As the fireworks explode and peoplehug and cheer to welcome the new year; my new year is tinged by sadness. Last year I sacrificed my attendance at Watch night service to spend it with my very ill aging parents. We toasted in the New Year hugged and kissed them so happy they’d made it through another year.
The year brought much laughter but also many tears. In March dad had a minor stroke according to the medics but it was devastating on top of myeloma. I struggled to breathe as I took in that the healthier parent was now struggling to speak, eat and walk. In the ambulance and the long wait in A&E he had to comfort me instead of the other way round. After 6 weeks in hospital they dismissed him with an 18 week waiting list for physio and speech and language.
Unsurprisingly, he did not manage to get this treatment; he deteriorated quickly. He managed to make it to my 50th birthday party – he refused to leave early despite feeling tired. It was his last venture into the outside world. My mum had to press panic button three more times before he was admitted to the hospital. Everyday he was less and less communicative; barely conscious; not eating or drinking.
Every day was filled with anxiety, would the hospital call? Would the carers call? Who would go face mum or dad? It was difficult to call. It turns out it dad. From the cancer diagnosis to death it was exactly a year. The whole family was with him at the end – we prayed; we sang; we reminisced and he slipped away quietly and peacefully.
Mum seemed to handle his death with strength and resilience. She helped us plan the funeral right down to the coffin, his burial outfit, the songs and the tributes. I could only admire her courage, her husband of 54 years died in September ; it looked like she would be able to carry on. I was wrong. She said she missed him I thought I understood how much but the truth was she didn’t want to – she couldn’t live without him.
The 5 years of living with PSP took its toll on her fragile body. At the beginning of November she was admitted to hospital with a chest infection and by the end of the week we were told there was no hope.
I have no words to explain the devastation on the family. The matriarch who brought the family through all the highs and lows in our life would no longer be around. We didn’t want to let her go. Not now! So soon after dad it didn’t seem possible.
During the two weeks she was in hospital we spent time as a family and we could remember the hilarious stories from our childhood. Losing both parents in such a short space of time has left a gaping hole in my life, but occasionally I manage to fill that hole with the many beautiful memories they have given us. As the year comes to a close with fireworks and hugs there are two empty chairs in the living room and an occupied mansion in heaven. RIP Isaiah and Eulalee Jackson.
As we celebrate International Women’s day this week, I can’t stop thinking about how much this young girl had to endure just to get an education. Ruby Bridges was one of four girls who passed an exam which entitled them to enter an all white school.
The images of her tiny frame tackling the huge steps of an institution that had denied her community access through the law for generations. Escorted by U.S Marshals she walked silently through the jeering, hostile, hate filled crowd. The dignity and poise of that young child is a message to us all.
When asked years later if she hated the crowd she responded: ‘I wasn’t taught to hate.’ I can only marvel at the parents of this remarkable child who changed history. She gave the credit to her parents for giving her the courage to stand strong.
As if making her way through the banners, the name calling and the intimidation wasn’t bad enough many parents took their children out of the school or refused to allow their children to sit in the same class as her. She had lessons alone; lunch alone and playtime alone. Her teacher remarked she never complained or fell into despair she arrived every morning with a smile on her face and readiness to learn. She seemed to know that the stand she was making was not only for herself and her family but for anyone denied an education because of the colour of their skin.
When I was about 15 I remember saying to my mum ‘I feel depressed’. She replied: ‘what do you have to be depressed about? You have bills to pay? kids to feed? Mortgage for the roof over your head?’ Of course my answer was no to all three questions but it shut down any discussion of my mental health. Somehow I managed to muddle through my teens with no help from mum. It’s only now I’ve realised she was suffering herself with the financial burden of bringing up six children in the eighties with rising interest rates.
Anyway back to my teenage depression – how did I handle it? I was into sport especially hockey, I went to practice after school and I played matches after school and on a Saturday. I went to church on a Sunday and I took an active part in Youth events. I loved reading and after finding Jane Eyre on a friend’s bookshelf my life was transformed. Even though our house was overcrowded when we were growing up we always found ways of entertaining ourselves on very little money.
Recently, I noticed a student in my class seemed to be going through that teen depression I felt at 15 but hers was also very different. There was no joy in her life, no amount of jokes shared in class could raise a smile. I asked her ‘are you ready to talk about what’s going on?’ She looked surprised and for the first time she made eye contact. ‘No’, she replied in a I wish I could style. ‘Is it family? She shook her head. ‘You?’ She nodded. ‘Is it every day? For how long? ‘Since year 8.’
Too long without help. She left the lesson with the decision to seek help. Our country is in the middle of a mental health crisis. I’m hearing stories of children in Year 3 and Year 4 self-harming, experimenting? Messing about? Only link social media! After weeks of media coverage on shocking images of self harming on Instagram, has it led children to seek out these images who otherwise would not have considered it?
With so much coverage on the feelings of hate; I think it’s time to pour in some love. Whether it’s the divisiveness of Brexit; or building walls instead of bridges; rise of the far right. Let’s promote some of the lovely things people do for each other in this country and around the world.
When everything is going right in your life you rarely look for the good in people but recently after bereavement in my family I could see there is a lot of love out there. I have had deep conversations about the feelings of grief, of love and despair.
I remember the outpouring of grief for my mum and dad as a result of the love and generosity they showed to family and strangers. It’s better to be remembered for your kind words and encouragement rather than bitterness and animosity.
Having a disabled sister gave me the desire to use my sewing skills to make life more comfortable for her. She suffers from dyspragia. The bibs I see in the shops are either plastic, plain and huge or small and childish. My sister is 53 years old she needed something much more grown up, so I experimented with a range of fabrics, until I found the perfect match.
The final product looks like a scarf; it is reversible and it is colourful. My favourite one is the camouflage fabric because it works for all age groups.
To make the best Christmas decorations you need to select the right fabrics. I managed to find these in Hobby craft in a fat quarter. The print appeals to those Christmas like me and those who love dogs.
Red felt is really attractive with the red polka dot ribbon.
The grey and white woollen hearts were upcycled from a French Connection jumper (which my daughter said it looked like I was wearing a blanket).
Christmas trees are effective in their simplicity. The red ric rac ribbon looks like tinsel on the green felt. It was tricky to sew but fabulous result.
I started making fabric hearts about 10 years ago for my first Craft Fayre. From the very beginning I added buttons and coloured ribbon because they helped the product to look finished. Experimenting with I with different fabrics and sizes meant they could have a variety of purposes, such as pin cushions, tree decorations and cushions.