With the death of a loved one, particularly the one with whom you had imagined spending the rest of your life, it is easy to fall into the trap of seeing that the story has come to a close, the book has ended.
Whilst having a sort out of some boxes the other day I found a smart bulb. It was originally purchased so that my wife, when not feeling well, could turn the main bedroom light on and off without getting out of bed. Throughout the house we have dimmers and, whilst the bulb worked, the dimmer switch hummed from its home in the wall. This drove everyone nuts and the smart bulb was swiftly removed and put away. Until now.
A few days ago we reached the anniversary of the death of Lizzie, my wife and mother of my three children. Last month was difficult with the dark nights, cold weather, and a general pessimism in the world thanks to Covid 19. By comparison, November has, surprisingly, been much better emotionally but not without its challenges.
A year ago this week, in October 2019, my wife was moved to a hospital in Oxford to have an emergency shunt fitted in an attempt to relieve the pressure and fluid build-up around her brain. It was not an easy task to even get her there and the surgery was only one part of a long and stressful 48 hours, following an already stressful few weeks. At the start of this though I was confronted with a decision I was not ready for.
In September, Google sent me one of it’s regular “Today, 1 year ago. Today, 2 years ago” messages. It looks through your photo archives and shows you photos from years past. Usually, it is quite a nice feature. This time though, a picture of my wife and our boys at a fundraising fete brought back the realisation that, not long afterwards, a year ago a devastating six to seven week hell descended upon us.
The last few days, and in particular yesterday, have been momentous. Not momentous on a global scale, a national scale, or even regional scale. On a very local level, the household level, in fact, the last few days have been so very important. To anyone else, the occurrences that have, well, occurred might seem mundane, bland, or just plain trivial but to me, the last few months, then weeks, and then days, have led to this time and the tension and worry leading up to this critical moment have been so tough, What event is this? It sounds so simple and normal. All three of my children went back to school.
I like to play the piano. I am OK at it. Better than many people, but nowhere near a professional player. I play jazz standards and similar and I really enjoy it. I also play with a group of others in the band “Sparkies Jazz” even though we haven’t gigged in a while and our rehearsals are now more often a social event with a bit of playing in rather than a time to make much progress musically. Over the years we have become something of a family, rather than a band. It is a very beautiful thing and a very important part of my life.
When we first got together we used to rehearse once a week and, over time, we started to play gigs. This led to the awkward aspect of being paid to play at places and deciding how much to charge. I have had this problem myself when charging people for me to play the piano at a wedding reception or other event.
The reduced traffic of lockdown meant I arrived at the burial ground in almost half the time I had allowed. I had received numerous message of support in the morning. As I pulled into the car park a friend called to let me know they were thinking of me. She asked if I was ok. Until that moment I was. But that simple question brought tears to my eyes and everything suddenly became difficult and a challenge. This has happened before. Walking around just holding it together when a simple gesture or sign of concern, such as touching my hand and asking, “are you ok?”, results in the sudden release of things being held tightly within. “I was until you asked”, would be my reply as I went into an awkward spin.
Lockdown, it seems, has given everyone time to think and to plan. This has been the case for me, especially in the latter weeks where my early lockdown routines have wilted away, a bit of tedium has set in, and, to be honest, loneliness has started to creep in. Some big life decisions are on the horizon and, for the first time in a very long time, the responsibility for these decisions rests upon my shoulders.