Lianne, three years on

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Do not stand at my grave and weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye

‘Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.’

Days after we lost you

Months,

A year,

Two years

And now three years today. I miss you so much it still has the power to strike me dumb with the force of it. It’s not as raw and savage as it once was but a wound I wouldn’t ever want to lose because it would mean forgetting you.

I see signs of you everywhere. In a stupid track on the radio, in the clouds above and in Nib who you will never meet but who is due close to your birthday. I can’t imagine a better fairy godmother.

I miss you and I forever grateful that you were my friend.

Love,

Row

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Missing you

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Dearest Lianne,

You died a year ago today. It doesn’t feel like a year. Sometimes it feels like yesterday the grief as fresh and savage as a wild animal gnawing in my chest. Other times it feels like decades have passed since we lost you and the world got colder, darker and a lot less fun.

I talk to you everyday. You never answer but that’s OK I know that if you could, you would. In the year since you died the shock faded into numbness, rage, grief and bittersweet nostalgia before cycling back round again. I listen to the playlist I made and it makes me cry and laugh all at once.

Sometimes I dream of you and in those dreams I forgot your dead. When I wake up, for a moment you’re alive. Then I remember and salt meet wound! Seeing you in dreams is cold comfort when all I want is to spend an afternoon chatting shit with you. ‘All’, as if I would ever be satisfied with an afternoon: friendship has made me greedy. For a long time I tried to convince myself that you’re just abroad, somewhere where I am unable to contact you. But I could never quite believe the lie. Half glimmers of you and dreams could never be enough.

I try to remember you but I feel like I am losing bits and pieces on after one and that is like a thousand tiny deaths. I was never as good at remembering as you.

‘Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand. Somewhere
people are waiting.
They have drunk nothing for days.’

Stephen Dobyn, Grief

Do you remember the school trip to Germany and Prague when we were 15? Dorm rooms, being mistaken for prostitutes and streaking across the corridor to the showers = good clean fun! In Prague our guide told us that if we touched the cross on Charles Bridge and made a wish it would come true. So many girls made wishes about love. But we placed our hands on the gold cross together and vowed to be best friends forever. And we will be. Not even death can take that from me, when he has taken so much else. Last year before you died one of my worst fears was that I would do or say something that hurt or offended you. And you would die before I could make it right. Even though you were the most reasonable teflo- proof person I know. I finally I told you, quivering with fear. And you laughed and called me a silly cow, ‘as if we could ever stop being best friends.’

Next week, I’ll be 31 but you’ll always be 30. For the first time I will be older than you who always called me ‘a fetus’. It reminds me of the Ode of Remembrance:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.’

This isn’t a pain that can be lessened just something to be endured.

The day you died it was beautiful bright sunshine. One year on the weather is finally playing ball and it’s grim here in Brighton.

I read this quote and it reminded me so much of you. Salman Rushdie said of Angela Carter, one of my favourite novelists. ‘Death snarled at her and she gave it the finger. Death tore at her and she stuck out her tongue. And in the end she lost. But she also won, because in her furious laughter, in her blazing satirising of her own dying… she cut death down to size: no distinguished thing, but a grubby murderous clown. And after showing us how to write, after helping us see how to live, she showed us how to die.’

My friend after showing me for years how to live you showed me how to die.

What I want to say more than anything is that I miss you. I really, really do. But you already knew that 🙂

Love your bestest westest friend,

Row xxx

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Observations on grief

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I wrote these scattered thoughts over the last six months. It’s not a real post. There aren’t any grand conclusions. But this was how I felt as I struggled through the mourning process for my best friend. I publish these in the hope that somebody out there might go – ‘Me too’ and I’ll feel less alone.

The title of this post makes me feel like a scientist as opposed to the constantly crying person who regards any task (brushing my hair, washing, leaving the house) with an bone-deep exhaustion.

I’m not OK. Why was I expecting to be OK? Because I always have been. I have always coped and pushed the pain somewhere to be dealt with later. But those were rivers of pain and this in the sea. I cannot contain it.  I have to sit in the pain and being not OK for as long as it takes and it is horrible.

Grief is unpredictable. Look at me I think acting like nothing has happened. When I feel like a walking bruise. Like a bombed house during the Blitz, the walls are still intact but inside there is desolation.

There are good days and bad days. On good days I forget and it is blissful until I feel the nagging like a sore tooth. She’s gone and nothing and nobody will bring her back. On bad days I feel like the waves have dragged me under and I linger on the sea bed. Everything is muffled and dimmed, and nothing and nobody can reach me.

People try and help by offering platitudes. ‘She’s with the angels now.’ Well, why don’t we ask the fucking angels to give her back? Oh we can’t… is that because they are imaginary. ‘Celebrate her life don’t mourn her death.’ Are the two mutually exclusive? Can I not do both. ‘Lianne wouldn’t want you to feel this way.’OK, let’s take these in term. 1) Lianne is dead so we can never know what she would want. 2) Even so knowing her as I do, for the accepting loving individual she was she would want me to feel what I feel. 3) Finally and most importantly, it’s not about her anymore. It’s about me mourning the loss of my best friend the only way I can.

Somedays you will recognise that people say these things because they love you and that they do not want to see you in pain. Somedays the unwarranted advice will make you want to punch them in their fucking face. Don’t do that.

Empathy helps. In my experience it is the only thing that does. I remember sitting in my first counselling session talking about Lianne’s death and I said ‘I feel like I’m going mad. What’s wrong with me?’ And my therapist, god bless her said, ‘Your best friend has just died. Of course you feel awful. There is nothing wrong with you.’ I would have wept with relief if I hadn’t been weeping anyway.

Get a therapist.

There is no right way to grieve. Everybody grieves in their own way. And the way I do this is not the way other people have done this. That’s OK.

Grief is not linear, it’s not stages. Now months on I feel like I am moving out of the process but anything could pull me back under. I still miss her. I don’t think I’ll ever not.

Perception is all. The day of Lianne’s funeral was one of the most beautiful days of the summer. The sun shone so hard and the sky was so blue it almost hurt my eyes. But inside all I could feel was the crack as my heart broke into pieces. I expected the world to have changed, that there to be some outside sign that Lianne was missing. That’s the both simultaneously wonderful/cruel thing about grief the world keeps turning just the same. Only you have changed.

You get a free pass. Use it. Grieving allowed me to duck out of social arrangements, reinforce personal boundaries, wear random clothes, and lie in my bed eating cake for breakfast.

I have officially become the person that cries in my therapists reception room. Personal achievement unlocked!

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It hurts. I didn’t know how much grief would hurt. But I know it wouldn’t hurt so much if I hadn’t loved her.

I can no longer watch Steel Magnolias or Beaches, especially fucking Beaches. Turning on the radio has been like playing Russian roulette damn you Queen and Lady Gaga. There is no logic to what shatters my composure.

This is one of the most beautiful letters I have read about grief. In particular I loved this quote:

Fate can’t have any more arrows in its quiver for you that will wound like these. Who was it said that it was astounding how deepest griefs can change in time to a sort of joy? The golden bowl is broken indeed but it was golden; nothing can ever take those boys away from you now.

This letter is also a lie, a kind lie from a place of love but a lie. Nobody can ever take Lianne away from me. She lived, she loved and she was golden however briefly she shone. And the fact that she is no longer here cannot take that away. But I do not believe fate’s arrow is empty for me. When somebody dies the veil is ruptured between worlds and you stare into the void, knowing that this is the first. If I am lucky and live a long and healthy life I will lose more people I love or be buried by them. This is the first blow. There will be others.

sorrow passes and we remain. Whether we want to or not.

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DIY: how to make a stained glass candle holder

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This is my best friend Ros.

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She likes glitter and rainbows, and Rainbow Brite. Ros is camper than a bag of spanners and I love her dearly.

As we’re both broke we’ve started a twice-yearly tradition of crafting each other presents. It started when I collected together a jar full of baby advice for her baby shower. Then she gave me a memory jar full of things she had collected from my wedding. It was my turn.

The issues I often have with browsing Pinterest in search of inspiration is all of the DIY posts always require something expensive and obscure I never actually have. Which negates the whole point of crafting as it’s meant to be a) cheap and b) efficient, using up something you already have. It was a dull and grey January and all I had was an overdraft and a handful of rainbow coloured Quality Street wrappers too beautiful to throw away. Finally my gluttony pays off! I decided to combine rainbows and glitter (Ros’ favourite things) and make a stained glass candle holder.

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How to make a stained glass candle holder

What you need:

Quality Street wrappers
A jam jar (I love Bonne Mamon ones)
Glitter glue
Scissors
A candle

What to do

1. Flatten the Quality Street wrappers. Don’t worry if they are a bit wrinkled, it adds to the faux glass effect.

2. Cut the wrappers into four strips by cutting them in half and then in half again

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3. Get the glitter glue and depending on the effect you are after either draw a line down the inside of the jar or spread the glitter glue evenly across the glass.

4. Choose a strip of wrapper and stick it to the glass.

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5. Keep doing this until the jar is covered evenly.

6. Wait for the glue to dry

7. Add a candle (glueing it in place if the bottom of the jar is curved). And voila, you’re very own stained glass candle holder.

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You may end with hands like you’ve been giving Edward Cullen a wank but frankly them’s the crafting breaks. Look at me Ma, I can be a crafting blogger!

Other things I have made this month, for my other bestie Debs include:

Salt caramels (that tasted more like salty tablet but was very yummy)

Ribena vodka (add sugar and blackcurrants to vodka. Let it stew for as long as possible. Swig.)

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Comic book D (well, I say I made… but really I sat there with the bits until HWSNBN took over.)

Another five things ticked off my Make 100 lovely things on my life list.

The one in which I hurl myself from a plane for charity

Lianne and I

So… we interrupt our normal schedule of fluffy wedding recaps (coming soon, I promise) for a more serious post.

I haven’t talked about this in detail on the blog because it really isn’t my story to tell. But, as some of you may know, one of my best friend’s Lianne has been battling not one but two brain tumours. Since her diagnosis in 2007, she has been receiving fantastic respite care from the Phyllis Tuckwell charity hospice as well help and support for not only her but her mum who is her carer.  Despite her illness Lianne has done a lot to raise money for the Tuckwell, including appearing on their recent adverts and in magazine articles.

Unfortunately Lianne’s is unable to continue campaigning for them. So my friend Debs and I have decided to take the baton, and continue the fund raising for this fantastic hospice who help not only Lianne, but thousands of other people in Surrey and Hampshire providing comfort and care in the final stages of their lives. You can find out more about Phyllis Tuckwell, and see Lianne’s picture here http://www.pth.org.uk/get-involved/fundraising. That’s her and her mum in the banner.

Here goes, we are doing a sky dive to raise money for Phyllis Tuckwell at the end of August. Eeek! A sky dive might not seem the most unusual fund raising event, however Debs is pants-fillingly frightened of heights, and I have horrific motion sickness. I puke in cars, tuk tuks, planes and boats. There is a high chance Debs and I will either faint or puke on the way down. But we figure if Lianne, and all the patients at Phyllis Tuckwell, can go through what they are going through, then we can suck it up and fling ourselves out of a plane.

And this is where you dearest reader come in. If I’ve ever made you laugh or distracted you from a crappy work day on this blog, I’d really appreciate if you could donate whatever you can afford to help support this fantastic charity. In return I guarantee terrified photos of ourselves flinging ourselves out a plane, possibly covered in vomit! (Sorry Debs.) You can donate online here via our just giving site skydive for Lianne. Or I’ve also got sponsorship forms if you’d prefer to sponsor me in person. Thanks so much for reading and please help scare the bejesus out of us for a good cause.

The book journal

For Christmas this year my best friend Bunny gave me a book journal. An A5 size notepad with sections neatly divided into books read, books to read, and books lent/borrowed. This was the perfect gift for me. I am a notorious bibliophile, if I don’t have a stack of ten books to read next I get antsy. I have a wide and varied palette, I read: sci fi, fantasy, ya, ya, ya fantasy, ya sci fi, literary fiction, classics, crime, historicals, romance, auto/biographies, non fiction etc. However apart from one notorious summer when I counted the number of books I read (80), I’ve never kept a record of the books I read or reviewed them.

Recently I’ve begun reading in a different way. I still read for pleasure, to devour stories, to dive into imaginary worlds, to immerse myself in the thoughts and feelings of characters. Now I’ve started deconstructing books, pulling them apart to examine the mechanics of structure/plot, characters, description, and dialogue. This is because instead of reading from a consumer point of view I’ve started writing seriously for the first time.

I have been writing stories from as early as I can remember. An overly imaginative (read delusional :)) child I would walk down the end of the garden and tell stories to the vegetable patch and the fairies I believed lived in the fronds of the rhubarb and slept cradled in the pea shells. But this was the first book I ever finished. At the moment I’m neck deep in revisions which are more taxing and strangely more rewarding than I ever could imagine.

So in order to procrastinate a little bit more I’ve decided to blog about the books I read, as well about the revision process (lots of pathetic moaning ahoy) and anything else that catches my fancy. Stay tuned…