Saturday, 26 February 2011

Ice cream on the kitchen floor!

I have been overwhelmed with the huge wave of love, support and grief for my darling Clive. You are all helping me so much. Not that I needed confirmation of how strong our relationship was, all these things just endorse it further. So thank you so much. I am also being told that me sharing my thoughts, etc. is helping you too so I guess I will continue that.

Clive was a brilliant writer. He had so much to share. Many times he'd suddenly announce 'hmm, I'll write a blog about that!' I would wake up sometimes and 'feel' that he was wide awake and his brain whirring away. Eventually he would kiss me, tuck the duvet around me and say he was off to write. A few hours later there would be a blog entry and a contented, smiling face would then return to me with my breakfast on a tray and the comment 'I love having you to spoil'.

This has been my first night alone since Clive took his last breath on Saturday night. My amazing parents, who I need, want and appreciate even more than ever now, have gone home.  I know how it hurts to see your child in pain and as a parent you would do anything to ease it. Mum and Dad - please believe me of how vital is was this week for you to 'be here'. But I also need you to look after yourselves too. Clive's sister Lynn was due to stay with me but I wanted her to go home to snuggle up with her husband Rod. Everyone needs to appreciate their loved ones. I assured her that I would be alright and on reassuring her that I would call if I needed her, she went home.

After writing my journal I recalled last Friday night. Lynn, Sue (her daughter), Rod, Clive and I had been into the Queen pub in Tadcaster to watch Leeds Rhinos play on Sky. It was a lovely evening - Rhinos won, Clive was so pleased with his trimmer figure; so pleased with the fact he was out without a walking stick 4 days after a knee replacement operation; so pleased to see the warmth between his sister and I; so pleased to see some of our friends like Lindsay and Lee; so pleased that Rhinos won! He asked if we could go into 'the Coach' on our way home for 'one last one'. Over the years he had spent hours and hours in The Coach and Horses. I was a bit reluctant but he had his cheeky little boy pleading smile so I just had to take him! We sat and recalled some of the fun times we'd had in there before coming home. No sooner had his head hit the pillow he was asleep, smiling and content. Little did I know that would be our last ever night together.

So a week on I am finding examples and evidence of so many of Clive's messages. One of his values was about choice. I am now in a position to choose my own actions, emotions, reactions. I could have chosen to weep and wail. Instead as I came up to bed I smiled as I remembered last Friday evening. Clive was loud to say the least when watching rugby - anywhere. Even in the pub he'd shout loudly at the ref's decisions and players mistakes. Sometimes I'd remind him that not everyone was there to watch the match and to turn the volume down! I know some people will have purely judged him on being the 'loud mouthed, self-opininated' bloke that supported Rhinos. That makes me smile too as now they will be seeing just who Clive Gott was. Another of his 'lessons' - others people's opinions of you are none of your business. If they chose to think of him and judge him in that way, that was their choice. They could have tried to find out more about him or let him continue to irritate them!

Once in bed I did my new routine of putting all his many pillows down the bed so it feels like he is there to snuggle up to. I drifted off to sleep content. I am well aware that there are many legal and financial matters to be sorted out but for now I have to focus on getting to next Wednesday, a day at a time, and deal with such matters in due course. I often reminded Clive of 'being in the moment' - a key factor for emotional wellbeing and part of what I speak about around mental health. How often do we miss the 'here and now' because we are too busy thinking about the next thing? In doing so we spoil the appreciation of 'now'. Clive has a picture on our kitchen wall with the expression 'Now is the only time we have - are you going to be here or not?' How true. A few weeks ago Clive, Dominic (my son), my parents and I were out for a meal together. The food was tasty, the banter fun and I was soaking all the senses up of 'just being there'. At one point Clive asked me about something we were  planning on the following week. I told him I refused to think about it then as I was 'enjoying being in the moment'. I now have that wonderful meal forever in my memory box as a happy one because I focused on it in every way at the time. It's not about avoiding things, it's about making the most of 'now'. And let's face it, in some instances, tomorrow never comes. So next time you are in the shower for example, focus on the warmth and sound of the water; the smell of the soap, the feel of the bubbles and shampoo. Let your mind drift along with it and leave all thoughts of what to get out of the freezer for tea; thinking of who you need to call, etc. outside the shower cubicle. They will be there waiting for you when you get out and for allowing your mind some recharge, you will tackle challenges easier. Works for me!

Blimey, I waffle! I once won an award for 'why use a sentence when a paragraph will do'! So after I'd gone to sleep so content (as can be) I suddenly found myself awake at 3.30 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep but my throat is sore and my chest tight. When I used to teach often I'd lose my voice towards the end of term - it feels a bit like that. I got a sudden urge for ice cream! Clive and I were introduced a few years ago when we were both members of the Professional Speakers Association. Clive had suffered a bout of depression a few years ago and as we are both thought of as 'not being the type' to get depressed as we are both confident, out going people colleagues suggested we did joint presentations. That's where it all began - a business arrangement. In comparing our stories we realised that both of us at our lowest points had taken solace on the kitchen floor! At the peak of my puerperal psychosis I had carved my legs with knives whilst sitting on the kitchen floor (don't worry - I don't any more but have a deep empathy with those who self-injure now and will not judge them but offer support). It's all in my book! Equally Clive had sat sobbing on his. So we entitled our joint presentation 'Beyond the kitchen floor', to show how depression CAN be overcome.
We were due to give it again later this year to some County Council staff - for Clive to inspire and me to share ways of coping with stress, etc. Guess I shall do it on my own now.

So back to this morning - I got an urge for ice cream! So I have just sat on the kitchen floor munching with my eyes closed and had another magic moment! Clive actually fed me ice cream on the very first meal we had out together. I always found it delightful.  It became part of 'us' for him to offer me tasty morsels and I loved to be treated that way. So intimate. So simple. Ice cream has a story behind it too - look at his blog

I then got the urge to write and share it! I am also proud that I have now got through this first night like a Johnson's baby shampoo - 'no more tears'.

Clive and I would often work our socks off during the week but we always made sure we enjoyed weekends - the office door would be closed upstairs and alternative activities would be on the plan. So today that's what I shall do. The main plans are in place for Clive's big do next Wednesday so I am taking the weekend off to do all the things we had planned.

I must add too that Lynn and I went to watch Leeds Rhinos play at Home last night - at Headingley, where we shall all be on Wednesday. It was hard to be back at a place he loved so much. At one point I sensed a huge hole; a massive sense of emptiness and loneliness. I took myself into a toilet cubicle and dialled his mobile just to hear his his answer phone message. It helped. Again I was swept along by the huge tide of respect and affection for Clive by staff, friends and other supporters. I am so pleased I was able to sit in his seat and actually walk in the tunnel before Wednesday. Maybe I shall be prepared a little more. I have not a shred of doubt that I have done the right thing in my choice for Wednesday. I am so grateful to you all at Leeds Rhinos for the support in this.

Earlier this week I received a stunning bouquet of red roses, some chocolates and champagne from the postnatal illness support charity I am patron of. The message read 'to help you celebrate Clive's life'. Some of my best friends and I shall be doing just that tonight so thank you so much at . Don't think it will be a late night though!
But for now I shall leave you to enjoy your choices this weekend, as I shall be doing mine, and it will be with Clive's blessing.

Back soon,

Elaine Hanzak


Simo70 said...

Hi Elaine
Great to hear your positive words and the thoughts on living in the now really hit a chord. I am going to share them with my wife Diane and my sons, Jack (9) and Max (6). I think it will be a great lesson for them to learn how to live in the now. I know children do this naturally for much of the time, however at times like this weekend (the end of the half term holiday) there will be many comments about school next week.
Hope you have a lovely weekend, Clive would want you to, and he'll be watching somewhere up there.
Kind regards

Pat Carr said...

Dear Elaine. Your thoughts and your writing are so insightful and poignant. I think we have much to learn from you. Pat x

Kerri said...

I love the way you look at things and manage to handle each situation as it comes. Your strength and love are so powerful Elaine and I have the greatest admiration for you.

I too find solace on the Kitchen floor. On my bad days I simply sit leaning against the back door and "be". I can be there for hours at a time sometimes. But that's how I deal with things when everything gets too much.

I know I had never met Clive but since his passing I've learned a lot about him through reading what others have had to say about, and through looking on his website. The news shook me as it was so sudden. My heart sank, for you. I couldn't get it out of my head. I hope he knows he's touched people he'd never even met! I soooo wish I'd had the chance to meet him.

You are right though. the here and now is important. It's easy to go by in life without much appreciation of the littler things in life. But we must appreciate everything in our lives, the little things included; like having a kitchen floor to sit on, or having ice cream when you need it. In doing so, you learn to appreciate the more important things and people in your life.

I bought myself a lovely bunch of flowers yesterday which smell beautiful. The message on the card read: Kerri, keep smiling and stay focused. xxx

So thank you Elaine and Clive for helping me to see things in a different light at a time when I needed it most.

Lots of love, hugs and kisses :-)
from an adoring Saints fan ;-) xxx