Doggone


I’m a list maker. I make so many lists, sometimes I have to make a list of the lists I’ve made. Personally I don’t think list making comes high on my list (Ha!) of vices, but that was before I read an article which warned that women were becoming slaves to their lists, that instead of giving them control, the lists were controlling them in a vicious cycle of ticking things off and adding stuff on. Loosen up your lists! the article advised. Renounce listmania!

I gave it a whirl when we had friends round for a meal. Instead of instructions taped to the inside of a kitchen cupboard door (7:00pm: Put oven on to 170; 7:05pm: Double check oven is on etc), I went (list wise) commando.

It was a disaster. Instead of wafting around the kitchen in a state of list-less bliss, I forgot to do pretty much everything but drink alcohol.

My point is, that making lists comes naturally to me. I find lists a way of keeping some control in my life, and never has my life been more out of control than since 10am on the 27th February this year. So to me, it seemed entirely natural that after JS’s death I should jot down a list of ways in which pre-accident, I could have imagined losing my husband: cancer; car crash; heart attack; brain tumour; slipping on ice and banging his head on the kerb; carjack at gunpoint on the Holloway Road; some DIY disaster involving a ladder and electricity – dammit, even perishing by terrorist attack on the Northern Line made it onto the Death List. But walking into a calm turquoise-blue sea whilst on holiday and drowning? It never once crossed my mind.

I ached to talk to JS about his death, to say, “You know all those times I freaked out that I would lose you because (insert scenario here)? Actually, this is how it all ended…” I couldn’t imagine what he would say. It was so inconceivable, it was unimaginable.

I could imagine him rationalising other deaths:

Cancer: Well, we knew there was a lot of it in the family.
Car crash: I’m surprised I didn’t have a serious prang earlier.
Terrorism: Even the tightest security can’t stop a nutter stuffing Semtex up their jumper.
Heart attack: So much for the expensive BUPA ECG test!

But had I said to him one night whilst sitting on the sofa watching Top Gear, “I’m worried one day I’ll be in my bikini on a beautiful beach and watch you drown,” he’d have felt my forehead and asked whether I was delirious or been at the cooking sherry.

A few months after the accident and in major self-pity mode, I trudged tearfully around Hampstead Heath with The Hound, wondering just how many people are unlucky enough to have lost both a husband and a beloved dog whilst on holiday. Yes, dear reader, a death en vacance has happened to me before, which is why I doubt I will ever need my (still packed) suitcase again, not that anyone will want to accompany me given that clearly The Grim Reaper sneaks into my luggage.

In early March 2009, JS, Rufus (previous dog) and I travelled from London to Northumberland to spend a week in Embleton. The weather was lovely when we arrived, so we unpacked the car and rushed straight to the beach. Rufus went wild with excitement, zooming over the sands and along the dunes. We laughed at him careering about. “What a lucky dog he is!” I remember JS saying fondly.

A few hours later, back in the cottage, we heard the dog repeatedly sneezing in the kitchen. I went to investigate, and found the place covered in blood, as if someone had been shot against the fridge-freezer. Rufus seemed fine: he was wagging his tail, excitedly licking blood off the floor. I was confused – surely if he’d cut his paw he’d be in pain or licking the wound? Then he sneezed again, and blood splattered everywhere.

I rang the vet who told us to bring Rufus in. JS drove like the clappers in the dark through the country lanes to the surgery. The vet asked us to sit in a nearby pub for an hour whilst he examined the dog. I remember going to the loo and realising that my face, hands and clothes were covered in blood; JS was so distraught, he hadn’t realised I was doing a Jackie Kennedy impression, but in jeans and a rugby shirt rather than a pink designer suit. We must have stood out like sore thumbs: it was Saturday Karaoke night and all the Geordie lasses were in their pelmet skirts and plunging tops belting out I will survive whilst clutching luminous bottles of alcopops. I wanted a clear head, so had a cup of tea and a packet of cheese and onion crisps.

We went back to the surgery. The bleeding had worsened. The dog with the waggy tail was now sedated and kept in overnight. We were still wide awake and rigid with anxiety on Sunday morning when the vet rang. The back of Rufus’ throat had completely ripped apart. It seemed likely that he had a tumour on his soft palette which had burst, probably by running on the beach. It was a bomb waiting to go off, and it went off on on our holiday. As my husband wailed and paced the bedroom of the rented cottage, I made the only decision I could, to allow the vet to increase the sedation and put our beloved friend to sleep. Three of us had arrived on holiday a few hours before; now we were two. I make no apologies for confessing that Rufus was our child substitute, that we had both poured an unhealthy amount of emotion and love into the little lad. And now he was gone.

We both wanted to go home immediately, but with no sleep we were too tired to drive hundreds of miles. On the Monday, instead of packing a rucksack with a picnic and heading off on a walk, we went back to the surgery to sign forms, pay the bill, get Rufus’ leather collar and arrange for him to be cremated. We spent days sitting in coffee shops, tearful, passing time, not wanting to go home, not wanting to stay there. We barely ate, we couldn’t sleep. We were both heartbroken, but I remember JS saying that as long as we had each other, we’d be OK. Together, we could get through anything.

Going home without Rufus was traumatic. Life felt empty, the house soulless. Even work was no escape: he was an office dog since he was ten weeks old. Staff cried.

As I walked on the Heath with The Hound, the similarities to what had happened almost exactly two years apart felt profound, even down to the Sunday morning holiday deaths. As bizarre parallels swirled around my brain, I was amazed that I hadn’t thought of them before.

And then I remembered what JS said when people commiserated about how awful it must have been to lose Rufus on holiday. I remembered it as clearly as I could remember my own name, and it literally took my breath away. JS said, “Oh, he had the most wonderful death. He had a great life and a fantastic last day on the beach. He didn’t get ill or suffer. He went out with a bang. Wouldn’t we all like to go like that?”

JS wouldn’t have wanted his family to suffer and the timing was rotten, but I now know what my husband would say about his own death.

The problem is, back then JS was right when he said we could get through anything, together. But we’re no longer together. I’m alone. And I haven’t lost my dog. I’ve lost my husband.

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79 Comments

Emma
Reply August 15, 2011

Morning PG,
Mark and I always used to say the same, as long as we had each other we could get through anything... strip everything else away and we had our beautiful love and that was enough...
We didn't have the conversation of what happens to the one left behind if something happens? How does that one cope? How does that one get up every day? How do I walk around without feeling completely lost?
and the big one....
Where does the love go?!

Everything feels quite strange for me at the moment, formalities coming up and then the 'final date' I have put on myself for 'starting' my life again as I know it...
at the crux of all of that is not the mantra of 'if we have each other we can get through anything', it's exhaustion, mental and physical exhaustion....

xxxx

    Emma
    Reply August 15, 2011

    http://youtu.be/sNElgDoSNXQ

Planet Grief
Reply August 15, 2011

Emma: Sadly we never had that conversation either. I tried to, but JS was one of those people who (despite lots of death in his own life) would never face up to his own mortality. I used to say to him. "What would I do if you weren't here?" and he'd say, "I'm going nowhere." "You could be hit by a 271 bus!" I'd retort. "You're more likely to be run over than me, the way you stride across zebra crossings," he'd counter.

I did tell him that if anything happened to me I'd want him to find someone else, that I hoped a succession of caring women bearing casseroles would arrive at our front door. "After you, that's it," he'd say.

You have a huge amount facing you at the moment. I am going to break one of the rules of this blog which is that I don't give advice (I'm too early on this journey to start coming over all Marg Proops), but to you I will say (with love): don't be too rigid with yourself on those dates for starting your life up again. I make them all the time - tomorrow morning I will get up, get on and get going without crying. I think at the moment such things are like New Years' resolutions - started with the best intentions but difficult to keep. PG xxx

    Emma
    Reply August 15, 2011

    I appreciate the advice... Marg Proops or not (and you look nothing like that woman ever did!)
    I try not to put rigidity to the timescales, but I just feel that once the inquest is over next week there is nothing else official to get through/over, just life...
    So need to start looking for work seriously again, can't live on magic beans and all that...
    In the word style of Yoda... "Scared am I"...

    Found this earlier, I know that it is written from the perspective of a suicide survivor, but the sentiment is still true no matter how the loss happened...
    http://www.forsuicidesurvivors.org/2011/08/when-you-lose-a-mate.html

    xxx

      Planet Grief
      Reply August 15, 2011

      Emma - Thank you for posting the link.

      Get over next week and then worry about magic beans. Lots of love, Marg.

Jane
Reply August 15, 2011

There were parallels for me also. My OH was a writer, an academic. His brainwas his favourite organ ( well 2 nd favourite). He was obsessed with getting alzheimers like his mum . His fear was a loss of any cognition and ive lost count of the conversations around 'dignitas' issues. I knew with utter clarity how he felt about any mental impairment.
During my 6 days in the abyss in feb when another nameless face presented me with more projections on the damage that had been done to his brain , I knew ' he' had already gone. And when the faces said the bug was still on the heart valve doing it's worst and what did I think my husband would want?..... I flashed back to the hyperthetical chats on the settee which usually ended in me saying ' you're such a pessimist I might go first'.
Well his pessimism was bourne out and I've lost my Pollyanna view on life.
In the end the medical decision ( with my agreement) was academic. They said he'd have only had another 12 hrs anyway.
They showed me the brain scans and when they pointed to 'intellect' I knew he had gone and with him went ........ Well you know.
Sorry for long post PG.
I read yours and sobbed ( for me and you ).
Today is 6 mths and I can't get out of bed.
Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxp

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 15, 2011

    Jane: Never apologise for long posts - unload on PG all you want - many more read than post (I see the stats) so your experience will undoubtedly resonate with others. 'Lovely' to learn more about Mr Jane.

    The conversations JS and I had were always one sided. He knew what funeral I wanted, what I wanted for him etc. He was going to live to be a hundred. He promised me that and he never let me down. He certainly took enough vitamins and had enough health checks trying.

    I am sure there are some (and I would have been one of them) that say that if you truly love someone you want what's best for them. In theory I agree, but it doesn't stop me (and I suspect you and many others) railing against the unfairness of it all and sobbing: "He's gone! What about me?"

    Stay in bed today if you need too (please get up to have a wee - no point in adding to the laundry!) and then start over tomorrow. Perhaps. PG xxx

    D L
    Reply August 15, 2011

    Jane,

    Six months is the hardest place to be, for reasons unknown.

    xxxxxxx

      Planet Grief
      Reply August 15, 2011

      I'm coming up to six months, though I found five months particularly bad.

      I think that the early days are about surviving and we run on adrenalin, but after a few months it sinks in: This is it. This is the reality (for now) of my new life. And of course so many of the offers of help and the flurry of phone calls have dwindled, though it does make you realise who you can count on. Or not. PG xx

        D L
        Reply August 15, 2011

        I will be at 9 months this week (19th) maybe its a three month cycle ? feel as if I am back in the black hole again, can relate to Flash Gordon with the crocodiles snapping at my ankles.
        The phone calls and emails stopped months ago, those that do ring are chirpy and full of what they have been doing with their partners. Life seems so unfairly balanced.
        Emma asks "where does the love go?" it seems that love is tearing us all apart now.
        xxxxx

          Planet Grief
          Reply August 15, 2011

          DL: Yep, those Joy Division lyrics ring true.

          I got an email this morning from someone advising us of their new address and change of circumstances, full of how exciting life is etc etc. The only nod to my new state was on the first line they had written: Hope all is well with you.

          Took all my self-disipline not to fire it back with some pithy comment. Shockingly insensitive and from Godsquaddies too!

          Good job I hadn't been on the wine when I received it. PG xx

        Sophie Day
        Reply August 15, 2011

        Somebody told me in the early days that you find out who your friends are. I thought this was a terribly harsh thing to say. I can see what they meant. I think some people are just more in touch emotionally, have more capacity to help another person and are basically better at keeping in touch than others. Lean on those people, even if you don't think you know them very well. There are some wonderful souls out there xx

          Planet Grief
          Reply August 16, 2011

          Sophie: I was told in the early days that death rewrites your address book, and like you I thought it was harsh. Now, it feels harsh but is true. xx

    Sophie Day
    Reply August 15, 2011

    Jane, I feel so sad, i remember the desperate ache, being unable to get out of bed, unable to eat or drink. Unable to do anything except stare at the ceiling. Let this happen for a bit, then do your best to summon everything you have - get up, have a shower, make yourself a cup of tea and go for a walk. And phone a friend, send a text or an email so that somebody sends you something back or can keep you company. Maybe have a meal together. I hate how this feels, but I know and it is like this awful rollercoaster that you are forced to ride. Keep hanging on as best you can and go with the waves - eventually they will even out a bit and become less extreme and disorientating. Lots of love to you x x x

      Jane
      Reply August 15, 2011

      Thankyou Sophie xxx

Jane
Reply August 15, 2011

Thanks PG, even I'm not so far gone as to wee in bed, tho it's quite tempting:-) ( my OH would say 'go for it', I'm sure.) He used to say I didn't understand the joys of slobbing around in the same clothes 2 days in a row, eating curry and drinking....and Falling asleep on the settee. We agreed it was a 'man' thing. Think he would approve of the 'progress' ive made in that department since feb:-).
Anyway - The day and the dentist for joey have dragged me to the kitchen.
He's been looking fwd to today because a parcel is due for him.....I'm sculking thru it.
Half a year????
Not possible
Xxxxxxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 15, 2011

    Jane: Suspect that if we keep a bucket by the bed we know we are in trouble...

    Two weeks behind you Jane. PGxx

Fairy-girl
Reply August 15, 2011

Today is such a pretty day..but I look out at it with such a heavy heart wondering what I´m meant to do now..we had the same thing, "as long as we were together, everything would be ok, we could do anything." In fact the other day I was telling someone about the births of my children..I had no pain relief, I just held "his" hand, it was all that I needed, as long as he was by my side I was going to be ok no matter what. I wonder now how to move on from that..
We were meant to grow old together, we even planned that we would wear the same outfits, like those couples on holiday do..never once did I think he would not be here at such an early age..it just doesn´t compute.
Like your dog PG, we lost our first cat, it took years for us to get over it and here alone I still miss her..so I too think, what does losing "him" mean?
The past few days I look at all his things and I feel like I´m trying to pull any essence that might be held in them, that are from him, to help keep me moving ( crawling ) because I´ve become so tired..it´s what I´m hanging onto I guess and the memory of how he saw me, the belief and love he had for me. It just feels so thin in comparison to him actually being here... it´s hard to keep ahold of.
And in all this, I come here and just seeing Holloway road written makes me snort out a laugh..??? Maybe..there´s a different kind of together..we haven´t got our loves to steady and guide us along but here in this madness, there are a bunch of us who give another sort of together..we´re alone but out there "we..widows" are many and maybe that will keep us going until we´re strong enough to be alone...don´t know..?

Big Love PG...Fairy-girl xxxx

    Emma
    Reply August 15, 2011

    Fairy-girl,

    I think you have a point... the collectiveness and support from those in a similar situation that makes us feel less alone.. it has proved invaluable...a oneness about it..
    The void left behind by our husband's or partner's is of such sizemic proportions that we cling on to whatever we can just to try and fill it...

    In the lyric of U2 ... "we are one but we're not the same"...

    Peaceful thoughts
    Emma x

      Planet Grief
      Reply August 15, 2011

      Emma: Fairy-girl: I remember reading a comment on MW some months ago which really resonated with me and had me sobbing. The poster had written that one of the things she found hard was that there was no-one to care whether she had eaten lunch.

      You know, we don't have the same level of care and concern that we had - knowing that we are number one on someone's list of priorities - but I can tell you that for the widows and widowers I correspond with or have met or speak to on the phone, I do care whether they have eaten lunch. They will check in with me to see how I am, and we do think of each other if we know we have a difficult day or just wake up and feel the concrete overcoat on us.

      Someone I have never spoken to wrote in an email (knowing I was ill last week) that I should take care and take Paracetamol and fluids. Such a small comment, but a caring one and there are so many others.

      Onwards we march - together. PG xxxx

        megan
        Reply August 16, 2011

        "I do care whether they have eaten lunch." Well now, that made me cry. You may not have been speaking about me particularly, but I am taking it anyway.

          Planet Grief
          Reply August 16, 2011

          Megan - it's yours, because for every widow(er) I have 'met' through here or other blogs, I do care, passionately, and if I could bake cupcakes of love and sit and have a cuppa with you all, that would be my dream. xxxx

Liz
Reply August 15, 2011

Helen, Thank you for your blog, it too made me cry.
Regarding lists - i am very organised and rely on them, but my hubby took lists to a whole new level - he had drawers full of notebooks of lists - he seemed to have about 5 or 6 on the go at any one time, plus every available space of his desk was covered in lists of one sort or another:
- JS shopping, High St shopping,
- garden jobs, lists for workmen,
- lists of presents that he was going to buy me for Christmas or my birthday (he would listen really carefully all year to things you had commented on and write them down)
- lists of presents he hoped I would buy him (because I never remembered what he wanted come December!)
- lists of things he had sent off for
- places he wanted us to visit (he had booked a surprise weekend away at Aldborough in Suffolk for 2 weeks after he died - so thoughtful of him)
- people to contact, websites to look up (we did have a laugh when he typed "international models" into google and didn't get the model railway site he was expecting!

I went through every notebook (and gave some of them to my step daughters for their memory box) and all the scraps of paper, back of envelopes etc (which used to drive me mad!).
But they were so full of hope, plans, things we would tackle, enjoy, share...together.
10 months tomorrow - I now have a small list of places I might like to visit and things I might like to do (yoga break, hire a narrow boat, etc) but that list is dwarfed by the list of what I am missing most - all of which can be summarised under the heading 'him'.
Big hugs xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 15, 2011

    Liz: Total respect for Mr Liz and his lists (though I had a double take at JS shopping before I realised he meant J Sainsbury's and not going shopping with my husband!). The International Models search probably went the same way as my search for 'nuts'...

    I am but a mere amateur compared to such greatness, but of course, as you say, the lists are both comforting and yet devastating: plans made - plans never carried out. But they were plans and so many of those plans you've shared here seem plans of love and care. PG xxx

Angela
Reply August 15, 2011

We lost a dog in very tragic circumstances a few years ago. It took me two years to get over the death of my lovely dog, so God knows how long it's going to take to get over the death of the love of my life, but it is definitely happening inch by inch.

Prior to losing my Husband I had always dreaded the thought. I sensed a vulnerability about my man and it haunted me. He used to get utterly exasperated by my worrying whenever he was poorly and would tell me to stop fussing. Last year when my Husband died, suddenly and unexpectedly after a brief illness, I positively courted death myself because I didn't care whether I lived or died, I believed I simply couldn't and didn't want to live without him. I drank too much, ate very sporadically, and took up smoking again, which I hadn't done for years.

Amazing the difference one year can make. Today I went for the results of some recent tests I'd had for cancer. I sat there a wreck awaiting the results of recent surgery undergone, wondering how I was going to cope with this without my man at my side. Thankfully I needn't have worried.

My point is, I hadn't realised how inch by inch, since losing my Husband, life and the need to still live has slowly come creeping back into my psyche, and it surprised me very much.

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 15, 2011

    Angela: A heartwarming and hopeful post I know many of us will read and thank you for sharing. Losing a beloved pet is devastating. I was amazed at how many people burst into tears when I told them how we had lost Rufus on holiday.

    HUGELY relieved for you that the tests (from what you say) were OK.

    Currently millimetre by millimetre at the moment, so if I can jump to inch to inch (or 25.4mm to 25.4mm) that will be a huge development.

    Love, thanks and please keep posting. PG xxx

      Sophie Day
      Reply August 15, 2011

      Angela, yes yes yes!!!! Well done. I sometimes feel this too. I constantly surprise myself with my ability to withstand difficult events and come through positively. Somebody told me this week that I am the strongest woman they have ever met. I feel like a brittle bit of dead stick most of the time. It is inspiring to have these flashing moments of clarity and to see your own progress. I am glad others are having this sometimes too. xxx

Sophie Day
Reply August 15, 2011

I don't know what to say, it was just like this for me. This post has had me in tears more than any of your others for some reason. Just months before we left for our honeymoon (to cycle to Istanbul, surely having a bicycle accident was the most likely way to go?!), Luke got ill. It's the worst thing isn't it, having visions about losing your soulmate - so horrific you can't actually imagine it. It turned out he had Hepatitis E - they can't work out where he caught it. He was so poorly, I had horrific visions of losing him to liver failure and so on (we didn't know what it was for weeks...). Then, the accident. Totally unexpected. A freak storm, an unusual set of circumstances (chosen by Luke as it was somewhere he wanted to go, and activity he wanted to do...). I remember the day of the accident losing my breath on hearing of an avalanche at a ski resort in Europe and knowing that my brother was somewhere there off-piste snowboarding. Panic, the thought of losing him. Just 6 hours later I had lost Luke. I remember thinking crystal clear, 'oh my god. This is the worst thing in my life that could possibly happen, it has happened', and feeling totally, absolutely blank.

Awful awful awful. Memories of losing other close friends and relatives in the past made me remember that at the time, these events seemed like the worst thing that could ever happen. Luke was always there, we got each other through stuff no matter how bad it seemed. It has been an education learning so suddenly to do this alone. I experienced feeling suicidal once and it was almost as frightening as the realisation moment when I understood that Luke hadn't got out of the boat.

I don't know how I am doing continuing most days, even after 18 months. but some days I have a lot of fun! Finally. Nobody can fill the gap, but somehow a collage of friends and family can provide a temporary cover, a bit like scaffolding for you/me/us all to start glueing bits together. Lots of love xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 16, 2011

    Sophie: Nobody can fill the gap, but somehow a collage of friends and family can provide a temporary cover, a bit like scaffolding for you/me/us all to start glueing bits together.

    Scaffolding. Brilliantly put. xx

      Liz
      Reply August 16, 2011

      Love the 'scaffolding' comment.

      10 months today. a day just like any other in so many ways. The 10 months is just a counter, it hurts today like it hurt yesterday and it will probably hurt tomorrow, but imperceptably the hurt is sometimes a little less.
      A nanometre is roughly the length that your nail grows in a second. Imperceptable but progress nevertheless.
      xx

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 16, 2011

        Liz: Not only is this blog a support, it is also educational, witness you telling us about the length a nail grows in a second. Love, PG xxx

          megan
          Reply August 16, 2011

          sophie - exactly. Going through this without the one person who could make it alright, the one whose perspective I most need. Ridiculous.

Al
Reply August 15, 2011

Jaysus as they say in Kavanaghas bar! What a post PG - I am list woman! but i have the really bad habit of writing them and leaving them behind! B was always saying got your list? errm no, it's on the table or in my other jeans etc! but with him I never really needed a list, everything I told him stayed in his head, he was my 'list' he had the most wonderful memory, mine being absolute shite since having a hysterectomy, I swear they took something other than my bits that day!! So B was from that day my memory man, everything now has to be written down straight away and put on the fridge behind various magnets else nothing, and I really mean nothing would ever be done or remembered!
Been down the road of losing beloved pets, the last and most awful was losing Hereford Skip and Lewis the stunt cat within a month of each other, Skippy was playing with Frank and the Gasman knocked at the door, Skippy went flying up the stairs but I'd heard something as he took the bottom stair, something not right, i dealt with the gasman and went in search of Skippy, i found him on our bed with his leg hanging, took him to the vet, x-rays and then to be told that he's broken his shoulder but they also found he had Osteocarcoma, he was riddled with bone cancer and we never knew? We felt terrible, he was 17 so a bit stiff and both we and the vet had put him on stuff for arthritis and he was as right as ninepence, until the gasman called (I changed from British gas soon after!!) but all the time he was very poorly, bless him, never a moment did he let us know, my vet Brian brought him home and Skippy went to sleep on my lap, then Lewis just wasn't right, she was 18, she started grinding her teeth, so we had some taken out and for two weeks she was ok, but if I'm honest, it was grief and not teeth she was suffering with, when neither B or I could even get her to eat dairylea cheese or icecream then we knew we were fighting a losing battle so again Brian our vet came and Lewis went to sleep on my lap, our friends came and we had a burial for both Hereford Skip and Lewis in the garden and we lit a garden candle that burned all night - As daft as it sounds, and I'm in floods even writing this, I really hope that B is with Hereford and Lewis and Lenny who we lost at 21 9 years ago and that he has them as his companions because I'll tell you this, it's stuff like that that keep me getting up each day, I've scraped back a bit of earth where they are buried and put a little of B's ashes there just to make sure they're all together, and I can just picture B and his kitty cats wandering through the garden together checking the beans etc have been watered - the little things that keep me getting up each day, the little things, in my case called Frank and Jim, because without them I know I wouldn't have bothered
apologies for long post and spelling, grammer etc hard work when you can't see the keyboard through tears and brandy!
xxxx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 16, 2011

    Al: Confession time here - your post is poignant but you had me smiling at the name Lewis the stunt cat! PGxxx

      Al
      Reply August 16, 2011

      Her full name was actually Lewis Collins the stunt cat - after Lewis Collins the stunt tortoise from a childrens TV prog called Fat Tulips Garden, early 80's - very funny, much too funny for kids!

      http://www.unofficialtonyrobinsonwebsite.co.uk/pages/books/fatt_paper.html

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 16, 2011

        I thought Lewis Collins was Bodie in The Professionals? Funnily enough, JS worked with Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw on The Professionals, and Martin Shaw was his (then) sister-in-law's lodger.

        Martin Shaw is still gorgeous as Judge John Deed, but Lewis Collins seems to have run to seed...

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1371368/Lewis-Collins-How-The-Professionals-William-Bodie-looking-age.html

          Al
          Reply August 16, 2011

          There's also the three frogs called Peter, Paul and Mary! may I recomend this book for future reading! xx

Julia Cho
Reply August 16, 2011

This resonates with me on so many levels including many of the comments:
1) The list-making. List making crazy woman here. I'm actually in the midst of writing a whole article on it.

2) The list of ways you thought he'd die but never this. I think I wrote a post months ago on that. I thought he might fall through a city grate on the sidewalk or drop our air conditioner when we lived in the city. Drown while on his day off in another country?

3) What your husband said about that kind of death. My husband never said this, but I've thought of it myself so many times now- "wow dan, you could not have had a more dramatic death." And he will be forever young- never age or suffer in that way. the only thing i know is that he would've been pissed at how expensively he died. (Having to ship body back etc.) He was so thrifty and we (writer and musician) never had much money.

4) Forget who commented on it (sophie maybe) but "my actual worst fear has happened- now what?" Yes- thought that so many times.

5) The incident with your dog's death- being so circular/familiar in a way--- but seeming so much smaller now in comparison. I so get this. There are so many strange things around the death it feels and everything that felt like the worst thing prior seems quite bearable now. I ask myself quite often, would I want to, if I could, time travel back to...(insert previous worst moment of my life) if he was there alive with me- and relive the whole thing? YES- YES of course.

forget who it was- but i agree to try not to impose too much pressure about the one year marker. I'm now past it and thought I'd be kind of "done" with the heavy stuff- but there's a ton more. And that's OK with me. It is different though.

Really thankful for your blog PG and that you found me on mine. Happy to be communing with you and your readers in another country but in my same world...closer than those in my very own apartment building.

Love and hope to all...

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 16, 2011

    Julia: Feel so grateful that you comment here as we get 'extra helpings' of your beautiful writing.

    One of the (many) things that irritates me about myself is that when JS died I remember thinking that as losing him in such bizarre circumstances was the worst thing that could ever happen to me, I would never be afraid of anything ever again. I thought I would be free of mundane worries. I thought to myself that this proved that life is so unpredictable there was no point in worrying about the future.

    What happened? I worry more than ever about the future, about whether the massive tree outside the house will fall down and crush the dog, about what I will do with my life yadda yadda yadda.

    So much for getting life into perspective! The new perspective on life is a frightening one! PG xx

      Sophie Day
      Reply August 16, 2011

      Hi PG and Julia, I understand this feeling too. At first I was irrationally anxious about losing anybody close to me, paranoid that if that happened I would shrivel up and die. Recently I found myself almost traversing into a different state - one of total recklessness. I think the anti-depressents and a lot of counselling (and trying to cut down my drinking a bit, but only a bit) have helped me to even out a bit. It is definitely a rollercoaster. Keep strong xxx

        megan
        Reply August 16, 2011

        Matt always said he would know when it was his time. He thought he would live to 104 and walk off into the woods. Drown? Never. The man was half mountain goat, able to free climb rock faces and run up waterfalls.

        On the way out to the river that day, he asked me how most dogs die, as Boris was his first (and only) dog. I said I thought if given the chance, most dogs would wander off to the woods to die alone. "That's how you'll get to go buddy," he said to boris in the back seat. Less than an hour later, I watched boris taken down the river by the current that had just made matt disappear, and hurled myself towards the shore thinking - if matt is okay and the dog dies, he will be heartbroken. And if matt is not okay, and that dog dies, there is no way I am getting out of here. I could not bear the thought of either one of them getting out alive and having to look for me.

Sue G
Reply August 16, 2011

I just wanted to write regarding The Lists!
I have never been a list person before but now have a notebook and every day I write down what I want to achieve on that day.
It can be simple things like putting washing on, mopping the floors, things I NEED to get on top of.
There have been a few days where I have just written "Dressing Gown Day" which means I'm not even going to attempt anything on that day.
I don't put pressure on myself to complete the days list, but they get crossed off as I achieve each task I have set myself, so anything outstanding stays on that page until i have fulfilled the task and then I can cross it off.
I find my notebook keeps me going, stops me from just sitting around in squalor and gives me a purpose each day.
It's feels good to cross off the tasks I set myself to.

XXX

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 16, 2011

    Sue G: I love the idea of writing 'Dressing Gown Day' on a list. Can't stay in mine all day or the people I pass in the street whilst walking The Hound might be alarmed, but perhaps in the winter I can throw a big coat over my PJs! xx

    Sophie Day
    Reply August 16, 2011

    Oh yes, the lists! This began immediately for me - I was given a whole load of small Moleskine notebooks by a friend very soon after losing Luke, easy to pop into a handbag or pocket. I have got through dozens of them and call each present one my mobile brain. In the first year I quite literally lost my short term memory completely, and had to write EVERYTHING down. Everything from shopping lists, to films that might be good to watch, ideas of things to do, doctors appointments, things I wanted to talk about, pub dominoes scores and so on!!! Keep listing people. For me it was one way of keeping an ounce of sanity. xxx

Al
Reply August 16, 2011

B and I had 'the chat' occasionally, I'd say well if I go you'll be fine, I'm worth more dead than alive, B on the other hand couldn't get life insurance as he had a pre-existing heart condition.
I used to worry what would happen to me if he went first, mortgage, bills etc, but B always said that he was going nowhere, we knew that when he got to around 50 he'd have to have a bypass or the like but his condition was being managed and was being filled up with vitamins by me so really everything was alright.
The last time we had 'the chat' was at the begining of January this year, the weather had been so awful and the cold was really getting to him so he was trying to work from home as much as possible, Friday the 7th of January, we were sitting on the settee, it had been a very cold day but he'd had to go in to work, he had the start of a cold sore so extra vitamins and a good dinner was the order of the day, I said to him, plese go to the Doc and see if there are newer tablets they can put you on to see if that can make you feel better, I don't want you going anywhere, he said that he had no intention of going anywhere soon so to stop worrying, however he would make an appointment for the Monday just to keep me from nagging!
Saturday evening 8th January we had the little girls round from next door for dinner and B was fine and feeling a bit better and not so shivery, we had a lovely dinner and a nice evening.
I went to bed at around 12.30 and B tucked me in as usual, calling that we loved each other up and down the stairs.
I woke at 2.30, I heard an odd noise? I thought B was being sick, he wasn't in the bathroom, I went in to the dining room and he was lying there making a strange noise, I thought he'd fallen? banged his head? I tapped his face and shook him, the noise was a gurgling sound - I called 999 - the rest you know

So much for going to the Doc on Monday, so much for not going anywhere soon, as the months have gone on I am begining to think that he knew something wasn't right, he never gave in to my nagging that easily before - did he know? I have asked him but you know I've not had an answer, I sit here writing about my B dying and there was nothing I could do to save him.
Now I make different lists, I actually looked up on the internet how many tablets it would take to do myself in and I listed all of B's tablets and my own and listed how many of each I would need.
I've listed ways in which I could die (suicide not being an option, I actually couldn't do it to Frank and Jim)
I had blood tests early on, the Doc just wanted to make sure? I really hoped they would find something, something fast so I could go and be with B, all they found was that my colesterol level had gone down!!!!!!!!
New list, B's things, clothes, cufflinks, ties, boots, cd's it's a bloody long list, I don't even now why I'm doing it but it may be useful one day, one day when I can open the wardrobe and not sob because I can still smell his aftershave.
New list, all of my paperwork, banks, insurance etc - things that have been dealt with and can be ticked off, things still dealing with, dates next to them ..........
New list, what the hell am I going to do with the rest of my life? At the top of this is win the lottery and build a Huf glass house in Shropshire for B - not so far added to this new list............
I keep being told that 7 months is such a short length of time and that as the days, weeks, months fan out I will get an idea of what I want to do, will I?
My mind is a whirl of stuff, no of which makes any sense, I lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous, a once intelligent, level headed, clear thinking woman is reduced to nothingness - I don't think there's a sensible clear thought in there

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 16, 2011

    Al: We discussed building a Huf type house somewhere; close family run a business similar to Huf (another German company) and the other night during one of my Property Porn (running away) searches, I wondered if it was something I could take on myself. However, I then imagined me sitting in this fabulous house, on my own (with the dog, obviously) and scrapped that fantasy. xx

      Sophie Day
      Reply August 16, 2011

      Ahhhhhh! I have this too!!! Not a huf house, but a countryside retreat. How glad I am now that we had not invested before the accident. Being somewhere like that and isolated would be very difficult. A small city terrace with a large and friendly community has saved me from permanent darkness. Oh and the Bear too (my dog - Barney Bear). xxx

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 16, 2011

        Sophie: I believe that if I was in the middle of nowhere I would become/have become seriously weird (weirder). Being in a city doesn't lessen the pain or the feeling of isolation, but just being able to walk to a High Street and see some life does distract from the terrors, as does dog walking. PG xx

          Al
          Reply August 17, 2011

          H & Sophie: I'd really like to be away from the city, Birmingham is a souless place like many big city's, I'd like to be out in the countryside, just me, Frank, Jim and a few chickens and maybe a couple of pigs, a veg plot and I would be ok, at least then I could get away from the pitying looks that I get wherever I go, it's seriously getting on my nerves now and I have to bite my tongue - but really, I don't know what to do with myself, I'm lost, that's the only way to describe how I feel, just totally lost xx

            Planet Grief
            Reply August 17, 2011

            Al: Sometimes I remember that slightly spooky voice saying: "Lost in Space" that was on the old (original?) TV series. Too young of course to remember it the first time round...

            That's us, for now - lost in space.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_in_Space

            Hx

          Hat
          Reply August 17, 2011

          Hi All, Hope this post goes into the correct place. Well I am that person that lives in the countryside in relative isolation. I don't think I have become any more seriously wierder than I already was - but I will leave that up to you good people to decide that.

          The community that I live in have been absolutely incredible. Beyond anyone's wildest dreams. We were very private people but I had gotten to know most people here through dog walking and they are the people along with MWs and PG'rs that have kept me going. Without them I don't know what I would have done, as my old friends are scattered about the UK and I don't have any family.

          The peace and beauty of the place are definately healing...but ask me later when winter comes because that is going to be the trial.

          Plenty of places to rent here Al if you want to try out the country life .

          Love to everyone, Hat.

          megan
          Reply August 17, 2011

          I'm with Al - give me a plot of land, the chickens, my dog, and a few pigs and I will be all set.

ChrisJ
Reply August 16, 2011

My lists were nearly always mental. If I did one now of all the things I was planning to do, or should do, it would cause a reaction varying between total bemusement and manic frustrating panic. Where has all the time and energy gone? Ironic since I was (or am?) good at getting stuff done usually in a calm understated manner.
One of the scares I had with my dog also involved nose bleeds. Mystery minor bleeds and scabs for a few days. Then, one day when I came home from work, there was a rather puzzled and sorry looking dog with a fine spray, nay a veritable fountain of blood, drizzling the sofa. Off to the vets we go. After various bleak scenarios were presented and expensive tests suggested/undertaken under general anaesthetic with the usual warnings over the possible fatal risks for older dogs. Massive hammer blow of losing my wife and now, please no, not my dog with a similar type of illness. My grief meter rapidly spooling up to fly past the 11 on the dial. However, the test results suggested that it was probably just an infection. Good news at a cost of several hundred pounds and mucho personal heartache before it was determined that just anti-biotics were required. Later I couldn't help wondering that at the GPs they usually do the diagnosis /treatment the other way round. Simple and cheap before the risky and complicated but at the time I was too relieved to notice the distinction.
What a journey we are on.

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 16, 2011

    ChrisJ: We invest so much emotion in our pets, don't we?

    After Rufus died, someone we met said that they had had something similar happen, but because they were in a city with top-notch veterinary facilities, their dog had been saved. "You should have put him in the car and driven him to Newcastle or Edinburgh!" they said. We were aware that the little country vets was very basic (more used to cows than miniature dachshunds), but this woman's comment haunted us. Could we have done more? Should we have done more?

    In the end, we had to accept we did the best we could at the time.

    I look at The Hound now and dread anything happening to him. PG

      ChrisJ
      Reply August 17, 2011

      I think these hindsight experts who torment us with their totally useless advice should be made to live in their own community and they should start preparing for the B Ark solution of Golgafrincham.
      We could start drawing up a passenger list of these well meaning idiots.

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 17, 2011

        ChrisJ: Can I please add the person who suggested I might to take up pottery and when I asked why pottery in particular, she said that she had been thinking of the movie Ghost...

          Emma
          Reply August 17, 2011

          lololol

          Hat
          Reply August 17, 2011

          Dear God.........................(eye roll)

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 17, 2011

        ChrisJ: Ah, Douglas Adams - another gone too soon. Our telephone numbers were only one digit apart twenty years ago. Used to get calls for him. Once had a lovely chat with a young woman called Helen Fielding who at the time was writing a column about Bridget Jones and her diary in The Guardian, which was just around the corner from where we lived. Happy days on Planet Earth. PG

        megan
        Reply August 17, 2011

        I have plenty of people to add. Ahem, Offer Up.

ChrisJ
Reply August 17, 2011

Yes indeedy. I will book your person a seat next to my Mother-in-law who suggested, whilst we were scrambling for another emergency hospital admission for R. brought on by her illness and treatment that R. had obviously caught a germ from the dog.
(Returning to the dog theme).
In this vein, human nose bleeds are usually from inside the nose; my dogs nose bleed was from the outside hence why I tried to describe it as a fine mist fountain. Sorry to all but it was a sight.
That's the other thing you learn during this journey, lots of stuff you really really did not want to know. I could make a list but...

Al
Reply August 17, 2011

We could start a PG Commune?! There has to be some out there with animal husbandry skills to help with the pigs, chickens etc, we can tye-dye our own clothes (i'm quite good at that!) grow our own veg .............. maybe I shouldn't drink during the day!
xx

    Planet Grief
    Reply August 17, 2011

    Al: Can I still wear high-heels? Am afraid that you are on your own with the tie-dyed clothes. Pigs are fine, as long as the bacon is tasty. PG xx

      megan
      Reply August 17, 2011

      you can wear anything you want. Pig breeds - specially chosen for good bacon and sausage. I have enough animal husbandry skills to either feed us all well or get myself into trouble, and I do grow veg. I don't drink, though - someone else will need to take over my share of the slack on that one.

        Planet Grief
        Reply August 17, 2011

        Megan's quote: I don't drink - someone else will need to take over my share of the slack on that one.

        Not mentioning any names, but I doubt that will be a problem... LOL! PG xxxx

          Al
          Reply August 17, 2011

          Errrm can't see a problem there! I make my own too so a good use for excess veg and fruit - and what may I ask is wrong with tye-dye woman? I look stunning in mine with me black jeans and cuban heel boots! xx

          Megan: Gloucester Old Spot or Tamworths? x

          Hat
          Reply August 17, 2011

          Yes, definately on your own with the tye-dye Al I think. I'm good at rounding up sheep and the Hound Mark Deux is good at rabbiting and mole catching.

          Someone can have my share of the parsnip wine too, gives me the irrits! xx

    ChrisJ
    Reply August 18, 2011

    Cor this took off in an unexpected direction. Interestingly or co-incidentally, one of the oldest communes - Whiteway Colony - is in my locale. I have also found a "suitable" property for any PGer's wanting to start "The Good Life". See http://search.knightfrank.com/cir110054 - unfortunately one would need to raid a fairly big piggy bank.
    On the way to the market, a further digression, local (weekly) paper reported that the first licenses in the UK were obtained for Alpacas and Llamas by an... abbattoir. Made a change from the usual Big Black Cat and UFO sightings or Windyfarm debates.

      Hat
      Reply August 18, 2011

      ChrisJ, That's done it! What a place. Definately got to be the Cotswolds and not Leicestershire now. Plus if they have Big Cats and UFO's too..bonus.

        Al
        Reply August 18, 2011

        Looks like we just need that lottery win then folks and we're on our way! xx

          Planet Grief
          Reply August 18, 2011

          ChrisJ: How strange that you should put a post about a convent up. Told another MW the other day that I was going to become a nun and live in a convent. Would solve so many problems for me: bad hair days; lack of wardrobe that fits; I'd have people around me and other nuns to cook for and fuss over. It all sounds rather jolly unless it was a silent order and without cable TV and Internet - then I'd be sunk. Oh, and the fact that I'm not religious might be a minor problemo. I see myself as a middle-aged Maria in The Sound of Music (might try flinging myself around Hampstead Heath wearing a dress made out of curtains - we've got the guitar - singing: "North London's alive with the sound of wailing....) but without the Christopher Plummer and seven children ending.

          Hat has a very very interesting UFO story, but suggest that if we ever all get together she recounts it then. PG

      megan
      Reply August 18, 2011

      was wondering about the edibility of camelids. I farm-sit for an alpaca farm, and as I don't knit, was wondering if they can be eaten.

        ChrisJ
        Reply August 19, 2011

        You can also search for UFOs, Panthers/Big Cats and other weirdness in the Wild West but here's the article: http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/9200967.Alpaca_first_for_Eastington_company/

        (ex Worcester Rugby) Guy I used to work next to was a "proper" farmer and he was slightly scathing/dismissive about Alpaca "hobby" farmers.

Planet Grief
Reply August 17, 2011

Al: http://www.devo.com/tft/hippie/gallery/fattyedye.jpg

    Al
    Reply August 17, 2011

    That'll be after we've eaten all the bacon and sausages then H!!!! xx

      megan
      Reply August 18, 2011

      I'd love to try some mangalitsas, but I hear they are massively expensive even for a non-breeding pair. I wouldn't turn down old spots or tams! (vegetarians and sensitive people avert your eyes for this next bit) I am slaughtering my first meat birds this weekend. By the time we get our PG commune set up, I should be old hand at it. Duck confit, anyone?

      I can raise bees - haven't tried mead making yet, but I could. Seeing as people need to take over my alcohol share, perhaps we should I assume I would be a lush, thereby allowing all the drinkers to have a little extra.

        megan
        Reply August 18, 2011

        http://woolypigs.com/_introduction.html

        "extreme lard type." This means bacon. And awesome pie crust.

    megan
    Reply August 18, 2011

    that should come with a warning to avert one's eyes. But where are their cuban heel boots?

      Planet Grief
      Reply August 18, 2011

      I just put "tie-dye gone bad" into Google and up it came!

      A hippy horror! PG x