It’s the first time in my life that I will not be able to wish him a happy birthday. It’s the first time in many years that I will not hug him, kiss his cheek, and provide the cake, complete with candles for him to blow out while we sing that silly song.
I miss him so much. I miss his big laugh, his cheeky grin, our talks when I got home from work, our hugs, our days out together, shared dinners and coffees, cheeky afternoon teas at the bakery, and holding his hand just because I could. He was part of every day, whatever else I might have been doing.
The “firsts” are pretty awful, to be honest. The absence of someone you love on a day which you have always celebrated with them is jarring. It feels as though the world has tilted again, and everything is just a little more out of kilter. It feels… wrong.
My siblings have all experienced their first birthday without him since he passed away in June: two in September, and one just last week. I called and wished each of them happy birthday, but I also wept for them because I knew what they were thinking and feeling, even if they didn’t admit it. Some things don’t need to be put into words.
And yet, for children to bury and grieve for a parent whom they loved dearly, and who has lived a long, happy and faithful life is also so …right.
Therein lies the awkwardness of it all. We are all glad he is no longer suffering, and we would not have wanted him to linger in a realm of pain or disease or anguish but, at the same time, I miss him so very much. The emotions are so powerful that they threaten to overwhelm, but not one of us would bring him back to go through it all again. That would be cruel and selfish.
On the first Father’s Day since his death, I chose to do positive things in his memory. Now, on the first birthday, I find myself trying to achieve that again. There is still pain and grief, though. regardless of how I try to window-dress the day, and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and not suppress or deny them. The healthier choice is to experience them and work through them in appropriate ways.
So, a visit to my parents’ grave with flowers was my first priority for the day. I made a video message for my siblings and their families, all of whom are long-distance from me, from the final resting place of our parents. At least that way, they could share in the visit too. I chose yellow roses, because Dad loved his roses. Yellow roses are symbolic of friendship, but also of remembrance and new beginnings or rejuvenation of spirit, so they are perfect for Dad’s first birthday in heaven.
My best friend and I visited one of Dad’s favourite bakeries — the same one where I took the picture of him enjoying his coffee — and drank coffee and ate sweet things in his honour.
Later on, we will be having Dad’s favourite thing for dinner — pizza — followed by birthday cake, because there has been one on every other November 17th that I have known.
I have also spent some time in quiet contemplation and giving thanks for my Dad. I know I am incredibly blessed to have had such a loving and supportive father with whom I got along so well, when so many people don’t ever get to know what that’s like. I am thankful for my family, for my husband, and for my best friends, whose support helps make days like today a tiny bit easier. Again, so many people don’t have that, and I know I am incredibly privileged to have those people in my life.
I have thought, too, about what comes next. Soon there will be the first Christmas. The first New Year’s Eve, and the first calendar year that hasn’t had Dad in it. And 360 days after his graduation to heaven, I will have my first birthday without him. And then, soon after, the first anniversary of his death, and then of Helen’s.
These anniversaries and the emotions that go with them may be painful, but they are poignant reminders of deep love and the profound blessings of knowing and sharing life with such amazing people.
On such occasions, there should at least be cake. Dad would have insisted on it.
They are beautifully made and delightful to hold, and their faces are so expressive!
Some of my bears mark special occasions. Others are rescues, having been adopted from other people who no longer want them. As I keep telling my husband, our home provides an important service as a refuge for orphaned bears. And others, I have bought because I just fell in love with them when I saw them.
If you’re interested in seeing my bear collection, there are photos of them all on my Pinterest board titled ‘Bear Collection’. There are some that are not Charlie Bears, because I already had a small collection of other bears before I discovered Benson, my first Charlie Bear, in a shop and was forced – forced, I tell you! – to bring him home with me and love him forever.
In additional acts of service to teddy bears, I’ve inspired my cousin and my sister to start collecting Charlie Bears. Between us, we’re saving the world, one bear at a time.
And in case you were wondering, the collective noun for teddy bears is a hug.
Celebrating Mary Shelley’s Birth Date, August 30, 1797
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos …” Mary Shelley
Every year, the most ardent Mary Shelley fans remember this author on August 30. Frankenstein is still one of the most popular and enduring novels since its publication in 1818. We spend time reading her short stories and browsing her biographies, maybe discovering a new fact about her life and writing.
Did you know Frankenstein was inspired by a nightmare? In the preface of the third edition of the novel, Mary says that Frankenstein came to her in a dream. During a sleepless night in her dark room, behind closed shutters “with the moonlight struggling to get through … I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts…
Today’s important task was to finalise the wording for the plaque on Dad’s half of the headstone he shares with Mum, so that we could order it and have it done.
Most of the inscription was easy enough – name, dates of birth and death, and “loving husband of Anne”.
The challenge for my brother, sisters and myself was which bible verse to include. We knew Dad’s favourite passage was Romans 8, but that was way too long, and far too complex, to include or even simplify. We’re limited to 10-12 words, so it needed to be short but still meaningful, and reflect Dad’s faith as his final message.
There were some really good suggestions made.
This morning I texted my siblings a list of the “top eight” for their consideration and vote.
As it turned out, the decision almost made itself when my sister asked, “Why don’t we just continue the verse that’s on Mum’s?”
The simplicity and beauty of that idea took my breath. Mum’s side of the plaque has the first line of Isaiah 40:31 “They that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength”.
It was the verse that Dad chose for Mum’s inscription, so we knew Dad would have approved. It was a way of embracing their unity, too. They shared 58 years of marriage, they shared five different homes in that time, and they shared four amazing and super-talented children. Now, their earthly remains share a final resting place while their souls share eternity in heaven. Sharing such a beautiful Scripture on their headstone seemed to be a lovely reflection of their shared faith.
Still, it was another reminder that Dad is gone, another challenge to meet head on, and another emotional hurdle to overleap.
Feeling the weight of the moment, I went for a drive to one of my favourite thinking places: on top of Mt Leura, overlooking Camperdown and the volcanic plains and lakes of the area, where I have sat and thought, or taken photos, or walked, or written, or listened, or prayed, or rested, or had dinner before a theatre company rehearsal, at least a hundred times.
I typed up the text of the inscription for Dad’s plaque, ready for ordering. I knew the words, and I am pro at typing, but still, that was hard.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be on my own right now,” I whispered to nobody but me.
I got out of the car, and walked the short distance up to the top of the lookout.
And then, for the first time ever in all the times I have been there, a wedge-tailed eagle flew overhead, soaring in the sky above me.
It was there, and then it was gone. I was so caught up in the moment that I didn’t even manage to get my phone out of my pocket in time. I so wish I had, though.
I’m not the biggest believer in coincidences. In that moment, I accepted it as a sign: a reminder that although I was by myself, I wasn’t actually alone at that point in time.
Hm. I think there’s a poem in that.
On Eagle’s Wings. #TrueStory #MyLife #grief #coincidence #eagle #personal #blogpost
During the recent weeks of spending a lot more time at home, I’ve discovered a couple more that are interesting and enjoyable.
‘That Was Genius’
Each week, Sam and Tom share an interesting story from history that fits into a chosen theme for the week. Not safe for listening at work or in the presence of children, it’s irreverent, sweary, and hilariously funny, I started at the introductory episode and subscribed before I got to the end of the second one. It has proven to be brilliant entertainment during the coronavirus lockdown. Having already listened to 37 episodes in the past two weeks, it’s fair to say I’m a fan.
‘Cool Canadian History’.
I love history, and I love Canada. This podcast is the perfect opportunity for me to pursue both at the same time. The topics are varied and always interesting, and the host David Morris is enjoyable to listen to.
This is a British podcast which focuses on the macabre, spooky, and eerie events of history. The first episode is on Jack The Ripper, but the topics that follow are quite varied and are not limited to people or events of the UK. The material is well written and the podcast is easy to listen to.
‘Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities’
Another podcast, this one American in origin, that explores the inexplicable, the unsettling and the curious stories of history. Aaron Mahnke delivers two shows a week, exploring the history of people, events and objects with unusual and sometimes bizarre stories to tell. Some of the tales are coincidental, while others are more sinister.
‘You’re Dead To Me’
Hosted by Greg Jenner of Horrible Histories fame, this podcast offers a weekly discussion on a topic of history with the aim to make it interesting and relevant to the everyday person, including those who haven’t taken much of an interest before. The guests are interesting, drawn from all walks of life, and deliberately not all academics. I started at the introductory episode and have listened to half a dozen or so now. The topics have been varied and the quality has been consistently. ‘You’re Dead To Me’ looks like a keeper.
Five More Great #History #Podcast #Recommendations #historical #ListenTo
My family are definitely looking out for me while we’re all staying home. Just this week, two of my nieces sent me messages about opportunities for free entertainment while we’re all staying home and staying safe. I’m super grateful to them both for thinking of me and passing on the details of things they knew I would love.
In factt, those opportunities are so good, they deserve sharing with you, too.
The Globe Theatre is streaming a free Shakespeare play each fortnight, starting with Hamlet on April 6th. What a fabulous opportunity to watch great productions by some of the best in the world! And for any Shakespeare lovers who, like me, live somewhere that means they’ll never get to see as many of the plays as they wish to in live theatre, this is a fabulous chance to see more of the canon in near-to-live performance.
The Shows Must Go On! features productions of various Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, free of charge, on YouTube. The first show available is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor TM Dreamcoat. Given that I directed that show last year, anyone who knows me will tell you there is absolutely zero chance of me not singing along with every word.
(Edit: already watching… already singing. Strange as it seems… )
I know it’s not the same as actually going to the theatre, but such fabulous, free entertainment is most welcome, especially while we’re all maintaining social isolation and trying to maintain our wellbeing.
Fabulous, free entertainment opportunities for #StayingHome #StayHome #entertainment #WhatToDoDuringQuarantine #WhatToWatch
This week, February 7, is the birth date of Charles Dickens. How many of us have read his ghostly inspired The Trial for Murder? Let’s focus on Dickens today to remember this timeless author and his life.
A quick 30-minute read, this story is a dive into 19th century England, murder, a trial, and a ghost. Because Dickens was a court reporter during Victorian times, we can appreciate the accuracy and characterization of this murder trial.
During the 1830s, Dickens covered Parliament and British elections for the Morning Chronicle. Many of his fans know that Dickens owned a beloved raven “Grip.” Dickens believed that his pet raven was immeasurably more knowing and “could make a very queer character of him.”
He was a member of the Ghost Club along with Arthur Conan…
One of my Christmas traditions is watching my go-to Christmas movie: ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’.
It combines the genius of Charles Dickens with the genius of Jim Henson’s Muppets, featuring Gonzo as Charles Dickens, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. It retains key dialogue from the book and adds some delightful character development and interactions, and complements both with an original soundtrack that includes some delightful Christmas songs.
As far as movie adaptations go, this is one that stays faithful to both the storyline and the spirit of Dickens’ classic novella.
It’s charming in the right places, and Victorian and Gothic enough to be spooky when it needs to be. It still delivers the crucial message of Dickens’ attacks on Utilitarian thinking and selfishness, encouraging the audience to focus on the value of people and family rather than on making money and treating others as though they are worthless unless they can work.
It’s great entertainment for the whole family, and even when Scrooge is awful, the Muppet cast is entirely adorable.