I am one of the fortunate ones who has a caring, loving Valentine. He’s not into Valentine’s Day but that matters not as I am well used to it now and know that he has a heart of gold and cares more about me than I could ever fully know.
But, today my heart is breaking for all those people who, for whatever, reason are trying to scramble through this day in a world that feels empty and lonely because the love of their life is no longer with them.
I think especially of older couples who have been ripped apart by Covid19 after years of togetherness or young lovers whose imagined futures have been cut short by the death of one of them from Covid or some other illness or tragedy.
Days like this can be incredibly difficult when there is an assumption that love is in the air for all when, in fact, it feels like it has been replaced by an abyss of sadness.
I suspect most of us have known Valentine’s Days like that but they can be all too easy to cast into the background. However, we need to be especially cognisant that love can bring agony as well as ecstasy and much in between and none of us knows how the dice will fall.
I just hope that those who are feeling lonely today have a treasure trove of memories to draw upon that can sustain them and that they can see even a tiny glimmer of light for the the future.
Let none of us be complacent and let all of us be empathetic.
It will be 40 years ago tonight that the man I expected to marry died from cancer. I was in my early twenties and he was older but very young in the overall scheme of things.
That death, more than any other, has been the hardest to cope with. It left me reeling in a vacuum of dreams that could never be fulfilled and in ways that reeling has never fully stopped.
He was the kindest, most thoughtful, generous, nature-loving, sporty, creative, tough yet soft-hearted bloke you could meet.
He left a huge imprint on my life and so many places, films, songs, activities are associated with him.
He was the person who taught me to drive. He loved cars and I associate him most with a white Volkswagen Beetle.
I wasn’t the easiest to teach to drive as I don’t automatically know my left from my right and could get a bit carried away when I saw a long straight stretch of road opening up ahead. How he stuck the fluctuations in my driving is more than I will ever know.
He was a stickler for parking properly and being able to park on a sixpence. We spent hours perfecting my parallel parking, especially on hills and every single time I confidently ease into the tiniest space, I see him in my mind’s eye, smile to myself and say: You taught me well.
Time moves on but so does a love so deep in its own parallel way.
A friend of mine died very suddenly recently and it hit me in ways I find hard to articulate.
We were around the same age, were pregnant at the very same time, met regularly, shared a lot of experiences, were like-minded in many ways and had a shared passion for the sea.
I keep thinking that I see her and find myself on the verge of waving or heading over to talk to her only to realise that my subconscious is playing tricks with me.
I so wanted to give her lovely daughter a hug but couldn’t because of the times we live in. I’m not a huggy person at all but this was different.
I know she wouldn’t want tears; she wanted people to be happy and went out of her way to listen, support and understand. But tears have a way of forming, just like dew drops at dusk.
It’s best to think of her impish smile and heartfelt chuckle. They will stay with me forever and what about it if I wave at a stranger. They’d more than likely have been through the very same experience and no doubt you have too.
It is all too easy to try and comfort a grief-stricken person with stuff like: He was a great age; He’s at peace now; You wouldn’t have wanted her to suffer any more; She lived a full life even if it was short …..
The kindest words anyone ever said to me after losing a loved one was my father.
I was sobbing in the kitchen after the death of a beloved aunt, who was a true friend and confidante. Yes, she was eighty-nine and I was in my thirties.
I could literally tell her anything and I would like to think she felt the same about me. There was a truly special bond between us.
I sputtered to Dad that my heart was broken and he simply said: I know.
He didn’t try to reason with me but just stayed with me and offered me one of his big white pristine hankies.
He had known his share of grief and clearly knew the significance of having it acknowledged.
It was one of those precious moments that he and I shared and I will be forever grateful to him for it.
He was ninety when he died and somehow I wasn’t half as heartbroken as I might have been if I didn’t have this well of precious moments to draw on.
Sometimes I wonder what mothering is all about when it comes to being the mother of a twenty-one year old son. In the early hours of this morning, it suddenly became a lot more than being the fill-the-fridge-fairy and dog-walker-when-owner-out-of-town.
I was still up when he came in to me, ashen-faced, and told me that he’d just found out that a young man who he had been very close to growing up had died. It was the first time that someone of his own age – just 14 days between them -who really mattered to him had died. I had known the lad too and he was one of those creative, empathetic kids who stood out as being able to talk to adults like they were real people.
In that moment when we were trying to come to terms with this sadness, I realised that being a mother is about being there to share in the highs and the lows as well as the everyday. My own mother always made a point of showing interest in our friends and I always loved that she would know who I was talking about when I’d mentioned ‘friends of mine that I’ve not even met,’ as she would term them.
That togetherness of the early hours spilled over into today and we went to catch the sunset with his dogs out at Kilfarrasy Beach, a place that holds many memories for us from long years of going there, especially when it’s all ours.
It was a sunset to savour but most of all it was an evening that I think we’ll both remember always. The passing of his friend is etched into the texture of it. Age has a habit of bringing more and more deaths of same-aged friends but the loss of the first can be very tough indeed. Our hearts go out to the young man’s family. How they could be coping is unimaginable.
This evening on the beach, I did what I seldom do, took a photo of my boy. I needed to gather him into my heart and hold him just that little bit tighter than usual:
Last Tuesday, November 29th, was one of those heart-wrenching days. It was the 20th anniversary of the death of my nephew who died tragically, aged 24 in 1996. Twenty years may seem like a long time but time has certainly not erased my memories of the chatty little boy I watched grow into an extremely handsome young man who was full of love, curiosity, creativity and a passion for the sea.
November 29th is also the anniversary of a young boy, called Daniel, whom I’ve read about on Tric’s blog, My Thoughts on a Page. Daniel died three years ago, aged 13, from leukemia and it’s very clear that he, too, left a huge legacy of love to all his family and friends.
When I realised last year that Daniel and my nephew shared the same anniversary, it seemed like one of those extraordinary coincidences. There is a poignancy, yet a comfort, in knowing that both young men are especially remembered on the same day … though clearly they are never far from our minds.
I’ve felt since last year that my nephew is somehow looking out for young Daniel and that they have built a special bond with each other. This feeling has emerged in spite of the fact that I am an out and out atheist.
Last Tuesday was a gorgeous day here and as sunset was approaching, I made my way to the beach to cast two stones into the sea in memory of the ‘boys.’ Here are the stones that I chose ~ one bigger than the other:
I threw them into the sea which was all blue and lovely. The tide was coming in and it seemed to be carrying gentle love and solace:
It seemed only right to wait for the sunset and there was a warmth in that too which dazzled me and sent me home perfectly reassured that our precious young men are at peace and happy to know that we remember them with love.
Social media, and especially blogging, allows for the development of close bonds and friendships with people we may never have the pleasure of meeting in person. Such people can play a hugely important role in our lives and relationships are built around shared interests.
In some cases, people that we grow close to online can be enormously supportive in our lives. The very fact that they live thousands of miles away but are still there with words of kindness, fun, advice and friendship makes them all the more special. They don’t care how much money we have or don’t have; what we look like; how we’re dressed ….. they see straight into our minds and hearts through our words and photographs and they care about us, just as we care about them.
There’s no easy way to learn that any friend has died. The passing of online friends can sometimes happen without us ever hearing about it. They just go silent. In other cases, we learn the sad news via other online friends or acquaintances and there is a horrible sense of shock and helplessness. There’s nowhere to go with a plate of sandwiches or an address to which to send a sympathy card ~ there’s just a vacuum. That vacuum is when you are in the non-virtual’ world and occurs because one’s nearest and dearest are unlikely to have had any connection or possibly knowledge of the online friend who has died.
But, there can be great communities of support in some cases when a much loved online friend dies. This has been the case in recent days with the sad passing of Paul Curran, who was such a good blogging friend to some many of us here on WordPress.
I can’t remember when Paul first came into my life ~ I guess it was three or four years ago. He was one of those people who commented on my blog on a very regular basis and I loved to read the Sunday guest posts which he wrote on Willow’s and then Mark’s blogs.
Paul was a Canadian man with a huge heart. He had lived a life of adventure and ups and downs and was a true fighter when it came to the illnesses with which he had to grapple. Most of all he was a man who had a love of life ~ down to the simplest of things.
He was man enough to be able to laugh at himself and shed tears for those he felt were less fortunate than himself. He spread hope wherever he went in blogland with his wise and well-chosen words.
So, how do you cope when someone as significant as this dies? I wish Paul was around to give an answer to this question!
My sense is that, like any other death, you’ve got to give time a chance to let the reality of the situation sink in and also do what one can to remember the person as they have suggested they would like to be remembered.
What Paul’s comments always suggested to me was that he longed to be at the ocean ~ and he was soon to be there if he had just lived a little longer.
He would also want openness ~ yes, Paul, I have shed tears knowing that you are gone from us and I’ve given Puppy Stan, whom you loved, a special cuddle. I’ve also read back over some of your comments and smiled, pondered, wondered, smiled again.
One thing I DO know is that just because you were an online friend doesn’t make you any less a friend than a ‘real’ one. I know I will think of you when I’m by the sea or old places that you always thought were awesome. I’ll give a little wave to truck drivers as they pass me by and think of all your adventures.
You can be damn sure, I won’t ever forget you and I know that there are many, many others all around the world whose lives you touched who feel just like I do tonight.
Rest Peacefully, Paul, and know that you have made more of a difference than you could ever, ever know.
Tramore is in deep mourning today as the community tries to come to terms with a horrific car crash out along the Cliff Road last night.
A sixteen year old school girl lost her life and two other teenagers are seriously injured.
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the girl who died and our thoughts are with the injured boy and girl and the driver who, though, not badly injured will clearly be scarred for life.
Every parent lives in dread of these awful accidents which can bring such drastic changes in a heartbeat.
The community is certainly drawing together to try and support those who have been beareved and injured. I guess we all know that this could just as easily be one of our own children and, in a small place like this, where people know each other, there is a sense that we have lost a child who was part of Tramore and its environs.
A sad, sad time here which will live on in the collective memory for a long, long time.
Rest in Peace, Beautiful Young Woman and know that you are held in the most loving arms imaginable.
A met a stranger recently who on hearing my name asked me if the Frank Tubridy who took photographs was any relation of mine.
I responded, with a smile, that he was my father and she said that she had always loved his work and then asked me if he was still alive. I told her that he had died in 2010 and she said that she was sorry to learn that.
I know that people can be feel very uneasy about mentioning someone who may have died, in case they upset the person they are asking or somehow remind them of the the fact that they have died ~ as if it would be something they might have forgotten about!
I am always chuffed when people talk to me about my late parents and say things like: I always think about your mother when I see the snowdrops blooming; or I have a photograph that your father took hanging in my sitting-room and every time I look at it, I remember how he loved a good joke.
It’s so good to know that people who mattered to us are remembered fondly, especially as the years pass since their deaths.
So, I give thanks to the stranger (now friendly acquaintance) who clearly knew that speaking kindly of those who have died can be extremely comforting. I guess she had learned this from personal experience.
I expect that there may be divided opinion on this topic but I also suspect that more people than we realise are warmed by hearing their loved ones being remembered with fondness.
I came across this list-to-self which I wrote not long after my father died in 2010. It has served me well and I hope it can be of some use to at least one other person in the whole world who is struggling to cope with the death of a loved one.
I would be delighted with additions to the list, if you feel you can contribute.
Finding Solace in the Face of Grief
Read Wordsworth’s Poem, The Daffodils.
Look at Monet’s paintings
Listen to music
Go for a walk
Think of your happiest childhood memory
Close your eyes and imagine you feel a purple butterfly land on your shoulder
Eat a passion fruit
Go for a swim in the ocean
Listen to the birds at dawn
Watch a river gliding under a bridge
Make a list of your favourite movies
Write a list of the 10 people whom you admire most and why
Sow some seeds to give promise of colour
Plant a scented shrub in the garden
See the love in a dog’s eyes when you pet him or her
Have a bath with a few drops of lavender oil
Feel a handmade chocolate melt in your mouth
Read a book of Humorous Quotations
Write about a happy time spent with the person who has died
Share your feelings with someone who truly cares about you.