Thursday, 17 March 2011

The empty stair

I admit that it wasn’t sensible staying up until the small, wee hours the night before last writing up the Shayne Ward experience! But I was buzzing and I still really don’t like bedtime, so if I can do something until I literally drop to sleep, then so be it. Clive used to be the same although he would be more likely to wake up early and ‘ping’ he’d be up to write a blog! I have that same bug of ‘need to share’ now.

The feedback I receive makes it worthwhile but trying to get through the day on a few hours sleep makes everything more of a challenge. I was at my parents and began to pack to return home to Tadcaster. However I seemed to put so many obstacles not to return. ‘Just better do this on the internet’ (not connected at home until today). ‘I’ll just help with this’, ’I’ll just help with that’. Clive would have called these preventers ‘balderdash’!

Truth was I was reluctant to return. For the last two and a half years or so the M62 journey was bearable because either I was seeing son Dominic and my family at one side or Clive and his family and friends the other. This would be the first time I was leaving my family for no Clive. It really, really hurt. Being tired made me more tearful! Then a friend reminded me in a text ‘What would Clive say? How would he put positive self-talk on ‘I am dreading the journey’?’ She was right – I put on Shayne’s CDs and relived last night at the concert. By late afternoon I was back in Tadcaster and got some flowers and food from Sainsbury’s.

As I pulled up outside our home I smiled, especially when greeted by the bright welcome mat I had treated myself to (thank you sister-in-law Annie), the spring hanging basket supplied by my amazing neighbour Michelle and still the flowers from Clive’s coffin going strong! The pretty flowers and the aroma of lilies was very welcoming. I turned the key. In my minds’ eye Clive was sitting at the bottom of the stairs. We had this ‘arrival’ routine that Peeka dog would greet us first, tail wagging, waiting to be fussed. Once she had been suitably greeted he would then envelop me in his arms and tenderly kiss me. Any worries or angst I had would evaporate. I was home to the man who made my life spectacular.

One of my favourite musicals is Les Miserables and there is a track about empty chairs at empty tables sung after people had lost their lives. Today it was an empty stair.

I quickly opened the post to see if there was anything of huge importance. Letters have been sent to so many establishments about his death but no-one appears to be in a rush to deal with it. I had three more ‘thank you’ cards – I am so pleased I asked for these instead of sympathy cards as reading how Clive made an impact on people is so cathartic. Increasingly through this blog people are telling me that it is now ME that is inspiring and motivating. I am honoured and privileged to do so.

I put the few bits of food I had bought into a very sparsely filled fridge. My plan is to eat up what is in the freezer first. I opened the freezer and rummaged for something to eat. Then it hit. The flood of memories over every item in there! The turkey crown we’d got reduced on Christmas Eve which we were going to use for a family Sunday roast; the home-made soup which he had meticulously divided into calorie-counted portions; his love of Brussel sprouts. Meat was divided into small packs of two. Meals we had made together put into silver boxes – again into sensibly-sized portions. Since Christmas we had both been very health and weight conscious. Clive was loving his slimmer profile and got very giddy creating us huge piles of tasty food with hardly any calories. All that effort. What a waste? He may as well have pigged out to the end. But no – I have to remember how fit and well he felt. Those last few weeks the keep-fit campaign was undoubtedly fun. He was on fire with enthusiasm for life and loving. We had been working so hard to get the new workshop and keynote ‘Don’t Envy – Aspire’ off the ground and it was just starting.

My emotions were rollercoastering; thoughts, feelings, emotions all fighting for priority in my head. Perhaps that’s why I had to crack – once again the tears burst through accompanied by the huge waves of grief. HE’S GONE. No more will I come home to the cuddle at the bottom of the stairs. No more making meals together. No more bike rides. No more .....

I sat on the settee and simply let it happen. At that moment Clive’s sister text me to check I was okay. I told her I was crying. She replied that she would leave me in peace unless I asked for help. I loved that. Clive was huge about honesty and openness. I had explained to Lynn that sometimes I just need to cry. I need to be on my own. Other times I need someone to hug me. On this occasion I knew it was a solitary one. I have to get used to him not being here. As the tears subsided I noticed the dust on the windowsill! 15 minutes later the lounge smelled of polish; new flowers were in the vase on the mantelpiece surrounded by the new bright cards. I felt better.

I also have put a favourite photograph of Clive on the hall table facing the door to make sure he is the first thing I see when I come in. I can at least stroke his face and say hello. Little things do make a big difference.

I really have no appetite still but I know I have to eat as one of my ‘Hanzak’ principles for coping. Watching the news is so potentially depressing. The Japanese situation makes me feel so lucky in that I have ‘only’ lost my soul mate. These people have had whole towns wiped out. I almost feel guilty for hurting so much. Clive would say that guilt is an emotion you chose to accept, therefore I am not choosing it. He said you can only feel guilty for something you did intentionally wrong or had the chance to do something differently and didn't. At least I know that when Clive died he knew that I would have done anything for him. He curled up in our bed feeling warm, safe and loved. I admit I was guilty that I had not insisted on taking him to hospital to be checked up that afternoon but the coroner reassured me that no amount of technology or expertise could have saved him. So I shall leave guilt out of the picture. 

I had my ‘tea for one’ and debated what to do. I had suspected that I would feel low tonight so I had arranged to see Paula, our friend and hairdresser. Part of me felt I ‘should’ be busy in the study but I still had no internet. By rights I have a note from the doctors for at least another week as being unfit for work. Be kind to yourself Elaine!

Paula suggested she would pop round for a coffee or asked if I wanted to meet her at the pub. Why not? With that I put a bit more make-up on, brushed my teeth, perfume on and nipped next door to tell Michelle I was safely back but going out.

I was delighted that the beautifully packaged PJs I had got for her daughter Jemma’s birthday were received with big smiles. Clive always used to prefer giving to receiving. I know that feeling well too. What can you give today to someone? Even a smile can lift someone’s day. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Let’s spread a bit of Clive today – do something to make another person smile! Let me know what it was and how it made YOU feel.

I had several messages yesterday from Lisa who 24 hours earlier I’d made her dream come true to actually meet her idol Shayne Ward (see previous post). Her excitement and gratitude boosted me too. Being kind makes such a big difference to those who give and receive. It is so much more constructive than nastiness and bitterness.

I had a really enjoyable evening with friends who also knew and loved Clive. Conversations flowed with him in most of them! Yes we had tears at some memories but it was so good to be surrounded by those who are also missing him. Both Clive and I have always been aware of the value of support. I advise those suffering from postnatal depressions to ask for and accept help. Clive would say that there was no such thing as a ’self-made’ man. We all need other people. By communication, honesty and sharing our grief so much more positivity will come out of it. The hurt will not go away but maybe ease through the warmth, love and support of those who knew him and now protect me.

Clive used to say he was my knight. That he would always be there to look after me. He may not be here physically but he has left me with the tools and people to do that for me and with me. I could choose to crumble but I choose not to.

It was late when I walked home. Of course Paula and her husband Lee offered to walk me home but I chose to do so on my own. Except I wasn’t. Clive and I had walked that route many, many times. I love it! And I did last night. I could feel his hand in mine. I could hear him commenting on the evening. The fun we’d had. The conversations. The memories. Yes it is tough at the moment but as he would say ‘this too will pass and make us stronger’. I felt his warmth all around me. I stopped. I closed my eyes.

And allowed myself to be embraced by all that was my Clive.

I know I have to continue to try to fill the massive hole he has left. I am not him. I will never try to be. However, if I can strive to motivate and inspire (if you chose to accept it) then let’s see what we can do, ey?

Elaine x

1 comment:

Kerri Jones said...

The empty stair; something that all of us at some point in our lives will experience, whether it's a stair, chair, bed.

You are continuing to inspire (you have always been a big inspiration to me) and motivate others. You continue to try your best to give people hope, love and support despite what you are going through. More importantly you appreciate yourself, which is the least you deserve from yourself.

I agree re giving is much better than receiving. I experience that great feeling after each group session on a Wednesday. I go around the group at the end of the session and "Check out" to make sure everyone is ok to go home. Last night in particular I had some brilliant feedback which still makes me feel that warm glow inside, that smile from my heart. "Thank you for the txt the other day, I really needed it." said one girl. Another admitted that she felt forced by her mum into attending the group but now she was realising she enjoyed it. A support worker said they've never come across a group like it, and she would like to attend the group every week.

Anyhow, my point is this... Where did all of this come from, all of the No Secrets work, my voluntary work, the training we do around self-injury, the advocacy we do on behalf of our peers, the meetings we attend and everything else? What made me feel that I was capable of achieving what I set out to achieve? What made me feel so passionate about helping others like me and about helping others understand what its like to self-injure?

The answer... it started the day I met Elaine Hanzak-Gott. You know I think you're one amazing person. When I think back to that day in uni (when you turned up late cos of poor communication from uni) I still feel the same as I felt at that time. I wanted to make a difference. So when my nursing career was torn away by my breakdown I had to find another way to make this happen. And I've found it.

So, you always remind yourself that you are inspiring and you are motivational. As long as you continue the way you are doing then you won't go wrong!

Keep smiling, keep talking and here's a big hug from me! xxx