Grief and Gratitude

There has been a strange rhythm to the last few weeks. We have had two bereavements in the family. Both long lived but nonetheless mourned by those who loved them. I've struggled to get my equilibrium right in this time, concerned for others and keeping a weathered eye on my self-care. And getting it wrong regularly.

Any loss of course evokes our own grief and reminds us of our own mortality. Standing by a grave side recovering from cancer is not easy for anyone concerned. The demons I'm fairly good at chasing took over for a time. The "how long", "what if's" returned and how life sapping that is. I've endeavoured to return to being in the moment and mostly I can do it apart from when I don't feel good; then its harder.

I have shared other people's huge relief for me not to have needed chemotherapy but it hides a recovery that's not without its challenges. I still need regular pain relief from my surgery, I'm taking anti-oestrogen tablets for five years ( with more to follow) that give me rotten side effects, like joint pain and breathlessness. And I'm pretty wabbit to use an old Scots word (adjective(Scottish) weary; exhausted).

Now, I'm glad that once I have got the makeup on I look fairly well but it hides a reality that paradoxically,I want to hide and want people to be aware of too. I wrote a blog before when i was recovering from surgery about feeling I should have a T-shirt saying "I'm not very well you know". It would be for the days I want people to give me space especially in public transport, to give me time if I can't rush, to smile and pat me on the head like a Labrador ( well maybe not that but you get my drift? )

We don't always look unwell, even when we are, and our busy, noisy, clamouring world can really impact on us when we are tender. Gone are days when folk who are ill or grieving get to lie on a chaise lounge or winter in Switzerland, we go back to work or are expected get on with our lives and the pain too often gets dug in. When benefit systems are so inflexible, pensions delayed well into our late sixties and jobs so uncertain how can people hope to heal properly? Where is the space in our lives to recover now? Somehow though  we need to find that space and time. 

But for all that this time has also been the reminder of all that's important in life. A Mother's Day visit to my Mum was precious.As was a morning ( slow) walk in the cold, snow dusted spring day to a nearby lake. Watching Cara the dog swim joyfully and not want to leave was quite magical. 

So I'm enjoying life, trying to grab it with both hands and doing my best to pace myself. Some days I even manage it. It was in that spirit I booked tickets to see Carol King play the whole of Tapestry in Hyde park in July. I was tearfully delighted when I got them. Here's the title song, Tapestry which I've long thought I would like to play as I say my goodbyes.....but not for a good while yet you understand!

I read this poem this week and it really captures with beauty the spirit of gratitude I feel just now. Hope you enjoy it, its by the wonderful Mary Oliver ...

The Place I Want to Get Back To

is where

in the pinewoods

in the moments between

the darkness

and first light

two deer

came walking down the hill

and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,

this one is okay,

lets see who she is

and why she is sitting

on the ground, like that,

so quiet, as if

asleep, or in a dream,

but, anyway, harmless;

and so they come

on their slender legs

and gazed upon me

not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look

and look and look

into the faces of the flowers;

and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life

bring me that could exceed

that brief moment?

For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,

not waiting, exactly, just lingering.

Such gifts, bestowed,

cant be repeated.

If you want to talk about this

come to visit.  I live in the house

near the corner, which I have named


~ Mary Oliver ~


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