she was uncomfortable and restless,  when she was in pain I held her and comforted her while the morphine did its job and waited until she went back to sleep.

My day would begin at around six in the morning,  ensuring her meds were ready, I’d take her a coffee if she felt like one and a rich tea biscuit plus water for the first round of tablets.  I then got to work doing laundry and emptying the dishwasher. After checking on her, I’d  get the work organised for the day, Nathan would then leave to deal with whatever business needed taking care of with our guys but knowing I’d be making my rounds a little later. 7.45 and I would go into the office which is on the same floor as our bedroom and deal with any emails and order materials as required for work. Between 8.30 and 9.00 I helped Julie get dressed then downstairs where she stayed most of the day, generally working on whatever picture she was drawing.  I did my rounds before coming back at every opportunity to make sure she was alright.  It was during this period Julie wrote individual letters to each of our family, her parents and brother and to her very close friend Debs.

imageOur son Nathan and his girlfriend Georgia became engaged to be married in August, Julie was happy as I’d ever seen her when they told us ??. On the 29th of August off they went to Rome to celebrate.  During the week they were away Julie looked forward to the photos Georgia or Nathan posted on Facebook, Rome was on our list of places to visit had she not been ill.

The week between the 29th and up to 4th of September was a defining time, Julie started to go off her food entirely and could only really drink through a straw.  Trudie continued to come in as often as she was needed and told Julie she was going to order a hospital bed to go in our living room, this time no objection from her, she knew she was struggling to use the stairs.  The bed was to be delivered Monday 7th.  Julie meanwhile was sleeping on her reclining chair, I would stay downstairs until she was asleep.

Saturday 5th Julie had a number of visitors, Trudie, Hannah and Matt, then Debs.  Debs was off to The USA on holiday and wanted to see Julie before she went.  I walked Deb to her car and told her this might be the last time she would see Julie, Debs was understandably upset.

Julie was becoming visibly weaker, struggling to talk.  That night she wanted to have a shower and sleep upstairs, I helped her shower and dress.  Julie said to me that evening. “You know the end might be weeks or even days, I can’t cope with this much more”.  ” I know my lovely” I replied “Don’t you cling on and keep putting yourself through this on my account”.  “You are going to have to tell me to go darling” she told me. “If I’d have known it was that easy I’d have done it 35 years ago” says  I. That was the sort of black humour which kept us together for 40 years ❤️?

Nathan arrived back and sat with his mum for a while, relaying all the goodies about Rome.   It was good he was there at that time.  Julie laid in bed and listened to the stories of Nathan and Georgia’s adventures.

Sunday started as usual but today Julie seemed different.  ” I’m very tired today sweet, I think I’ll stay in bed today for a rest”. “You’ve been lovely to me, thank you for looking after me, you’ve been the best husband an father I could wish for!”. ” Thank you my darling” I replied, ” but I took those vows seriously you know”.

She held my hand for a while then I set about the Sunday chores, popping up often to make sure she was ok.

“How are you today ” I asked Julie as I was getting dressed on the Monday “I don’t feel at all right today sweet” was her reply. ” I’ll get your meds then get you downstairs my lovely, OK? Trudie’s coming this morning to change your dressings and Leah is going to stay with you while I organise things” I coaxed, then gently helped her get her dressing gown and got her downstairs to her chair.

I knew I had to go out that morning, so I discreetly phoned Leah who told me she’d be around as soon as she had fed her boys.

“You get off to work!” Julie instructed in a whisper.  ” I won’t belong, I love you” I replied.  I never told her Leah was on her way, Julie hated causing any fuss.

A couple of hours later Leah phoned me and said Trudie was there and had asked if I could pick up a commode and could I get back to help her move Julie.  A commode I thought to myself, this’ll be interesting, I’ll probably end up wearing that, remembering the trouble I’d had with her with the wheelchair and her walking stick (which she mainly used for poking me when I’d made the mistake of dozing on the sofa!).

When I got back, commode and all, I helped Trudie move Julie, I noticed she had deteriorated in the couple of hours I’d been out.  I walked Trudie out ” I don’t think it’s going to be long” I said to her.  ” Trudie agreed with a tear in her eye. ” Are you ok? ” she asked I reassured  her I was and that I knew what to do when it happened.

Nathan arrived back from work, Hannah drove from her job and we sat in the garden while Julie slept.  I told them and Leah I didn’t think their mum was going to last much longer and we should stay with her. Julie’s dad asked if mum and he could come and see her, I told them sooner rather than later.  They arrived about 7 in the evening, Julie was drifting in and out of consciousness but raised a finger to acknowledge they were there.  They left about 7.30, upset naturally, I told them I’d keep them informed.

As I was still dressed for work I went upstairs for a shower, I’d just finished and Nathan called me, Julie wanted to move, I went down and helped them, then back up the stairs to finish dressing.  Julie was on the edge of her chair with Leah, Hannah and Nathan supporting her.  “You need to tell mum it’s ok to leave ” They all told Julie they were going to be ok, as did I, she started to vomit and struggle for breath, ” I love you all” she said and she was gone. ❤️

I made her comfortable for on last time, closed her eyes and cleaned her up.  There were tears but I am so proud of how our three children, who of course are adults coped and treated Julie’s passing as part of life.  She too was proud, I know this because she’s only in a different room, not gone forever.

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