Two months ago on the 21st of May 2013 my husband Bob (loving known as “Victor” in this blog) died, suddenly and unexpectedly in his sleep, he was 63 years old.
I’d known him since I was 18 years old. We’d been together for just over 30 years, had 3 amazing kids together and got married 10 years ago. He was my rock and my best friend …and for the last 30 years we’d never been apart for more than a week.
I’ve been in some ways comforted by the fact he died without pain, without illness or suffering. This painless and peaceful end is the way we all want to go and it definitely was for Bob, he would have hated to have been ill, but it was a massive shock for all of us who knew and loved him and there was no time to say goodbye!.
For the first few days and weeks I was barely alone, friends visited in droves, the phone didn’t stop ringing and each day a pile of sympathy cards (and flowers) arrived at my door. As news of what happened to Bob spread I was inundated with email messages, Facebook messages, letters and cards from friends, and people he’d worked with over the years. I was comforted by the funny stories people told and the lovely things they had to say about him. As far as the record industry (and everyone else) was concerned the consensus was he was one of the “good guys”, a “one off” a “true gent”, and someone with charisma and charm. The word “legend” was also used more than once.
I was touched by people taking the time to write to me, even though some had never met me and hadn’t seen him for years, telling me what an impact he’d had on their career or simply what a pleasure he was to work with. I was touched by the cards from people who didn’t know him but knew me and wanted to let me know that they were thinking of us. All this helps ease the pain…. a little… and it was comforting to know what an impact he’d had on people’s lives and that he was so respected and highly regarded by others. (Bob is the bloke with the beard and sunglasses!)
I’ve never been one for sending sympathy cards before but I think I will from now on, it really does help to know that people are thinking of you at such a horrible time.
My friends here have been amazingly supportive. One friend mentioned that people don’t always know how to help at times like this, but if these friends didn’t know they somehow managed to get it spot on. I couldn’t have got through any of this so far without them and will be eternally grateful for their continued love and support.
There’s also lots to do and lots to think about in the first few weeks, registering the death, planning the funeral and dealing with the mountains of paperwork…. I found myself doing things I’d never imagined doing, talking about him in the past tense for one…choosing a funeral director and then sitting in a funeral care establishment and choosing a coffin. Choosing poems and significant songs and music for the service and talking to the Humanist celebrant, trying to help her get a picture of the man he was! The whole thing is bizarre and surreal but it keeps you busy and gives life some strange kind of focus for a short while.
We gave him a great “send off”. A small humanist cremation service and then over 300 people attended a big party at our local pub. A few of us spoke about Bob, there was lots of laughter (and tears) and then we released 250 balloons to the sound of Lindesfarne’s Meet me on the corner (Bob worked with Lindesfarne in the 70’s when working for Charisma Records), as a kind of symbolic “letting go”…a real tearjerker but beautiful in its simplicity. It was a good day…we think it’s what he would have wanted it to be.
A lovely friend filmed it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?client=mv-google&gl=GB&hl=en&v=K8lgK1BvvX0&feature=youtu.be&nomobile=1
July is a time of lots of birthdays in our family. Bob would have been 64 on the first of July. So the girls and I chose that day to scatter his ashes. I’d anticipated this being really emotional but it ended up being quite funny… amazing how our black sense of humour gets us through so much! We weren’t aware you needed permission to scatter ashes in public places so it had to be a rather covert operation (and because of this I won’t tell you where it was but just so you know it was a beautiful spot and somewhere he wanted his ashes scattered!!) We had the ashes in a colourful tube, called a scatter tube courtesy of the Co-op funeral care service. It was heavy and we took turns carrying it in a brown carrier bag, with comments like “do you want to carry your Dad for a bit? My arms are hurting!” we also needed to keep a look out in case anyone saw us and then struggled to get the ashes out of the tube…”Victor” being an awkward bugger to the last!!
Still attempting to deal with my own grief, just six weeks after Bob died, on the fourth of July, I was given the news that my lovely friend Sara had suffered her own devastating loss. Her son LB, aged just 18 died at a specialist unit for people with learning disabilities. Sara has blogged about LB here. http://mydaftlife.wordpress.com/ Please read through from the start… and feel angry!!
Sara is one of my “lifeboat” friends https://abitmissing.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/the-lifeboat/and It seemed unbelievable that two such events should happen to two of a small group of friends in such a short space of time. I was left reeling and devastated all over again!
Initially LB’s tragic and avoidable death in a strange way put Bob’s into some perspective. Bob had 63 nearly 64 years of life. He had a great life and lived it to the full. LB in contrast had his snatched away from him by sheer incompetence at the hands of services that were meant to be specialist and person centred. However, this tragedy ultimately compounded, rather than eased my own pain.
On the 12th of July it would have been our 10th wedding anniversary. On the 14th of July it was my 50th birthday then on the 16th of July it was Ollies 21st Birthday. Bob and I had already planned a joint party in our garden for the Saturday and Ollie and I decided without too much hesitation to carry on with it and celebrate our special birthdays as originally planned. It was a wonderful day, with friends and family but not far below the surface for me and the girls it was a day tinged with enormous sadness that he wasn’t there to share it with us. Consequently a boozy celebration culminated in emotional meltdown when the party goers left in the early hours.
Ollie’s 21st birthday was the same day as LB’s funeral. A day of such mixed emotions I could barely breathe. I so wanted to support my friend but realised fairly quickly that attending the actual burial might be a tad too much for my already fragile state of mind. The “lifeboat” (renamed the “life raft”, because lifeboats are sent out to rescue people but we built this one ourselves) stepped in again supporting me to support Sara. Saying that I was feeling like I’ve been put through the wringer by this point would be a gross understatement, picked up and thrown against a wall several times would be more accurate!
I’ve got through the last 2 months with the support of good friends, my wonderful family, and copious amounts of alcohol (way too much alcohol if the truth be known) Now friends have started to get on with their own lives, of course they would and so they should. The phone doesn’t ring as often and the post lady brings the usual mail instead of cards.
I’m realising that it’s only now I’m starting to grieve…properly grieve.
There is a well documented process to grieving…shock, denial, guilt, anger and finally acceptance. I’ve been through all of them with less time spent on the anger bit. I feel bitter that this has happened to me but can’t find any outlet or reason for anger.
Guilt is a tough one though. There is always some guilt. Things you said and more importantly the things you didn’t say. We’d had a tough couple of years recently with money worries and all the kids leaving home. Like many couples who’d been together for the length of time we had, we’d had our ups and downs. Luckily this turned out to be a minor blip in what was predominantly a very happy relationship. Things were definitely getting back to normal. We were looking forward to our first holiday abroad on our own in 30 years and things on the work front were looking up too. We were starting to have fun again and finding our new normal without the kids. This pisses me off more than anything but I do feel guilty for the time we wasted in getting back to normal.
As for acceptance well let’s just say it’s difficult not to accept someone has truly gone if you’re the one to find them dead in bed. That bit was all too final for me and a memory I’m still struggling to erase!
Mostly though I just feel incredibly sad and I miss him. I miss him so much it hurts. It’s a physical pain that even alcohol doesn’t alleviate. I miss talking to him. I miss being here with him. I miss being with someone I was so comfortable with we didn’t always need to talk. I miss his funny comments, his sense of humour and how he managed to find something funny about everyday things. I miss his cooking (he was a great cook) I miss hearing him banter on the phone with friends and work colleagues. I even miss his moaning and the things that irritated me, like shouting on the phone in the garden and hearing about his constant rows with “jobs worths”. The millions of memories I have of our life together came flooding back and made me smile in the early days and weeks but now each memory reminds me daily of what I’ve lost and what I’ll never have again.
I’m acutely aware I need to refocus. I need to start thinking about work again. I need to get back to work, there is stuff I have to do and I hate letting people down but I struggle to focus for very long and seem to have temporarily lost the passion that has driven me for so long. I tell myself that I need to get back to normal …but what the hell is normal? I don’t have a normal anymore.
I’m sick of crying too…how can you cry so much? I’m a generally happy person and I hate feeling permanently sad.
I’ve spent the last month or so trying to carry on, going out, having fun. When I’m out with friends I forget for a short time that he’s not at home waiting for me. I’ve tried to be a coper, Ive tried to stay strong for my kids. I’ve lost my Bobby, but they’ve lost their Dad and their pain is equal to mine, but if I’m honest some days I struggle to be anything at all and I feel like closing the curtains and rocking in the corner…I hate feeling so pathetic!!
And then there’s G…I’ve had G home a few times now since his Dad died. He doesn’t get the whole death thing and each time he comes home he looks for Bob. Each time he comes home I show him a picture, tell him his daddy has died and tell him were all sad. I love having G home but I dread it each time at the moment for this very reason…it breaks my heart all over again.
I know that time is a great healer and that life has to go on and all those other clichés so often spoken at times like this have a ring of truth in them. I know I’ll eventually find a new normal and regain my passion for life and my work. I also know Bob wouldn’t want me to be feeling like this. He was the one who helped me become the woman I am today, encouraged me to go for whatever I wanted and not be afraid to try something new. He was always behind me spurring me on, telling to “go for it” and letting me know that “everything will be alright” whatever obstacles came our way. I remain grateful for having him in my life for 30 years. I maintain that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have spent the last 30 years with a man such as him. I know I owe to him to be strong and to get on with life, make some new memories and smile and laugh again and I know I will ….eventually.
For now though I think I’ll have another glass of wine.
so you – so honestly written.
What a lovely tribute to Bob Gail. So brave of you to put it into words. Can’t imagine what you’re going through but I can tell you that it wasn’t just you who was lucky to have Bob. He had a lovely, sparky, passionate woman by his side, always thinking of others, working (and playing!) hard. Wish I lived close enough to share a bottle with you again, but next time I do have a glass of wine I’ll think of you and toast you and Bob. Thinking of you fondly, Carolyn xxx
thanks Carolyn xxx
you write so beautifully! It was so lovely to read about the wonderful life you and Bob had after you left London…..I am thinking of you…30 years is such a long time..I cant imagine how it feels…but don’t push yourself – just stay in the lifeboat for a while, you will know when the time is right..one step at a time!
Thanks Nicky xxxx
I have never met you but have followed both your and Sara’s blog for a while, as I too have an adult son with learning and physical disabilities.
Thank you for your courage in blogging again – so awful that you have both suffered such tragedies. Everything I can think of to say comes out as a cliche, but I want to say something, so huge sympathy – losing someone you love never makes any sense …… and a huge thank you as well, it was great to find both your blogs as I don’t have any close friends with a son/daughter like mine – a relief to to read words that I didn’t have to translate – but this isn’t about me, I just wanted you to know that you have made a difference – and to give you a virtual hug x
Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. They mean a lot xx
I am so sorry to read this post, please accept my sincere condolences. Like speakingeye above I followed yours and sarasiobhan’s blog as a parent myself of a profoundly disabled son. Both blogs a rare and valuable find in this place I call disabilityland. Please take care xxx
Thanks Magi, our little lifeboat has certainly taken a battering lately. Thank you for your kind words xx
What a moving and very real account of your life Gail. Thank you for sharing it,
Anna in Cornwall x
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