We are in British summertime now. The whole winter has passed since you died. And I have a feeling that you know very well what’s going on with me and what’s going on in the world. Still, I hear your voice on the phone as you drove back from work every evening. Still I wait in my chair for you to bounce through the front door with armfuls of flowers or with a look that said ‘seeking sanctuary for a short while’. Still, I wonder where we should meet for a coffee and which garden centre to browse in?
Eric was learning about Van Gogh and told me he’s drawn ‘Starry Starry Night’ at school. I know you’d like that.
On 5th November 2019 we were in Plymouth for a few days to see Chow and Julie and the bairns.We stayed in the Premier Inn at March Mills, so only five minutes away from Chow’s. John went to the art group with Chow on Tuesday morning – lovely for them both. You’d have been proud of me on the way down, cos I drove from M6 toll to Bristol services! Not bad eh?
Well Ria, we were all doing OK in the field of sad poppies without you. I gave Julie your poppy scarf and Chow has your metal poppy and your Dad’s white box etc. All safe.
There have been monsoons of rain since you died.
Susan’s Dad, Arthur, died in October. Poor Susan and Chris worked so hard and gave him a lovely send off. John and I went too, but it was very hard. Felt you all around. Katie looked lovely in your dark coat and it fits her beautifully. She’s still teaching.
I’ve been wearing your Winnie the Pooh nightie. It’s really comfy and warm. I think I’ll look for another one. Don’t know what I’ll do when my green coat wears out. It’s such a comfort – remember, you got it for me when Dom died?
We had a short trip to Looe and went up high to look at the sea for you. What a sight! What a colour! I’ve put some of your sea glass into Dom’s duck pate bottle in the bathroom. It looks cool. I miss you terribly.
Happy New Year my darling – wherever you are.
I’m getting round to writing but it is hard to get down to it. I’m in Scona, lots of chatter and a few children playing – sort of happy noises with the clatter of tea and coffee cups. It’s nice to be out in the hills, but I’m without you. And tonight I’m taking your sewing materials and lovely threads to Maria in Uppermill. Mel never forgets me – she and Deli are a great comfort. Your friends have planted an apple tree for you in Mossley. It’s a little gem and will blossom in spring.
Marcus and Catherine came to see us two weeks ago – they are both well you’ll be glad to know -and busy settling into their new house in Macclesfield. Marcus is wishing for a bigger room for his study…It was lovely to feed them and listen to them…a bit like having you in the room, but of course, you were there anyway.
Some parts of Christmas were very difficult. Not wrapping your present was worst – but also those moments on my own in the living room, just waiting for you to bounce in through the front door with your lovely smile. I think that’s my strongest memory – Ria arriving. And I know what it meant to Dom too. My mind often goes to how I felt to hold you as a baby and our love for each other as we started to explore the world together. Me nineteen and you nine minutes old.
I’m told by Marcus that Cal is well. Working one day a week in Manchester and living with Claire’s family and Muj the cat in Chorlton.We don’t hear from him at all and I don’t chase him. He will come if he wants to and when his time is right.
The Books of Condolence from AQA were posted to me. The words people wrote about you would warm your heart Ria – from Manchester, Harrogate and Guildford – beautifully wrapped. I have passed them on to Marcus and Catherine to keep.
I’m hoping I might see Janet tonight at Maria’s – and Kaz sent a Christmas card. I’ve put a scarlet polyanthus in your red teapot and it stands next to Dom’s boot full of narcissus. Fill your boots with narcissus! I’ve got all your seeds to plant out in the spring.
Was at the Christie last week. The strangest thing was not texting you straight away with my scan results. You were always the first one I told. Still, nothing to worry about, as you probably know, just new meds in March after the next scan.
I’ll stop now and sup my tea and eat a cheese scone. I love you.x
April Ria and you wouldn’t believe what’s goin on. Well, maybe you know.
I’ve put a lemon drizzle cake in the oven, so I’ll write a bit while it’s cooking. The whole world has been visited by a new virus called Covid19 and we’re all in what they call ‘lockdown’! The hatches have been battened down me hearties, to ‘suppress the infection rate’. It seems it spreads like flu, in droplets from the mouth. Not dribbles, but if you can smell someone’s breath you’re in danger of infection. The whole world, I kid you not Ria!
The cake’s cooked. I’ve left it to cool while I write. Everywhere has closed down – schools and AQA – most retail but not supermarkets – garden centres, where they’re throwing away plants – cinemas and theatres – cafes and restaurants – leisure centres and gyms – swimming baths and parks – nurseries and universities – and we all have to stay indoors until this murderous government decides they can unlock people.
The hospitals are very busy trying to save lives in Intensive Care and Critical Care and doctors and nurses putting their lives on the line treating people infected. Stuart’s brother died in London ten days ago (you remember my friend Stuart in Barbados who had bowel cancer?) Someone in John’s art group lost his mother three days ago. People in Care homes and hospices are quite trapped when the infection starts. Jean is having to stay in her room in the Care home in Halifax, with no visitors allowed. How do you continually explain it all to someone with dementia? She has phone calls from Ant, Gary and Ben and Dougie of course – and I write to her as often as I can. Remember, we planned to go there together? I haven’t seen Jeanjeanie for two months now.
Nell’s at home with us now that the theatres have closed and to be honest, I was glad when they did. This murderous government left everything too late cos they’re fucking thick as a double ditch and all standing like Childcatchers in their black suits with their patronising turns of phrase.
Hinnie and Noni do our shopping for us, God bless them. They have to leave it near the doorstep as we all have to stay two metres away from each other. You can imagine how John and I feel because we can’t see Eric or Ella. I can imagine how hard it is for Eric and Ella too. Sometimes their Dad brings them to look at us and wave…but it’s when we say goodbye to them that I see the toll it’s taking on their little faces. Our house is their second home and it’s not the same without them. Just as it’s not the same without you. But nothing will ever be the same again.
We have a Covid19 update everyday on tele. Yesterday Ria, we heard that 16060 people have died in UK hospitals, but that doesn’t include those in Care homes, hospices, at home or on the streets, so it’s probably double that figure. Most research establishments are working on a vaccine which might be a year away at least. So it could be a long lockdown for us.
When I see the work going on in Intensive Care units Ria, it seems as if all the patients are going through what you went through as you were dying. I’ve even found myself asking if Covid19 killed you in September…You told me you thought you had flu, but none of us were to know. Or ever will. I keep getting thrown back to sitting by your bed, talking quietly to you, knowing you could hear me and stroking your hair, holding your little hand and kissing you softly. It’s a funny thing, but you looked like my little baby girl, lying helplessly in your cot and I couldn’t keep my hands off you.
We watched you slip from the induced coma into unconsciousness. We watched your eyes open and see nothing, as the attentive nurses moved you to make you comfortable. Hin and I saw you look at us from a deep distance as you lay quietly, and we saw your fear. It matched our own Ria, but it is equally matched by our love for each other and we shared that. You heard us I know, but you never woke again.
We sat with you for seventeen days. Several times the doctors reduced the anaesthesia to see if you would wake. Maria, Janet, Kaz and Mel were all beside you, caring for you with great love and Chow and Chris were your guard of honour. Marcus and Cal did as much as they could bear and Claire brought love from all your work colleagues. We played your music to you every day and we played the music others wanted you to hear.
A sweet hospital chaplain came to sit with us, to pray with us and to ask if we would like a reading from the New Testament. I asked him for the story of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, calming the storm. He chose the version from St. Mark, because, he said, “Jesus is sitting on a cushion”. It felt right.
On another visit, he asked John and I if he could bring a poem you love for us to read to you. We chose John Keats’ “To Autumn” and he brought a printed copy for you. This chaplain had been a priest in the Swedish church.
Now I listen and watch across the country and the world those families who cannot be with their loved ones as they are dying and cannot even attend their funerals.
The early morning of September 10th was a gentle and fresh dawn. Your bed had been moved from Intensive Care to a general ward with a quiet room and huge window looking out over treetops into sky and free wheeling birds. A blackbird was singing. Always the first and the last…
A blackbird visits here about three times a day. We whistle at each other, but he’s the best singer.
The cake will be cool now, so I’ll nip off and dribble lemon icing on to it.
I miss you always and you are with me always.