Lots of llamas.

On Friday, I attended the funeral of one of my mum’s dearest friends. They had been friends for over 40 years. She had been diagnosed with terminal cancer just before Christmas and it was hoped that chemotherapy would prolong her life. Her first chemo session was 31 days after her diagnosis. 4 days later, she died. She kept her cancer a secret from everyone except her daughters, so her death was a heavy shock to her friends and other family members. My mum and her other friends were only informed about her cancer just 4 days before she passed away, so mum didn’t really have time to process the fact that the cancer was terminal. I understand Sue’s reasons for keeping it close to her chest though. She was such a lovely lady and she just didn’t want to worry her loved ones.

Sue had been a part of my life, just as any good friends of my parents have. One of her daughters and I even share the same birthday, albeit a few years apart. Sue came to my wedding along with one of my mum’s other close friends. It only seemed right that I went to her funeral to pay my respects. Funeral guests were instructed by her daughters to bring a red rose and wear an item of red. It was their mum’s favourite colour. I wore a black and white skirt, black jumper, red shoes and red lipstick. When I arrived at the crematorium, it was pretty much at the same time as my parents although we had driven in from opposite ends of the country. I greeted my parents and we instantly noted those who were attending the funeral by spotting the individuals wearing items of red and carrying a single red rose each. It was actually quite nice seeing that. In a way, it brought everyone together.

After greeting old friends and making general chit chat, we all waited outside for the hearse to arrive. I was focusing elsewhere. My parents were engaged in conversation with friends of theirs. My mum suddenly said in my direction, with watery eyes and a gentle smile as the hearse began to slowly drive in “She’s my baby girl. Aren’t you?”.  She’d obviously been conversing with someone about me. It took me by surprise. The relationship my mum and I have can be strained at times, but only because we are so similar in character and because of that, we often clash. I nodded and smiled at my mum, then made a joke about being a big “baby girl” because I was the eldest of her two children. I wish I had just kept my mouth shut and accepted my mum’s sweet words as they were. The hearse drew closer and silence filled the air. The funeral car behind the hearse carrying Sue’s daughters and grandchildren stopped and the passengers got out of the vehicle. An ear piercing shriek from one of the girls broke the silence, followed by thick, heavy sobbing. No doubt at the realisation that her mum was gone. I tried to imagine what that must have felt like and I had to stop myself from crying.

The service was beautiful. No hymns that no one wants to sing anyway, just some of Sue’s favourite music and some kind words said by friends and family members.  About half way through the service, my mum broke down.  She was sat in between myself and my dad and we both reached our hands out towards hers, but she batted us away like pesky flies.  She wanted to be alone in her grief.  Selfishly for a moment, I felt a bit hurt but I gave myself a shake and remembered that everyone grieves differently.  At the end of the service, attendees slowly made their way outside and gently laid a single red rose on the coffin.  Some people whispered something as they put their rose to rest on the wood.  Others said nothing.  Some people kissed the coffin.  I just said “See you, Sue.”

We all moved onto another location in the village for the wake.  Sue had lived here before she became so poorly .  Everyone exchanged fond memories, and photos of Sue in her younger years were being passed around.  We joked about the big hairstyles and interesting fashions in the photos!  She never changed much.  My own mother was in a lot of those photos and facially, she hasn’t changed much either.  In fact, I even noted that she still wears one of the jumpers that she was wearing in the photos taken around the mid to late 80’s!

On my long drive home, I started to sob.  I had to pull myself together.  It was dark and that made it difficult to see the road through the tears.  I held myself together when I was around my mum, but the feelings just hit me when I was alone in my car.  I knew Sue of course, but not in a way to warrant these endless tears that just seemed to come pouring out of the corners of my eyes.  Sue’s daughters are not far off my own age and they have just lost their mum.  I think the tears were actually the reality of loss, that my own parents are not getting any younger.  Yet somehow I seem to need them more at the age of almost 30 than I ever did as a child.  I must speak to my dad on the phone at least 4 times a week.  He often calls me just for a chat when he’s out walking the dogs.  I call on my parents whenever something goes wrong, I need advice or I just want to talk.  I can’t imagine not having them around anymore.  I recall all of the times I said venomous, nasty things towards my parents as a hormone fuelled teenager who wasn’t getting her way.  It makes my heart hurt now, just thinking of it and I don’t even remember the things that were said.

I’ve probably spoken to my parents on the phone (we live 200 miles apart, which is something I am trying to change) 4 times since the funeral on Friday, and even I have noticed that we’re suddenly ending the phone calls with love yous and “lots of llamas”.  “Lots of llamas” is a family joke from when my sister did some charity work in Tanzania, Africa.  She and I were talking on Skype and she was showing off with her newly learnt Swahili words.  We were closing the Skype session and she said something in Swahili that sounded like “lots of llamas”…so I was like, what?  And it turns out, she was actually saying something like “love you lots, bye”!  So now whenever we say goodbye to each other, we say “lots of llamas!”

Life is short.  You just never know what is around that corner.  Grief is the price that we pay for love, but make sure the ones that you love know how you feel.

Lots of llamas, Darling Soul x

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Visiting the Outlaws.

Well, here I am kicking myself for not writing sooner because I have a whole tirade of stuff to bore you with!  But I’ll probably break it down into separate posts.

So the weekend before last, I went to visit my ex inlaws (I kind of want to call them my outlaws, that sounds more fun!) for the first time since P and I split up for good, which was around 14/15 months ago now.  It was before any of us knew about his affair and we still thought that he was just having a quarter life crisis of something.  We had still stayed in touch after the break up, despite my ex husband displaying his clear dislike for the continued relationship with my outlaws.  But the feeling was very much mutual.  Why would I break off the relationship with them if they wanted to stay in touch and were upset by their own son and brother’s actions?  In fact it was them who invited me to see them.  I kind of thought that the connection we had would tail off, but I guess I was wrong.  They don’t live too far away from me, a couple of hours drive is all.  So after my meditation class, I got in the car and started my journey.  I was fine, singing along to music and carrying on the peaceful feeling leftover from my meditation class.  Then as I got closer, my belly started to do flips.  When I could see their house from the road, I felt so sick that I thought I was going to have to pull over and wretch.  I felt ridiculous for feeling this way and I don’t believe it was nerves about seeing them, I just feel like there are so many memories of us wrapped around their house and where he grew up.  Memories of much happier and carefree times and of when I felt like I would never have to search for someone again because I have found my soulmate.  I pulled up to their house and parked my car where I always used to park when he and I visited.  I got out and walked to the front door, closing the front gate after me before ringing the doorbell and waiting for someone to answer whilst my stomach continued to flip upside down.  I knew who would answer the door before they even got there.  My ex mother in law.  She opened the door and was elated to see me.  She grabbed me, pulled me in close and gave me a big squeeze.  When she squeezed me, she must’ve squeezed some water out of me somewhere because I just cried and returned the squeeze.  Then my ex father in law appeared with a warm smile on his face.  He was always such a lovely gentle giant of a man.  He scooped me up with his big arms and gave me a squish.

“Lovely to see you again.” They both said.  My eyes continued to leak.

I walked through into the kitchen and my two ex sister in laws walked through and greeted me with sweet smiles and tender hugs.  It was clear that they had all missed me.  How could such lovely people have created the monster that was my ex husband?  Then my nephew came down the stairs (I don’t like to call him my ex nephew, it sounds odd).  Almost 18 years old.  I have known this boy since he was 11 and he has grown up dramatically both physically and mentally.  He gave me a big hug and I felt his teenage beard fluff scratch across my cheek and I laughed through my tears!

We didn’t speak about him.  Even when his brother came to visit with my other two nephews, his name went unmentioned.  There was no sign of him in the house either, and I don’t believe it was for my benefit.  Where there used to be a little shrine of photos of him, there only remained one photo and it hid right at the back behind two of his sister’s wedding photos.  The photos of him that used to be on the walls were gone.

We had a wonderful evening, laughing and chatting away.  They enjoyed the wine and chocolates that I had brought them and I equally enjoyed (if not more) the delicious lasagna that my ex mother in law had made.  Just how she always used to!  She even made mince pies (in January!) especially for me because I didn’t see them at Christmas and she knows how much I love her mince pies!  If that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is.  I went home with his sister that evening and stayed at her place.  We stayed up past midnight putting the world to rights, having a bit of a gossip and a catch up.  It was perfect.

The next morning, we got up and then headed back to the outlaws for a cooked breakfast. Before I went home, we went to see my ex sister in laws’ new house that she and her husband are hoping to move into in the next few months.  She said with hope that the next time I visit will be for their housewarming party once they’re settled in their new home.  Well, that made me feel good.  Another invite!  What would P say, I wonder.  And M, his new love interest and the woman he cheated on me for.  But you know what?  Who gives a shit what either of them think.

Some people think it’s weird that I still have ties with the outlaws.  They think that I can’t possibly move forward while I still have contact with them.  But how is it fair to cut them off?  They didn’t ask for the shit storm that their son and brother rained over all of us.  They were just as surprised, angry, hurt and disappointed as I was.  They didn’t raise him like this.  They are really good people with warm hearts.  It’s not like I will ever bump into him when I spend time with them as he lives on the other side of the world now.  The best way for him to escape his demons and the hell that he created.  And personally, I feel that it’s testimony to me and how I behaved following his affair that they want to stay in touch. And I’m actually quite proud of that.

With love, Darling Soul x