Stepping Out of Grief with Raj

Some things have ceased
to come along with me …
the Waiting Room
the Ventilation tubes
the Infusion lines
the Finger clip
the ICU machines
the Alarms
the Catheter bag
the Plastic aprons
the Lifting and Turning
the Mouth cleansing
the Pain in your Eyes
and in your Friends’ Faces.
But Kindness walks with me.
Sweet Nurses and the Sad
Consultant who couldn’t
meet my face to tell me and
the Wise Nurse who whispered
‘She’s watchng you.’

Holly-gathering in snow
we sank to our knees
and blew on our nails.
Fixing the swing and
rocking a cuppa.
Listening to choughs as
we smelled peat bogs burn.
Sunrise from your window,
Evening calls on your drive home
and your little hand in
seed trays or stringing night-time
lights amidst Sweet Peas and
Morning Glories, in blue pots.
Muj on the bench
in the sun
and You on the bench
in the sun.
Door open, kettle on,
laptop on, washing on.
Tickets for gigs,
Embroidery threads,
Reading glasses and books,
Camera and paintings.
Duvet cover and carpet lover
Secondhand rose and loving Carer.
Fatherless Child of mine
in Sweden jacket and red shoes
dancing the night away
in the hills.
Brown-eyed girl, I have never felt
so comforted, just stepping out
from Raja’s room.
Into his view, into our hills and
listening to the peace of
a summer’s morning with
schoolchildren’s voices on the air,
while blackberries ripen and
blackbirds and larks sing
above the window Lego box.

Ode to Simon Armitage

Uncurling my thoughts and
curling up to write that
there’s something comfy about you.
Well shod, brown shoes I remember
in Oldham Probation.
I was forty one and you, a listener,
with gentleness and an interest in
my Section 10 group doing English.
Your wall display of notes,
tracing the residential hike in
High Peak country,
telling it like it is.
Seventy eight now and watching a
Poet Laureate who feels like corduroy.

Tree Planting for Ria, 20th June 2021

It was a glorious midsummer’s day Ria and we all gathered in the car park at Dove Stone National Park, in the hills you could see from your bedroom Sweet Pea.

We ate croissants and drank orange juice at 10.30 am, watching your dear ones arriving from near and far. Claire came, with love from all those you worked with, Kev from Sheffield, Hinnie, Marcus and Catherine, Raja, Maria, Kaz, Delli, Mel, Janet, John and me. Cal had to self-isolate in Yeovil but was with us in spirit.

Claire is waiting for a knee and hip operation, so couldn’t make the climb uphill but would wait near the reservoir for us. We all set off up to Indian’s Head at 11.30 am. The Life for a Life gardeners, Philip and Dougie, met us on the way and told us to rest a few minutes near their tractor til they got back. Your lovely hawthorn tree was waiting in its spot for us.

A partridge was snooping about it and eyeing us up, wondering what we were doing in her parish . She hung about while Marcus placed some of your ashes in with the tree and we said a few words, then Raja read our little plaque that stands in front of the tree for all of us to hear.

I made my way down the hill (easier than climbing up!) and John stayed to take some photos of everyone in that beautiful spot with their own thoughts. A spot you often visited Sweet Pea – and you were with us, with Dom’s arm round you – just like at Prune’s wedding.

We met up with Claire again and then went into Greenfield to Scona cafe, where Gemma had made afternoon tea for us all. Time to sip drinks of tea, coffee, ginger beer and talk quietly with each other, sharing photos. Gemma brought me a Bushmills in a lovely glass and we toasted you and the blessing we have lived with, having you in our lives.

Raja, Marcus, Catherine, Janet, Kaz, Delli, Maria, Hinnie, Kev – thanks to Mel behind camera and John helping me up in the background…
Your own partridge…
Your hawthorn …
your Hin…
Your Ma at Dom’s tree…

Morning all

It’s 5am on June 19th 2021… there’s nothing more beautiful than a still garden after dawn. The roses are resting like stone angels on a gravestone – not a petal or a wing stirring. It’s as if the world has stopped turning.

The sweetest thing has happened. Our neighbours, Sue and Dave, have planted a bed in front of their bungalow with wild flowers – and called it ‘Leigh’s garden’. The bees love it. So do I.

Tomorrow we shall plant a hawthorn tree for Ria near Indian’s Head in Dovestone , close to Dom’s rowan tree. Her friends will come…Maria, who still sees her sitting on the stairs; Kaz, the wise one who loves to walk and who had a midwife for a mum; Janet the carer, who can clean a house like a dose of salts – pretty in pink; Mel the music-maker, with a smile to die for; Deli of Mel, lover, mother and health worker and Claire, colleague and loving playmate for Ria, who has cared for Cal and Mudge the cat, til both moved on.

And from the family she loved. Marcus and Catherine, beloved son and daughter-in-law who thanked us for planting the tree; treasured son Calum, self-isolating as housemate has covid, will be thinking of us; Chris brother and Susan, sister-in-law will come from Hebden – the second planting for them; Kev, sweet cousin, will come from Sheffield no matter what restrictions try to stop him; Nell, sister will be with us, timid and watchful; Hinnie, sister, with thoughts too deep for words and Raja, neighbour in Mossley and constant friend to us all. David, Ria’s hairdresser, can’t be there for work commitments – but has sent rose quartz crystals for her and will marry Shaun on June 28th. Another postponed wedding, which was to be celebrated in Dovestone last year, but now a quiet homely, family do. What a special place Dovestone is…
John will be with me to help me up the hill, as he has done for nearly forty years.

Then, on Sunday 21st june, it will be Father’s Day.

Sweet Pea

On May 10th, 2021, I was sitting in the waiting room at  the Christie, waiting for my scan at 7.30 am. The lemon drink rested on the table in front of me amidst the socially-distanced seating arrangements. Nobody speaking, only the early morning breakfast show on tv at the far end of the room.
A few other people waiting.

Behind me, I heard a nurse speak to someone…”Just follow me, Sweet Pea…” as she led the patient across the room. My senses jerked alert. I have never heard anyone use that name, other than me. And there you were Ria, not socially-distanced, sitting beside me, smiling.

Proverbs of Hell

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure.
All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number, weight and measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.,
If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.
Folly is the cloke of knavery.
Shame is Pride’s cloke. (!!)
Prisons are built with stones of Law, brothels with bricks of Religion.

William Blake

Dear Ria,

Well, it’s early spring – signs of life all around. I haven’t heard the blackbird yet, but when I sleep I’m deaf as a post, as you know, without my hearing aids in – so I’m unlikely to hear that song early in the morning. But evening is another matter and I went outdoors at dusk last evening just in case the blackbird was singing. We have a pair in the garden. they visit for mealworms every day and I watch them on the crocus pots on the front wall, because my desk is in front of the window now. It’s a lovely spot – I wouldn’t swap it, even for a meadow view.

Yesterday I bought some Morning Glory seeds, amongst others, and I’ll sow them for you today. I have your little seed tool and plenty of small pots. I can use the windowsill in the back bedroom because it gets lots of sun. I miss you so much. I love you so much.

Ali sent me a page of Dom’s writing yesterday… his copying out of writing he loved. This was William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell. Very timely under the present world circumstances. I’ll copy it out for you. Kiss Dom’s cheek for me and tell him I’m waiting to see Shivvy in a series being filmed in Liverpool now called ‘Time’. She’s with Stephen Graham and Sean Bean, so someone’s got it right. Willie Russell I think.

Bye for now Sweet Pea. xx

Estelle Aline Stawman

My Dearest Myles,
Something I want you to know is how precious to me your friendship with Dom has been. In my mind, it made him safe and not alone. That proved to be so true in time, as I learned how he trusted you implicitly.

It was through that loving friendship that I met Estelle Aline and I think she felt the same about Dom’s friendship with you. Although we only met fleetingly several times, I knew and heard how much Dom loved and respected Estelle and how he enjoyed her company. It was a deep comfort to me that Estelle so loved Dom.

As mothers, we have watched each other recognise the beautiful qualities we love so much in our respective sons.

As women, I don’t think motherhood has been the central role in our lives, but we have been players – and Estelle Aline was an original woman of great curiosity and integrity. I know very little of her younger days, but I feel we have shared similar experiences and beliefs. Something to do with our post-war, northern generation and education? I have thought of Estelle Aline so much over the past weeks – and I will always hold her close.

I don’t know Felix, but how she must have loved him! What a photograph!

I love you dearly,
Leigh x

Eric and Ella

Eric and Ella will come today,
Bringing backpacks and smiles
winging into this room
and filling each corner
with love and play.

The boy and the girl will
lift spirits and see all
the small things that matter
in waiting and longing
and dreaming and tea.

The doorbell will ring
so they’ll jump to their feet
and race to see who’s
knocking lockdown
and come here to meet.

Baby birds in my head
huddled close in their nest –
sensing feathers arriving
beaks stir from their rest
and open in trust, to greet and to eat.

Leigh Cook
19.1.21

Blessings of Lockdown

One good thing to come out of Lockdown experiences is the way it focuses the mind on small things…usually moments of experience which alight on me like a snowflake or a blessing.

When my daughter quietly sits a cup of tea next to me as I’m knitting…

When my daughter, who I haven’t hugged for ages, stands back to let me hug her children…

When my son-in-law sends me a picture of my daughter and the bairns out walking in the fresh air…

When I can listen to Holst’s ‘Venus’ and hear the last two notes…

When the bin men wave to me in the morning…

When someone trusts me enough to share their sadness with me…

When I have a text from my nephews and nieces saying they love me…

When my sons, who know how to make me smile, make me smile…

When, in the dark morning, where I can hear nothing without my hearing aids, I lie in bed and watch my husband give me his good morning wave…

When I open a card and see love from someone who has bothered to write…

When I hear starlings whistle in the supermarket trolley park…

When my daughter’s shamrock plant begins to throw up new shoots…

When I see the blackbird on the lawn…

When the bulbs I planted start to shoot upwards in the garden…

When the camellia buds tell me winter doesn’t worry them…

When neighbours wave as they pass…

When my fingers ache as if I’ve been building a snowman…

When I can go to a website and feel closer to my family…

When I see Fr. Phil minister Mass on his own…

December 9th 2020