Six Months After

We’re okay. Today has been cancelled due to illness. We are both out with a virus and it’s a nice coincidence that it’s pouring down outside and the heaters are blaring here. Lucas and I are doing as well as can be expected. Mother’s Day was particularly hard. Not on the day, but on the Friday before I really felt the affects of the last year. I had the whole works, flashbacks to the day Phil died and tears. Lots of tears.

Last year Phil and Lucas got up and were quiet, when I woke up they drove me to Kmart with some money, quite a lot of money for us. Then they left me to it at the shops and I had a couple of hours shopping. It was really good and really thoughtful and I am so glad there were no memories of it on Facebook!

Life has taken on it’s own pattern now. We are getting extraordinarily close, which I imagine is the experience of sole parents everywhere. Its quite a stunning experience which I am enjoying. The closeness makes a lot of the simple parts of parenting easier. More jokes, less power and control battles. Mostly.

Just in the last few weeks Lucas has started talking about Phil again. A lot. Its gorgeous. We sing to him when we drive past Whenua Tapu. We talk to him every night before bed now, and Lucas shares the important things of the day with him. He has decided that Phil is always with us now. All the time. Last night he was telling Phil about the Clay Face that I brought him and the lego reviews we are trying to get online for him. He would like to be a Lego reviewer when he grows up. Lego Life, here we come.

I’ve taken a running jump at trying to work from home. There have been mixed results, but overall the trend is that its working more and more each week. Don’t look at the housework status though. It’s been very exciting to be using parts of my brain that have been used mainly for mothering for most of the last 6 years. I have worked maybe 16 months of Lukey’s life so a culture change has been required. Lucas is on board, particularly now that he knows work equals more Lego.

The whanau are extremely important in the (relative) success of the last six months. Not in the least because Mum and Kevin and Dad and Meera and Liz and Kev all take Lucas on adventures, night’s away and fun times so I can recharge. That closeness we have in our relationship now can be intense and tiring and I am so grateful to be able to recharge on a Saturday.

We’re not any way out of the woods in terms of grief, but there is a comfort or rather a lack of intensity when I realise that we will grieve for Phil forever and at some point it may not hurt so much, rather it will just be the good loving left.

Friends are still golden and take me away from it all. Hearing about your ‘normal’ lives carrying on and the everyday issues that come and go. We are sort of out of the loop mostly concentrating on daily routines and getting the basics up to speed without Phil. He was such a core part of this family, there were only three of us, so it’s a big loss. A huge pair of shoulders gone and we are slowly but surely coming up from the back and starting to kick arse again.

I’m not asking much of myself at the moment. Attempting to make us some money, get Lukey to school and back and keep home cooked food on the table. It’s enough right now.

We will have a memorial and scatter ashes/ unveil a plaque or some sort of celebration on the year anniversary of Phil’s passing. We’ll probably do it on Sunday the 8th of October as the 9th is a Monday. I hope you can join us. Most likely a ‘do’ back at the house, or maybe even a little knees up at a hall or church. Not sure yet. But there will a place for people to talk freely and talk about Phil and his life. No hurry, no shocked widow rushing off for a ciggie every five minutes. It should be really good. Quite a few people asked me if they could speak at the funeral, so hopefully everyone comes ready with a poem, a song or whatever they would like to do to express themselves. If anything. I won’t be singing or reciting anything! But I hope you do.

If you are wanting to come, drop me a line on JoanneEveAndrews@gmail.com and I will have a little idea of numbers, so I can start thinking about appropriate venues. Feel free to tell your mates who I don’t know and we’ll see what happens. It was a rush of a funeral, two days after the death and I just was not in a place to really sit and think things through. I was so off the planet my feet didn’t touch the ground. Hopefully the unveiling will amend that. Lets give it a good crack aye?

The writing bug has left me completely. I just want to lick my wounds and look after the gang best I can. So I might not write any more on this blog, but rather use it as way to communicate Phil like things to you all. Like the unveiling. Always here if you want to catch up, drop me a line, facebook me or whatever, I’d love to hear from you.

x

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Back at the hospital and back to work

 

Lucas had a trip in an ambulance on Friday night. He was administered adrenaline and steroids and we needed to wait for five hours for observations. We were sitting next door to R3, resuscitation suite three and two doors down from C3. C3 is where Phil died. It was awful. As my dear friend would say, I was HASHTAG TRIGGERED.

Eventually, after three cigarettes and a load of fresh air, I calmed down and it sort of integrated inside me. I got peaceful again. Lucas was being hilarious. He was on the same steroids that Phil was on when we nick named him Disco Phil or Nightclub Phil as the whole world turned in to a party for him. It was pretty funny watching Lucas doing the same thing.

There was this amazing Intensive Care Paramedic in the ambulance and she taught Lucas (who had a severe croup attack and couldn’t breathe before the adrenaline) to clap his arms like a seal when he had to cough that horrid barking cough. It was a very good party trick. She told him to make sure whenever a doctor or a nurse asked him a question, he was to cough and clap his hands which he did with relish. It was pretty funny.

I am glad to report that the Emergency Department is a lovely place to be if you have a small child at 4am in the morning! They were sooo great, they were attempting to put the young, comatose University students on one side of ED and the kids on the other. It was quite peaceful for a Friday night. We had a lovely, kind nurse who looked after us well. The doctor was amazing too. Lucas is fine, except we need to get him checked shortly with our GP to figure out why he is getting croup. Apparently it’s an under five year old complaint usually and Lucas is five and a half.

So I find myself wondering why I write this dreadful, personal ‘feelings’ stuff. It helps. It helps me process it, and it’s only a few facebook friends and family who are reading along, so on I go. I think it moves my experiences from the abstract in to the rational mind. I was pretty, pretty, traumatised sitting around looking at all the different rooms that we have been in with Phil. Sometimes, it was not a pleasant time at all. People were rude, they didn’t want to give him ‘too much’ pain relief even though he was dying of cancer. I got angry as fuck at one point. Then it just kind of went away. It washed out with the fresh air.

Phil wanted us to move on with life and keep living it. So I have started back at work, but am extremely lucky to be based at home from now on. When I am doing computer work, I will be at home and then out and about researching, searching and selling. I am so looking forward to it all. Very excited. It’s a new business and I am one of the partners in it. It’s pretty pretty surreal for me. I did not see that one coming, but was approached about it and immediately felt myself getting ‘in to it’. It’s been awhile and I well pleased!

I gave up smoking cigarettes today. 11:40am and still going strong.  Of course I am doing it for Lucas. He is delighted. For dad. He bangs on about it daily. For myself I quite living and breathing, so there is THAT.

Today has been awesome. I had my last appointment with WINZ which was great. I have exited their services, although I have to prove that I have work with …..more paperwork. No surprises there. I was glad there was no hooter that they rang to celebrate. I think that fell out of fashion fairly quickly. I don’t wonder why.

Lucas is settling down for the most part although he still has his moments. We’ve totally got the hang of it being just the two of us now although it rarely is just us and on the occasion that it is, we just chill and really like it. School is just divine with a really lovely teacher again this year. I love that school that he goes to very much. Small, but perfectly formed.

So we are well pleased to be starting off a new week on a bit of a high here. Hope you are all going well….let’s catch up for lunch sometime soon. xx

Back to life, back to reality…..

It’s been huge. Christmas and New Year’s and ‘Summer’. We got a couple of nights camping at Kaitoke National Park. Great time had by all. Pretty windy but we got a good day and tramped up to Rivendell, saw the huge trees and the swing bridge.ristmas Day was really hard. Harder than I imagined. We stayed the night with my sister and her family which was really, really nice. Her husband cooked us a gorgeous dinner and we ate and relaxed and it was all good. When we woke up the next day there was much excitement and much fun. Then I went to drive up to Paraparaumu and it was all a bit much. For some reason I was extremely upset about driving past Whenua Tapu, even though I drive past it all the time. I was thinking of Phil and had a big cry in my sisters arms, while Lucas bounded off to the car happy as Larry.

Lucas had a BIG Christmas. A bike, Lego, and much more. People all day finishing up with a party at my cousin’s house. It was really very nice. I am so happy we have so many loving folks about. It basically carried us through till the wedding of Neal and Meera which was unforgettable. In part due to our ceremonial lamp setting off the fire alarm and the fire department turning up. It was so funny, when everyone had to pile outside, many photo’s were taken of a rather tall fireman and the married couple.

Lucas, dressed in his finery, was the ring bearer. I thought he might actually interrupt the ceremony with a little comedy ‘bit’ or something, but fortunately he was quite shy and did very well. He did ask one of the speakers when cake time was in the middle of a speech, but people laughed. Whew.

Since then, its been really fun. We certainly relaxed on holidays and did some fun stuff for all of us. I went and saw Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds which was a really beautiful thing to do. Still remembering it with a smile. I have had a friend staying and painting our fence and that has been nice too. It’s been real nice to have company about at this weird time, well adjustment period is one way of framing it.

I think we are sort of back to normal now and ready for the year to begin.  Lucas is keen to go back to school soon which is lucky. I am starting a new job in a week, working from home and I am ‘in to it’. I feel like something new and there is a lot of space in my life right now to accommodate it well.

I have been thinking about how I am feeling, and what it’s like to lose someone in what I think is a pretty short time frame. It was nine months from diagnosis till the end, and I am still reeling a bit. I am not in shock anymore, have started sleeping well again when I force myself to go to bed on time. I am quite relaxed actually, probably too relaxed but in a good way.

Lucas and I started off the holidays in school mode still. It took some time to relax in to each other and get on the same wavelength. We got on the same wavelength after Christmas sometime with loads of good days out or indoors with friends, kids and treats. Now we are in a really good groove most of the time finding the balance between pyjama days and action days and its been good to us.

We started counselling again with Skylight last week and even though I find it really sad, Lucas says he is in to it, and is looking forward to going back. So there’s the answer to what to do there. I would be really happy if one thing that came out of losing our lovely Phil would be that Lucas learns how to process and have a language for his feelings and experiences. Not sure if that’s a bit ambitious for a five-year old but its something I will support him to do as long as it’s helpful and he’s enjoying it. So we will be going back this week again.

It’s nice to talk about Phil. I talk about him a lot with his brother and one of his mates in particular. It helps me so much, but I am guessing it might be my turn to call my counsellor from the Cancer Society soon and check in and start my own processing of what’s happened. As long as I can talk about it, feel it and then go back to living, I am okay. It’s when the whole thing gets ‘stuck in my craw’ that I feel I am in trouble. It’s not happening too much at the moment. Christmas Day was just a sort of heavy cry which came out of the blue and knocked me over for a few minutes. It was lovely to have my sister there to catch me as I caught my breath.

I am looking forward to another special event happening soon with Phil’s family and some of our friends, heading away to the beach for some more downtime. Weather be damned, we’ve still got to get away from it all before the year starts proper.

Thanks for ‘listening’ possums.

Rollercoaster

It’s a bit like that right now. I am on the ride, the trip of losing Phil and being thrown around up and down and round corners I don’t see coming. This weekend for instance, I thought I might actually have trauma induced Aphasia, being such a sensitive person. I had stopped talking much at all when Lucas goes off to Ya-Ya’s. But the poor sufferer of Aphasia has all the thoughts going on in their head, the same intelligence levels as before, they just have not got the ability to communicate what they are thinking. In me, there is no thoughts at all, just a complete blank.

It’s passed for now, and today came the tears. I had to tell Lucas we couldn’t play on the top court after school as I was missing his dad. He understood all too well, and we have come home to watch the iPad and just relax. Have called on mum for reinforcement and she will come and just be with us.

Oh, it might pay to mention I have a fever and am sick. So there is THAT.

I have been keeping my circle of people I am seeing quite small. Its about all I can hack right now. I have a wonderful routine of waking up, bathing Lucas, feeding and off to school. We are enjoying our time together and its really really really calmed down a lot on the home front.

People are wonderfully understanding when I cancel appointments at the last minute, and are happy to come out to the homestead to see us. Fresh Air! (when I can talk)

Dad continues to come for breakfasts and cook us omelettes regularly. Uncle Jonnie comes for tea on Wednesdays. Its all good. I have been spending a bit of time with Phil’s parents which is special and my sister is having us for Christmas Eve, just like when her kids were Lucas’ age. We are both really looking forward to that.

Phil’s image looks down on us from a photo printed out from the funeral. We can both look at it now, and smile mostly. I picked up the laptop today because I was hit over the head with the process of this experience. Something triggers me (say for instance Phil’s ashes coming home) then I got off the wall and can’t stop moving, seeing people and generally acting for a week, then my brain goes quiet, then tears a day or so later. What a bloody palava! Am exhausted. Still smiling. Still happy even for the most part.

I particularly enjoy my friends who make a huge effort to come out on Saturday’s and rouse me to come out of the house (my complete and utter haven) even if just down to the beach or to the local R.S.A for their market day. Its a bit of life that kind of keeps me fresh long after the day has passed.

The bay is awesome. The people are awesome, I particularly love the mum’s out here. A great mix of lovely folks enjoying the community and the cool landscape which is so great for raising kids in. Lukey’s teacher is a standout. She is stunning with the kids and takes them in to the bush, or to Pataka or even over to the beach. Lucas came home so tired last week, he is ready for the holidays now. The holidays are looming and its a mix of relief to have some time off together and a sort of mild terror at SIX WEEKS! lol.

Its a weird lead up to Christmas this year. With very little happening up here Christmassy apart from a Star Wars advent calendar. We are sorted thanks to online shopping for all we need, except food which will take care of itself. I will be told what to bring on the day, and some places we just need to turn up. Christmas is rather a big deal in our family. I think it will be great to just go and get among people this year and watch Lucas relish in all the kids and action. I hope this finds you and yours relaxed, not having too too many parties and disco’s and kindy/school functions to enjoy the time of year.

Come and see us sometime soon.

The Fog is Lifting

Well its been quite a week. As per usual. Lucas and I got a virus, fortunately it was a quick one. It was violent but quick, so that was the better than the alternative. We do not have giardia and it wasn’t food poisoning or glandular fever. Good news.

When the washed out feeling passed, I woke up one day and felt clear headed again. Its been awhile of wandering about losing things, forgetting to fill the car with petrol and all sorts of mistakes happening. So to feel clear headed and like myself is really, really cool. It does come with more painful feelings attached to it, but if that’s the price to pay for a clear head – I’ll take it.

Lucas is settling down, becoming more grounded again and relaxing in to our new family. I never thought about the effects on me and Lucas as they are. I thought life would be the same, minus one. Its not. Its a totally different life we have now, and its taking some adjusting to. We are starting to enjoy the good stuff again, and cry out the feelings of loss, pain and the trauma from the last few hours of Phil’s life. On the whole though we are experiencing happiness more and more often.

I am getting Phil’s ashes back on Monday, which is quite a milestone. He’s finally coming home. I have never known someone close to be cremated so its all a bit odd for me. The plan is to have a plaque at Whenua Tapu, and spread some ashes as well, but we will probably do all that next year when things settle down.We have read a book for kids about what happens to the body, and we are kind of prepped and ready for the experience. But who knows how it will feel or be on the day?

My weekends have been long, as I haven’t been up to too many visitors or outings yet, however I have the most lovely bunch of really loyal, steadfast mates who are making the trip out here often and we hang out and adjust to it all together. I’m so keen to see them by the time they get here.  We often talk about Phil a lot. It helps, although hard, to have a laugh about him and to cherish those fun memories we all have together.

Not too lonely yet to be fair. I am quite busy during the day sorting out the house, organising social workers, counselling sessions, plumbers etc. and attempting to start catching up with people slowly but surely. Lucas has been going to bed quite late as he was really shaken for the most part of the last month. He has really relaxed lately and the laughter and silliness that five year olds are so great for is returning. The reality is I have been knocked off my axis far far more than I could have known would happen so by the time he goes to bed…I just catch up with correspondence and then head to bed myself. I have even lost the desire to watch Shortland Street! Cahloo Cahlay.

I have a lot of messages to respond to and a load of people to reconnect with, but its just baby steps right now. I’ve yet to have that girls night out that I am supposed to do according to the entire world (tee hee) but there is a visit to the City Gallery coming up, and plenty of walks around the bay and shopping trips happening.

I am looking forward to summer, not so much Christmas. Well the morning when we wake up will be fun to see his pressie from Santa, who he emailed his request to this morning and who is busy making it up now. Thank god he’s online this year. Nothing too much to say today, just outlining the process we are going through and how it is affecting us.

Its definitely true that it comes in waves, sometimes days of fun and then boom another wave strikes. I understand the term grief stricken in a new way. It hits me on the back of my knees. They jolt a wee bit and buckle and then the tears come. The fog was a protective mechanism I think. It’ll probably come back too, but its gone for now and I really like that.

 

 

 

 

 

Throw Your Arms Around Me

Hunters and Collectors version:

I tried to get this as one of the songs for our wedding we were planning mid year when it seemed like a really good idea after a hard patch with the diagnosis and Phil’s awful symptoms. To cheer us all up and for the love of it of course.

Nah, Phil hated the song and was not keen on any of my choices (Chris Knox – Not Given Lightly was axed immediately and without hesitation). He suggested some Johnny Cash, from memory. It all got filed under things to do later on ‘when things settle down’.

So this song just came on Radio New Zealand this morning and I had a proper old cry. I am not doing much of that lately, so it was good. Yuck, but good.

Lucas has some sort of quite severe bug. We were at Kenepuru after hours at 7.30am. He’s being tested for a few things tomorrow at the lab and hopefully he will just perk up soon as kids often do. It was an all nighter for me, the washing machine and Lucas going off every hour or so. We moved around all the beds, cleaning up as we left one for another –  and ended up on the couch together.

He is more comfortable now, with some meds to settle it all down, and some electrolytes to perk him up. He’s watching Minions and lying down without moving. Its making it quite easy to get the house back. But he’s happy and smoochy an as its quite a cosy day for it, we are quite content.

Good old Cheryl is coming to cheer us up later, braving the virus (probably what it is). She’ll no doubt put a rocket under us. I also noticed that I told the doctor it was four weeks today since Phil died. So it feels peaceful to be sitting here with a sick child, and a mum on the way just taking it very gently. I have put up the last picture that I have on my phone of Phil. Its from the Mary Potter Hospice when we stayed the night there.

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Coming to

Its a bit like wading through fog for me at the moment. Thank god for friends and family. Yesterday was Skylight Trust counselling day again. We did a lot of work. Dad was with us all morning and day, so he came too. It was great work, but rocked this mum to the core. I have been quite tearful and weepy, and just going with it as best I can from time to time, but yesterday at the session I just had tears pouring down my face. It was pretty intense.

We played ‘The Game’ which Lucas just loved. Connections that came out of the game where “How would you change the world Lucas?”  He whispered in my ear he would make daddy come alive again. Tears. The great thing about it is that Lucas is playing his way through this experience. With the kids next door, with kids from school etc. etc. But this way he gets to express what is happening in a safe, non full on way. Of all the counselling I have done over the years, I wish it was like this. Gentle processing in and out of art, books, games.

I lined up the new Nick Cave offering Skeleton Tree last night, but wussed out and listened to the Boatman’s Call for old times sakes. That was enough. Coerced the cat to come in to bed with me and crashed out. It was lucky I did as Lucas woke soul destroyingly early with a sort of cough/asthma type attack. I got him calmed down with a spacer and just breathing in the end.

I’m having my first official pyjama day today. All day. We have a mattress on the floor in the lounge from the fort action on Wednesday and it’s very cosy. I am sooo tired. I even have frozen meals in case we just completely blob out. Mum is coming this afternoon and if it’s not too rainy we can do some gardening together and just muck about. Its a good place for mucking about here. Onwards we go.

I can’t really write about my feelings yet. More about the process of what’s happening and how we are reacting to it. Whenever I get another card, I weep actually whenever someone is nice to me – I weep. There is much nice time being had with the family though. Lots of low key support and coming to spend time with us. Its a relief and a welcome change in the weather for us two. We are wading through the fog and having some fun along the way as well. Below is the fort day. That was epic. All the blankets in the house, all the pillows in the house and rearrangement of furniture. Good times.

fort

Check-in

stones

 

We are doing alright. A little bruised and finding some things tough. We had a big talk last night and he told me off for not marrying his dad before he died. He wants us to be the Martin family not the Andrews-Martin family.  We have never spoken about our last names or anything before so he’s picking it up from the atmosphere or friends or neighbours and putting together the pieces. He’s a solid romantic at aged 5.

We had gentle tears last night not full on face in the pillow styles. We talked a lot about school and I talked of missing Phil. Lucas wants to go back to the same place in Rotorua and I welled up. It’ll be awesome he said, just me and you in the spa….not daddy telling me to stop making a whirlpool. Sounds quite fun now that I think about it. But at the time it was just raw.

So the intensity of things has slowed down, and this tiredness I kept hearing about is starting to come. I can’t sleep in at the moment as I am going to bed so early, so I am up before Lucas which is alright. Sees me wandering around listening to some odd music Lucas isn’t in to or some little treat like that. Then he’s up and it’s on with the day. He’s a charmer in the morning, quieter and more fluid.

Plenty of good people around us, popping in and coming for coffee’s and understanding when I am flat or sad. Then there is the walks and the good stuff, meeting up outside of here and getting out a little. Not much, but a little. I am going to a meeting tomorrow to discuss some potential work coming up and trying to just generally ‘get on’ as my nana would say. Taking things very easy at this fragile time.

Thanks Phil

In between bouts of grief I get to drive around a beautiful bay with glimpses of the sea, the surf and the surrounding hills. For the first 18 months of Lukey’s life we lived in a flat with no outside area. Well, it did have an outside but it was nearly vertical in its steepness. Lucas was always a really physical kid and we knew that he needed some outdoor places to grow in. I also wanted him to have the connection to the bush and the sea that I got growing up in Eastbourne. Without it I would be a different adult for sure.

Eastbourne was not in the budget unfortunately, nor was Island Bay or the South Coast of Wellington. We got an idea, we had never really been to Titahi Bay, but the price was right. The first year I wondered if I had made a mistake. Although its a small house, there was instantly more spaces available for us to do our own things, and we loved our spot on the hill immediately. However I still didn’t have my drivers license by that stage and could only drive Lukey if Phil was in the car. So I sat up on the hill with a 2 year old going on 5 and felt isolated for ages. People came but I was missing a lot of freedom and connections that I had grown used to.

I got my license about 6 months after we got here and drove straight to the Playcentre and from then on in, I have loved it more and more. The bay that is. The people have been coming to the house, bringing food and hugs and offers to take Lucas for a playdate. Hugs aplenty. Friends are around most corners, not that we have heaps of them out here, but just enough to feel like home.

So I find myself feeling so grateful to Phil for moving away from his beloved fellowship of friends and family in Wellington, and giving it a chance out here. He said to me about six months ago, “If this really is the last year of my life, I am glad we spent it out here looking at the view together baby.” I was so moved by that. He got very expressive about his feelings in the last year and I am so lucky that he did. He said one day with Jonnie and I “We really reaped the rewards for sticking together through our rough year baby.” Again, I was a lucky girl.

Phil left us too soon. But he left us in a house we love- totally full of happy memories, raising Lucas and building a life around our family unit. Both sides of the families visited often. We loved a good BBQ. He picked up all Piggy’s kitty litters until she was old enough to go outside. He did it with a laugh, as I would say “you are just so much better at it than me baby.” It took a long time to get used to be called baby, but when Phil did it I felt about 17 again.

Thank you Phil for the last year. Thank you for making me feel so incredibly loved and cherished. It was the hardest, most gruelling year of my life watching you go, but you made it so pleasant, easy and serene it also became the most real, fulfilling thing I have ever done. You left us in a good place emotionally, spiritually and physically. Rest easy baby.