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  • Writer's pictureelmarfleet

March: Sword From The Stone

Updated: Jun 21, 2021


"...How you feeling, sweetheart?

Are you moving on?

Are you sleeping okay?

Or do the nights go on and on?

I hope you're eating well.

I hope you're staying strong..."


I imagine Tom asking me all the questions Passenger's song starts with: "How are you doing, darling? How you getting on? ... How's the weather down there? I hope you're keeping warm." I want to feel that he already knows the answers and that he hasn't really left me and our world. I know that I'd ask him the same questions if it was the other way around and cancer had taken me and not him. I'd want him to be ok. I'd want him to be staying strong. He always worried about my eating when he was having one of his really unwell episodes. He told me to eat to keep my strength up. Looking after our three little boys, that's my job and I need to be strong enough to do that well. It's the reason that I get up every day.


So how do I support Sam's grief and keep his memories of his Daddy alive? How do I help him feel the gift that Tom gave me, that I am enough the way I am and that I was truly loved for who I am? Luckily, he seems to be an innately happy little boy. I tell him that he's my joy and I mean it sincerely. I have cuddled him through all the pain that has been thrown at our lives over the last 5 years. I cuddled my baby bump at Tom's advanced cancer diagnosis, I cuddled my new-born when Tom was initially given too much chemotherapy for his body to cope with, and he has been to oncology appointments, on ICU, HDU and various hospital wards. He has visited his Daddy in a hospice and I have cuddled him after telling him that we won't be able to see his Daddy ever again because he has died. Sam was 3 years and 4 months old when he said goodbye to his Daddy forever.


This month I've been reading Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr to Sam. The older boys creep into his room to listen to the story too. We like the beginning: "Mog was tired. She was dead tired. Her head was dead tired. Her paws were dead tired. Even her tail was dead tired. Mog thought, "I want to sleep forever." And so she did." We remember how tired Tom was at the end and I know that he could not have given any more to this world. He'd had enough of all that cancer had thrown at him. But we'd not had enough of him and that's what really hurts. Cancer was supposed to be a just a chapter in the story of our lives and not its ending. I hope that like Mog, a little bit of him, "stayed awake to see what would happen next" and this is what Tom would see:


"...Cause I'm fine, then I'm not

I'm spinning round and I can't stop..."


The book has Mog coming to terms with her new state too and I imagine what it might be like for Tom if there is any kind of spirit state we become after we pass away from our physical bodies. Mog becomes a spirit guide for a new kitten and I love this idea. It brings us comfort to think that he's not absolutely left us. At the end of the book, Debbie says, "But I'll always remember Mog." I love Mog's reply: "So I should hope," and that makes me smile. Our memories keep us company, they are always there and they help us through each and every day.


"...For time flies and it's so slow

I'm up and down like a yo-yo..."


My memories settle me until the next unexpected moment when grief kicks out and brings me to my knees. It is what it is and I'm getting there even though I don't know where 'there' is yet. March 23rd in the first National Day of Reflection spearheaded by Marie Curie. They encourage us to ‘reflect, connect and support‘. The last year has been tough for so many people and I like the image that even though we're all in the same storm, we're in very different boats. My boat is grief. Not caused by the pandemic but experienced throughout it. Tom knew nothing of Covid-19 and how it has affected the world, and my mind goes to many different places imagining not only how difficult and impossibly challenging it would have been to cope with his illness during this time, but also how wonderful it would have been to have him work from home for a whole year if he was healthy. For us, it wasn't meant to be.


One of my favourite books to read with my boys is Krindlekrax by Philip Ridley. The brilliant characters and writing of this book urge you to read on through 67 short chapters, just one more... one more... The mystery and excitement build and you will Ruskin, the main character, to keep going in his investigations to solve the mystery of what or whom has been threatening Lizard Street where he lives. And then in chapter 36, Ruskin's best friend and school caretaker Corky dies. Oh boy, do I relate to this chapter. Amid all the fantasy of a made-up story is true human emotion and the devastation of loss. Ruskin screams at everyone and blames them for the events which unravel and ultimately lead to Corky's death. "I HATE YOU LIZARD STREET!" he screamed, his voice louder than anyone had ever heard it before. "I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU!" My grief makes me feel too tired to shout like this but I'm screaming and screaming inside at cancer, at others, at the world... I love it that Ruskin finds his voice for this moment. Chapter 37 is just as brilliant. Ruskin has withdrawn into himself, like Frances imagines Harry doing in Allan Ahlberg's My Brother's Ghost: his life "at that time had just curled up into a ball. He was somewhere inside, sitting it out." Ruskin's parents offer him comfort with words and offers of treats but they're not what Ruskin wants. "Then what do you want?" his mother asks. "I want Corky back," Ruskin replies, all his energy now spent. It really is as simple as that. We just want him back.


So, we as a family 'reflect, connect and support' on 23rd March. We light tealights to put into the jam jars decorated for Tom by the boys, and we talk about what this year has been like for us and for others around the world. For the people we know, the people whose stories we have heard about and the people whose stories we don't know but who, like us, have experienced loss and grief. Connecting with others helps too. Our support network is like a jigsaw and I am grateful for every piece. I write a letter to myself to open on 23rd March 2022. I wonder what I will have done and what the world will be like, and I hope that my support network is as strong then as it is now. How am I doing? How am I getting on? How am I feeling? Am I sleeping ok or do the nights still go on and on? I hope that I will be eating well and most of all I hope that I'm staying strong.


"...I can't do it on my own

And I've tried and I can't pull the sword from the stone."

Passenger




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