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  • Writer's pictureelmarfleet

June: As

Updated: Jun 12, 2022

"As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving

And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May

Just as hate knows love's the cure

You can rest your mind assure

That I'll be loving you always..."


Every grieving family has their toughest month, and June is ours. I stumble from one anniversary to another with Daniel's birthday as the relief amongst the painful thorns felt passing through these dates. And even that feels harder now too, to celebrate our son without Tom.


I have chosen Tom and my favourite Stevie Wonder song for this month, As. Tom had always loved Stevie Wonder; his songs were good for dancing to, for having on in the background on a busy weekend day and for listening to in the car. We often 'discussed' who produced the song better - George Michael and Mary J Blige together, or Stevie Wonder. I admit now that however much I like George Michael (my childhood idol), Tom was right, it was Stevie Wonder. Just listen and you hear how he means every single word and every single picture he creates with them. It's a truly beautiful song, and perhaps so meaningful for me now because Tom wrote out all the lyrics in the last Valentine's Day card he could give me. He wrote: "This is obviously the Stevie Wonder version and not the sub-standard George Michael one! I'll be loving you always."


It reminds me of how we both felt about each other and that reassures and calms me. Neither of us wanted what happened to us and I cannot change it, in Tom's words, "It is what it is". But with my strength, I can choose how I feel and how I react. Charlie Mackesy's brilliant book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse says: "One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things." It's a book everyone should have on their bookshelf, whatever their age. Mackesy's illustrations are as simple and as beautiful as his carefully chosen characters and words making this book the whole package. It's a book to just hold, to read from beginning to end with a coffee in a quiet moment, and a book to open randomly for a thought to guide you through the day. I find it fascinating when discussing it with friends (it's the only book I think I've ever discussed with friends!), that people pull out different pages and quotes as their most meaningful. Our lives' experiences revealing themselves. I keep my favourite quotes as photos on my phone and look at them when I need that gentle reminder; they feel like reassurance and a gentle hug. "Tears fall for a reason and they are your strength not your weakness" is the one I look at the most.


"...Did you know that true love asks for nothing?

No, her acceptance is the way we pay

Did you know that life has given love a guarantee

To last through forever and another day?..."


Words of a song sitting alongside words in a book when Mackesy's Horse tells the Boy, "Life is difficult, but you are loved." So on the second anniversary of Tom's passing we did what we did on the first; we lit sparklers. Tom didn't simply light up our world, he made it sparkle. We lit up the dark sky with his name, hearts and stars alongside sending him our love, warmth and memories. June's lockdown of 2020 gave us space and time unlike any other year. In 2020 I was present and active in my thoughts and preparation for all the anniversaries I faced, but without lockdowns everyday life has become so busy that I miss my time and space to stop and be with my thoughts of Tom. He is always in my mind but to actively spend time thinking about him and connecting to his memory, is different. I need to feel these emotions as they yo-yo from acceptance ("It is what it is") to being completely and utterly overwhelmed by living life without him by my side. It's my new way of being and only by taking one small step at a time will I learn to cope.


2022 brings a third time to do all this again. Three years. It feels both a long time and as if no time has passed at all. The only difference I can find is that I have two other years to look back on. Two years of learning what's difficult and two years of learning what works well for my boys and me. I still don't have the answers though, in reality I'll always be learning how to cope with living without Tom and it will never be easy. This year I have been lucky enough to go away and it has been good, really good. We had the sun, we had the sea and we had each other. I had space and I had time to reflect and rest and cry. Mackesy's Mole says he has learned "how to be in the present". He finds a quiet spot, shuts his eyes and breathes. I follow his advice. But I'm exhausted. Grief is exhausting. Caring for someone you love as they live with and then die from cancer is exhausting. I realise that I've been in a state of exhaustion now for a very long time. I breathe in the present, but like Mackesy's Boy, I am overwhelmed by having "such a long way to go" so I try to follow the words of the Horse and look at how far I've come.


The painful truth in asking myself to look at how far I've come, is that I would give it all up in a heartbeat if I could have Tom back. It's not a path I wanted to walk and my so called achievements wither away into insignificance by comparison to what I would choose. My feet move forward but my heart still looks back. There is so much I have learnt in the last three years, and so much I am proud of, but it doesn't compare to how much I want Tom back. Mackesy's Fox is a character of little words in his book, but his answer to the Horse's question, "We all need a reason to keep going, what's yours?" is the same as mine. "You three," he says. My three. They are the reason I keep going. And here I am reminded of the most meaningful and also the hardest verse of Stevie's song, As, to listen to:


"...As today I know I'm living

But tomorrow could make me the past

But that I mustn't fear

For I'll know deep in my mind

The love of me I've left behind

'Cause I'll be loving you always..."


I have it written in Tom's handwriting saved again on my phone for whenever I need it. It would have taken such strength for him to write those words when he did, even if they're borrowed from another. But now they give me so much peace and reassurance, and they give me direction for which I am thankful for. The boys and I are the love he "left behind" and that love is my strength, my guide and my responsibility. It gives me energy to keep living the best life I can for the both of us. Those three boys are too important and I have to get this as right as I can for the young souls they are now and for the young adults and men whom they will one day become. I need to give them their inner armour and resilience to cope with all they will experience in this world. For me, the answer is simple - love them, listen to them, show them how to cope with these big feelings, and value kindness above all. Everything comes from kindness - my words. "Kindness... sits quietly beyond all things" - Mackesy's words. I don't think we can get through life without kindness... and hope. The well-known Ancient Greek story of Pandora reminds us of the importance of Hope and anyone who has loved someone who is dying will know that hope is often what keeps you going. Tom's life story reminds me of the importance of Kindness and Love. He taught the boys to be kind to everyone by his example and I loved him so much for it. Mackesy's Mole asks the Boy what he wants to be when he grows up. "Kind" is the Boy's simple reply. Achievements don't get better than that. It was our early grief family motto: Be Brave, Be Kind.


"...Always

(Until the day that is the day that are no more)

Did you know you're loved by somebody?

(Until the day the earth starts turnin' right to left)

Always

(Until the earth just for the sun denies itself)

I'll be lovin' you forever

(Until dear Mother Nature says her work is through)

Always..."


This month I am reading The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne to Daniel and Matthew. It feels right to mark June with this book as Tom loved A.A. Milne from his own childhood, and was reading it to all three boys before he passed away. He tried to finish reading it to them when he was at the hospice but it was hard for him to concentrate and I took over, reading it to them all. A.A. Milne's sentence structures are not easy to read aloud! Modern authors consider how words sound and how they feel for the reader to get their mouths and tongues around. And of course, our language patterns have changed over very nearly 100 years since this book was first written. No wonder it was tiring for you, Tom. We love the characters - cautious Piglet, bouncing Tigger, melancholic Eeyore and good-natured and loyal Winnie the Pooh. We love the ideas the characters have of things to do when there isn't much else going on. We especially like Poohsticks and it reminds us of playing it with Tom when the boys were younger. I make a note to play Poohsticks with the boys on Father's Day this year (another difficult date June kindly offers us). But it gets increasingly harder for me to read aloud as I approach its final chapter. You left us Tom, with only two pages to go. Two pages left from the final chapter, titled: In Which Christopher Robin and Pooh Come to an Enchanted Place, and We Leave Them There. Three years ago I read those two pages to the boys alone on the day after Tom left us. It felt right to finish the story then, but it was hard. And it's still hard. "Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh's. "Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I - if I'm not quite -" he stopped and tried again - "Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?" Winne-the-Pooh doesn't understand, and as I read it aloud I know that I don't really understand it either. That someone who was once everything in my world, can then be nothing. In a split second. Gone. The someone to do Milne's 'nothing' with has gone. Like Christopher Robin's toys and Strickney's water nymphs of Waterbugs and Dragonflies (written about in May), we are left behind not really understanding what has happened to our loved one.


All I truly know is that I'll be loving you, Tom.

Always. XXX


"...(Until the day that you are me and I am you)

Always

(Until the rainbow burns the stars out of the sky

Until the ocean severs every mountain high)

Always."

Stevie Wonder



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