51) Miracles do Happen!

My twin sister, Tina 2012

My twin sister, Tina 2012

Thursday April 23rd 2009 is a date I will never forget.  On the Wednesday evening Simon and I were supposed to be going away to Dorset  for a mini-break, but as Simon had a headache we decided to go down on Thursday morning instead.

We were up bright and early, just putting the last bits and pieces in the car when the phone rang.  It was my daughter Kristie, who lived with my twin sister Tina and her husband, Woody, and their family.  She told me that Tina was in hospital about to have an emergency operation.  She had suffered a brain haemorrhage late on Wednesday night and was due in theatre any minute to have life saving brain surgery.  I felt my legs go to jelly and I could hardly speak.  I had been speaking to Tina only the evening before and she had been totally fine.

I went straight to Tina’s house as her children all needed to be cared for and I wanted to be with Kristie too.  Tina and Woody had been unable to have children and had adopted seven learning disabled children over the course of several years.  They ranged in age from three to seventeen at the time.  It was an unreal morning, trying to hold myself together for the sake of the children, but desperately waiting for the phone call from Woody, who was at the hospital, to find if she had made it through the surgery.  Finally just after lunch Woody rang to say she was in intensive care but that the surgery had been successful.  I was over the moon.  I had been praying so hard and felt that my prayers had been answered.

Within a couple of days Tina was moved to the High Dependency Unit and was doing well.  She complained of the most dreadful headache but the staff told us that was quite normal due to her brain surgery.  After just a few more days Tina was moved to a general neurological ward and appeared to be making excellent progress.  She was able to walk and talk quite normally and  have a shower and walk around the ward. The expectation was that she would be home within the week!

Kristie and I were visiting her daily and on the Thursday, just a week after her operation,  we had all been sitting chatting about the programmes she would be watching that evening when the nurse brought her tea, which included a small bowl of ice cream.  Within minutes Tina’s speech was becoming confused and then I noticed that she was having problems eating her ice cream.  Her hand was making odd movements and she was unable to hold the spoon.  I alerted the staff on the ward and they explained that she might have some fluid on the brain and would carry out a lumbar puncture to release any fluid.  When I left the hospital that evening I was obviously concerned, but the staff had been very reassuring and it seemed that this was quite normal and that the lumbar puncture was routine.

The following morning I rang the hospital and they asked me to visit urgently.  They explained that Tina was once again in intensive care.  I was not at all prepared for what faced me that day.  The consultant explained that Tina had suffered a massive stroke due to having a vasospasm, a rare side effect of the brain surgery.  In layman’s terms, the blood vessels within her brain had gone into spasm and no blood had been able to reach the frontal lobes.  I was warned that they fully expected her to die.  I don’t know how I managed to physically stand by her bed, I was shaking and crying so much.  She was lying there covered with wires and tubes, buzzers kept going off and she was fitting, which was terrifying to watch.  The machines that were keeping her alive required almost constant attention by the special nurses who were with her.  I couldn’t believe that she had been doing so well and now they really thought she would die.  I prayed so much that day, I asked God why this happened and kept telling Tina over and over again how much I loved her and that she would come through this ok.   When I eventually left the hospital that evening I emailed every healer I could find on the internet asking if they could please send Tina healing.

I really didn’t think I’d be able to sleep that night, but nervous exhaustion thankfully sent me straight to sleep. I awoke in the morning dreading the news from the hospital.  I phoned and they said she was ‘stable’, but added that there had been no improvement.  I went to the hospital as soon as I could and was met by the ward sister who told me to expect the worse.  She explained that only the machines were keeping her alive, and even if she did survive the prognosis was that she would be severely disabled and unable to enjoy any quality of life as her brain was so badly damaged.  Yet again I sat with her, talking to her, stroking her hand gently.  I prayed that she would not leave me.  I had lost my Mum, my Dad and my brother all within the space of three and half months just a few years before, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of losing my twin sister too. I talked to her about our childhood, about the fun we used to have, about family memories, even about the battles we’d had.  I just felt that I could not give up.

I was sure one day that she had lightly squeezed my hand as I was about to leave, but the nurses assured me that she wouldn’t be able to do that.  They said that her brain was unable to distinguish my voice and that she most probably did not have the ability to understand anything I said to her.  I ignored their advise and just carried on chatting to her right up until the moment I had to leave in the evenings.  Days went by and there was no progress and it became more and more likely that she would just fade away.  I was totally heartbroken.  I had never lived through such a time.  Being an identical twin is impossible to really understand unless you are a twin yourself.  We had been together since before we were born.  We had shared virtually every part of our lives, most of our childhood and teenage experiences, and even though we had fought dreadfully at times, we were always there for each other and loved one another more than can be explained.  Now, days in to her stroke, I was trying to come to terms with the real possibility that this was the end.  That I would not have my twin sister anymore.

They decided to carry out a further operation to install a shunt, a drain in her brain, which would release the fluid from her brain into her stomach.  The operation was in itself risky, but without it she didn’t stand a chance, the fluid in her brain was building all the time.  Again there was the dreadful time of waiting to see if she had pulled through and thankfully she did.  We waited for a couple more days to see if there was any improvement, but still Tina just lay there motionless, on full life support, with every vein in her body seemingly linked to some needle to give her life saving fluids and drugs.  They even had to start using the veins in her feet as they were running out of veins in her arms, her hands and her shoulders.

I continually asked God why this was happening and what more could I do to help her and her family through this, but I was too upset to hear any answers.  Finally, in desperation, I called a medium that I found on the internet. I didn’t want to phone anyone who knew me, I really wanted someone who had no previous knowledge of who I was.   Immediately she began speaking to me, she described our Dad in the most wonderful detail,  and told me that he was talking about someone very close to me who had suffered a bleed on the brain.  She said this person was in a critical condition and was literally between worlds.  She then went on to describe our Mum, both  physically and her character, and said that she was with both of us.   Amazingly she also described our brother and said that he was looking over us and that he was giving me the strength to cope with it all.  She told me that Tina was aware of them with her.  I asked her why this was happening and she said that Tina had chosen to go through this before she was born.  She explained that it was an experience Tina’s soul had wanted and importantly it would show who would support her and who wouldn’t, who would be able to understand, and who would turn away due to the severity of the situation.  I did ask if Tina would survive and the medium told me that she couldn’t answer that, but said that Tina had a very strong spirit and that whatever happened was supposed to happen. I was stunned by such an accurate reading, but still had wished that I could have been told what would be the outcome.

The next day I went into the hospital again and as I walked in I said my usual ‘Hi Sis’ and took her hand.  I was sure her eyelids moved and then thought I felt her gently squeeze my hand again.  I didn’t mention it to the nurses, who I felt sure thought I was imagining it, but inside I felt a warm glow and a real sense of joy.  Something in me realised that she had turned the corner, that she would be ok.

For the first time in weeks I felt an inner calm, an inner strength,  I knew I could cope, as if I had been shown there was light at the end of the tunnel. I was full of optimism for her future.  Tina’s small movements became  almost like a secret code between her and I.  Many times that day her eyelids moved as I said something funny and her fingers softly brushed mine.  I gave her a kiss goodbye before I left and said I’d see her the next day.

The following day I was over the moon to see that Tina had her tracheostomy tube removed.  She could breathe on her own!  That was a  huge hurdle.  As usual I said ‘Hi Sis’ when I arrived and I  almost fell over when a few moments later she uttered, in a very hoarse voice,’ Hi’ – she was back!!! The nurses were laughing and clapping and the whole atmosphere in the unit was lifted.  She didn’t say anything again for a few days, but she still kept moving her eyelids and through her squeezing my hand I could feel her strength grow day by day.

After several more weeks Tina slowly made progress to the point where she was transferred to a neurological rehabilitation unit within the hospital.  She was paralysed on her right side, still doubly incontinent, unable to even turn herself, unable to swallow food, and only able to say a few words, but she could laugh, and we would share afternoons laughing at the times we had been through together.  I would sit with her and we would watch comedy shows and it would lift her spirits.  It really did seem that through joy and laughter she became better and better. Through everything that had happened to her she had managed somehow to  keep her sense of humour.

Over the two years Tina spent in two specialist rehabilitation hospitals, she showed incredible inner strength and courage, overcoming the most enormous obstacles. Learning to do even the most basic things from scratch which most of us take for granted.  She suffered dreadful setbacks, crippling pain in her paralysed arm and leg, frustration of a damaged brain that would not function as she wished, and the agony of a broken hip from falling over when trying to use a walking stick.  She had to be admitted to a normal hospital for a hip replacement operation and this caused even more problems as people didn’t understand her speech and her understanding of language, having had such a serious brain injury. Everytime they asked her if she required painkillers she said yes, even if she didn’t, and by the time she was returned to the rehab unit she was totally bombed by the amount of morphine in her body.  It took weeks for her to get back to some sense of normality. She suffered incredible loneliness and depression whilst trying to come to terms with the fact that most importantly,  she had lost her independence.

There were so many experiences that had me in tears over the time she was in hospital, but one of the most memorable occasions for me was when she was first able to stand, albeit with support, and we could have a hug. It was the best hug I’d ever had.  We were both in tears as for the first time in many months I held her in my arms and she could hug me back too.  Another wonderful memory was just before her first Christmas in hospital.   The nurses organised a Carol Service  and arranged for a local choir to come along and we all sat singing the carols.  Many of the patients sang too, including Tina, who still has a beautiful singing voice.  They gave her a microphone and she sang Once in Royal David’s City.  With tears streaming down my face it took me straight back to when we were both five and were angels in our school nativity play and we had sung that very song together back then.

I was amazed by the most wonderful work the teams at the rehabilitation units undertook to get Tina as far along the recovery route as possible.  Their patience and understanding was incredible.  I was overwhelmed by the gentleness and kindness of other relatives visiting their loved ones who were also going through the most traumatic times and yet there was a camaraderie between us all, all supporting one another and all living for the time when those dear to us would regain even a little of their lives.  The love within the rehab units was so strong. They were  places of both immense sadness and unbelievable joy, much laughter and sometimes, sadly, unbearable heartache.

I was stunned by the kindness from the wonderful worldwide community of healers, many of whom stayed in contact with me throughout her two years  in hospital.  The strangers, literally scattered across the globe who showed an interest and continued to send their healing thoughts to Tina. I will never be able to thank them enough.  I was so saddened by the lack of support from the friends and relatives that Tina had.  I would never have thought that those whom she had loved and considered close backed away and found themselves too busy to even phone to find out how she was.  I was appalled by the total lack of support from social services who I had assumed would be able to offer some kind of help to Woody and the children, but who in reality basically told me that as the children had been adopted and not fostered there was nothing they could do.   Just as the medium had said, it was an experience which  showed people’s true colours.

It was an eye-opener where friends and relatives were concerned, but it has made us both realise who really matters and who had only been there for the good times. The marriage vow, ‘for better, for worse’, often comes to my mind when I think of the people in Tina’s life who moved away from her and her family during this time, when they needed the love and support the most, and sadly received it the least. Some people even voiced that they felt it would have been better that she had just died. It is something I have tried to understand, but just can’t grasp.  Maybe the lessons are for all of them, maybe they too one day may require those they hold dear to have the patience and understanding to deal with such a trauma, who knows.  Some things are beyond my comprehension and maybe I will find the answers when I am once again back with my family in the spirit world.

Tina amazed all the consultants and specialists involved in her care. They said many times that her recovery was a miracle, that it should have been impossible for her to make the progress that she has. Although paralysed on her right side she is still improving.  She has learnt to walk again, to eat again, has regained her speech, kept most of her memories and importantly has made new friends through her involvement in stroke clubs that she regularly attends. She has become an avid reader, has learnt to master her i-phone and laptop, how to use Spotify to listen to her favourite music, and can play a mean game of scrabble! I feel blessed that I still have my sister  and that I have been able to share in such an enlightening experience.

I thank Mum, Dad and our brother Ray, for the continued love and support they have given us, without which I am sure I would have crumbled. I thank God for Tina’s ongoing recovery and for the strength I was given to cope with this.  Most of all I thank Tina for being my twin, she is an inspiration.

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50) Is Love Truly Enough?

I have recently been questioning one of my deepest held beliefs.  Not that I would ever doubt spirits existence, or that we are eternal souls,  no, I have no problems with that.  What I have been doubting is the almost universal belief that somehow,  love  conquers all. It seems to me that everywhere I look, either on Facebook or within spiritual internet sites, the over-riding message is that love is all you need, love will overcome anything, love is the key to happiness. I have been struggling with this the past few years.  Yes, I believe that if we all based our decisions on love, our actions on love and our thoughts on love, the world would be a better place, but unfortunately not everyone does!

Maybe it is true in the universal sense, and maybe it is also true in a soul sense, when you take many lives and average it all out, but I’m talking about this one particular physical life we are living right now.  In my experience, and that of some of my closest friends, no matter how much you love someone, they can still use you, betray you and abuse you. Recently a very dear friend of mine had been blatantly used and deeply hurt by someone she considered a life-long friend, a woman she had always tried to help and support in any way she could.  She can find no rhyme or reason for her friend’s behaviour and is extremely upset.  I feel powerless as all I can do is listen but I can’t take away her pain.  Finally, after many weeks of emotional hurt she came to the decision to end their friendship.  Whilst that may well help her to avoid any further mistreatment by her friend, she is left still reeling from recent events.  I wonder what lessons are being taught when someone who so obviously cares about another is mistreated by them.

My own personal experiences have been difficult to contend with at times.  I used to firmly believe that if you showed someone love and compassion that they would treat you well, but often through my life I have found the absolute opposite to be true.  I have puzzled over this many times and had thought that it must be a certain kind of lesson that needed learning.  I have even tried to feel grateful for the role that someone must have agreed to play to assist me in walking my spiritual path. 

Logically it makes sense to me that kindness should help people to overcome their difficulties. This is something I have pondered for such a long time and have asked my spiritual guides for some guidance on this but so far have not received any answers.

When you make the decision to help someone, in whichever way you feel they may benefit, whether it is just a gentle hug, a time to listen to them, or assistance in a more physical sense, why do they then turn around and be rude or malicious towards you?

It has happened in my life so many times that I can see a pattern of events.  What I am hoping is that one day I will have a ‘light-bulb’ moment and suddenly the reason behind this will fall into place.  My husband, Simon, tells me that he thinks I am too gentle, too soft and too forgiving.  I have so often wished I could toughen up as I think my life may be so much easier,  but the problem with that is that I wouldn’t be me anymore.

My brother  always used to laugh at my tolerance and lack of temper.  Considering the parents I had, who honestly  could have won the olympics if there had been an arguing event, you’d have thought I would have a quick temper, but this isn’t true at all. 

I still remember my Mum’s look of amazement when she saw me lose my temper for the very first time when I was fourteen.  We had been to visit Dad in hospital where he had just undergone life saving surgery and he was on full life support, so to say we were concerned and stressed was an understatement.  Mum was driving our large estate car, and I have to say she wasn’t the most confident of drivers at the best of times, but with the worry of Dad obviously on her mind, she had become distracted and taken a wrong turn.  We ended up in a very narrow dead-end street with cars parked each side.  At the very end there was little space to turn around.  It was only just after 9pm, so not what you would call very late.  Mum had to try to turn the car around which meant going backwards and forwards many many times.  She was, I admit, revving the engine a little whilst trying to navigate safely and gently between the cars, but the noise wasn’t that bad.  Well this chap came out of his house and started really shouting abuse at Mum.  Without a thought I jumped out of the car and walked right up to him and gave him such a ticking off.  I was livid that he had upset my Mum and certainly let him know it.  I told him where we’d been and what was happening to my Dad.  Much to my surprise the man became very apologetic and offered to help Mum with the reversing.  What a turn-around! 

I have always found it easier to fight other people’s battles rather than my own.  My brother used to say that I was like the worm that turned, and by that he meant you could push me so far and then that was that.  How right he was.  I have to admit that I can take an awful lot but finally there is the straw that breaks the camels back, and funnily enough it is often a very little straw!

I have had to break ties with people I have truly loved because they have behaved so badly towards me, and it comes to a point when you realise that all the love in the world cannot change their behaviour, and so very sadly and reluctantly, there really is no choice but to walk away.  Sometimes the hurt of staying in a relationship becomes so deep that your physical body cannot cope with the pain, and sometimes, and possibly even more importantly,  you have to learn to value and respect yourself, which I have found the toughest lesson to learn. 

I saw this too with my own Mum.  She tried so very hard to have a good relationship with her  Step-Mother and did everything she could to try to make it work.  When we were a young family we would all travel up to London to see my Nan. We would make this journey at least once a month. Mum and Dad would have to save hard to pay for the petrol and would always be  praying that the car wouldn’t break down because it was pretty old and extremely unreliable. At the time there were no such things as baby seats in cars and Mum would have to spend two hours sitting in the back of the car with my twin, Tina,  and I in her arms.  She laughed when she told us by the time they got there her arms couldn’t move!    As  Tina and I became older we both suffered from dreadful car sickness.  How Mum and Dad coped with this I just don’t know, it must have been a nightmare for them. I know that Mum would always keep a couple of spare outfits for us and on many occasions as soon as we arrived at Nan’s house we would have to nip upstairs and change into fresh clothes.  Thankfully our older brother Ray was not car sick, that would have been unbearable!

When  Tina and I were eleven we went to stay with Nan for the week before we started at senior school.  Mum and Dad took us up there and we spent a wonderful time with her.  We went to see shows in London and enjoyed meeting all of her friends and generally having fun.  When the week was up Mum and Dad came and collected us and strangely the mood in the car on the way home was decidedly frosty.  Sadly for us, that was the last time we ever saw our Nan.  A week or so after our holiday Mum made the decision to break all ties with her.  I was devastated.  I had adored Nan and couldn’t understand how Mum could be so cruel. 

As a young child, what I hadn’t known was that my Nan could actually drive and had a very nice car.  She would tell Mum of all the trips she took to see her various relatives all over the country and yet she had only ever made the journey to visit us once in the eighteen years since Mum had married. Nan was very comfortably off and would help all her  relatives, and yet she never once offered any help to Mum at all.  Mum told me years later that she had spent so much time broken-hearted at the way Nan treated her  that finally she couldn’t take the hurt anymore.  I know now it was not an easy decision for Mum to make and I know that she remained extremely upset about it for the rest of her life.  She had lost her Dad when she was in her early twenties, and having been told that her natural Mother had abandoned her as a baby, she had  desperately wanted to have a loving relationship with Nan.

It took me a very long time to realise that what I and others had perceived as weakness, was in fact an enormous act of strength on my Mum’s part. I can’t imagine the courage she must have mustered to be able to walk away under those circumstances, but she did, and I am sure that in the following years she certainly didn’t miss the heartache that she had endured for so much of her life. One day, when I am once again in spirit and I have my life review, I feel certain that all will become clear …… but in the meantime I must admit I really find this all so very hard to understand.

46) Inspiration from Strangers

A couple of weeks ago we went on a wonderful mini-break staying in London. 

 I had always wanted to go to the Chelsea Flower Show as I have loved plants and gardens all my life, but it seemed there was always a reason that I couldn’t get there.  This year it was actually Simon who suggested we went as he thought it might be a good place to use his wonderful new camera.  Don’t get me wrong, he does like flowers and trees, and he is interested in the designs of gardens, but he doesn’t have the passion for gardening that I have. 

I was so excited when we booked the tickets a few months ago.  At the time I was going through a fairly good phase healthwise and really thought that with a few planned breaks, I’d be up to mulling around the show gardens and the wonderful exhibits and show stands that makes Chelsea the world-renowned show it has become.  I spent hours on the internet researching places to stay and found The Presidential Apartments in Earls Court.  I always feel slightly claustrophobic in a hotel room, hating the feeling of being boxed in and normally having nowhere else to sit but on the bed, and these apartments appeared to give you more space with a separate sitting area and even a kitchenette to prepare your own breakfast etc.  I booked through a booking site and managed to secure a fantastic deal so I was a very happy bunny!

As the time became closer I was becoming quite despondent.  My feet, legs and hips had decided they really did not want to work.  I can only explain it as if when you wake up, instead of feeling refreshed and awake, you feel as if you have been mountain climbing all night and you have virtually no energy and considerable pain.  I knew that my legs could only hold me up for a few minutes at a time, with very long rests in between, and was beginning to think that maybe we should just cancel and accept that this year was not going to be the year I’d eventually get there.  Simon though had a totally different plan in his mind.  He was determined that we would go and still have a wonderful time, we’d just take my wheelchair along too. I have a wheelchair and an electric scooter, and whilst I am quite happy to use the scooter if we go for a ‘walk’ in the forest, or along by the coast, I have avoided using the wheelchair for a few years now.  I would normally rather stay indoors and read or listen to music than brave the outside world in my wheelchair.

I know it’s sometimes stupid, but I absolutely hate being in it.  I was in a wheelchair quite a lot as a young child (another story!) and I think because of that I almost have a phobia about using one.  I feel like I’ve given up.  I also know it’s daft, but in my head I feel capable of everything, and so in my heart I feel a fraud sitting in a wheelchair.  I also feel like I am a failure, like I have given in, like I should be able to control my body and tell it what I expect it to do.  I find it so hard to accept that in reality I appear to have no input where my physical problems are concerned. I always feel a nuisance and in the way in a wheelchair, and hate the idea of looking ‘disabled’, even if, I suppose, I often am!

In preparation for our mini-break the wheelchair came out of the garage and the cobwebs and dust were flicked away.  Simon re-inflated the tyres, we bought a comfy seat cushion and a very clever back cushion that doubled as a picnic pack slung over the back.  The weather had been atrocious and we expected rain so I ordered a very cool purple poncho specially designed for wheelchair users.  Instead of sitting in a puddle of water (NO, not that I have accidents! We are talking heavy rain here!) this poncho had cleverly designed ‘flaps’ that go over the back and sides of the wheelchair – also keeping the picnic pack dry at the same time. We were set.

We arranged to go by train and using my disabled rail card meant that the cost wasn’t prohibitive.  Simon’s sister Wendy agreed to take us to the train station.  Everything was organised.  The sparkly clean wheelchair sat in the dining room but every time I walked past it I felt a massive heaviness.  The thought of being in it for three days just filled me with dread.

The day arrived and instead of the rain we were in the midst of a mini heat wave.  My purple poncho was not required !

I hadn’t travelled up to London on a train for a long time and was really surprised how wonderfully clean the train was, how smooth it was too, no jigging and swaying, it was as if it was gliding along.  There was an allocated space for the wheelchair so it wasn’t in anyones way, nicely tucked in a specially designed rack.  It was a truly lovely journey.  Comfortable seats, light and airy, just sitting chatting and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Hampshire and Surrey. Everyone at the railway station had been so helpful and nothing was too much trouble. 

When we arrived at Waterloo we made our way out to the taxi rank and I was pleasantly surprised at how everyone happily moved out of the way, smiling at me whilst they apologised for being where they had every right to be.  The taxi driver too was a happy soul, cheerily chatting to us as he drove us to our destination. The wheelchair folded down and was no problem in the back of the cab. 

We were expecting a very small apartment, basically a bed-sit, but at least somewhere with a separate sitting area and a kitchenette.  I couldn’t believe it when we were shown to a very stylish split-level loft-style apartment with far more space that we had ever imagined.  We had huge windows with views over beautiful gardens and every modern gadget you could possibly require and very importantly, being in the middle of a heat wave, it had air conditioning too.  It was totally fabulous. 

In the evening we decided to go for a stroll and find somewhere to eat.  It had been such a hot day it was great to be out and about, albeit that I was being pushed along in my wheelchair.  I had lived in South Kensington with my twin sister when we were 18 years old and hadn’t been back to that area for many many years.  Amazingly I still knew my way around and before we knew it we were right outside the garden flat (a posh way of saying  basement flat) that Tina and I had shared all those years ago.  The whole area still looked exactly as it had done in the mid 70’s and I could direct Simon to some great places to eat.  We found an Italian restaurant in Gloucester Road and sat outside in the warmth of the evening enjoying a wonderful supper.  I couldn’t believe so many people where out and about, it was almost a party atmosphere.  I felt 18 all over again!! Yet again, everyone offered us assistance and gladly moved out of the way as I was wheeled along.

 The next day we were up at the crack of dawn to go to Chelsea! We arrived super early and for the first couple of hours we could easily navigate around the various exhibits but as the time went on it became increasingly busy until there was not even a foot in front of me.  Simon had to be so patient waiting for people to move before he could gently weave the wheelchair through the crowds without clipping people’s ankles.  Yet again, people were so kind, some even calling out ‘wheelchair coming through’ and everyone, without exception, would happily move out of the way. 

Looking at the show gardens was just brilliant.  There were crowds, several people deep, all vying to take a look at the gardens, and yet when they saw me in my wheelchair people would move away from the barriers and let me through ….  right to the front!  Not only did I have the best view in the house (so to speak) but on a couple of occasions, the actual designers came over and chatted with me.  They would explain the reason for the design, why they chose certain architectural structures and how they had decided which plants to use.  I felt like a V.I.P.!!

I saw that the queues for the ladies loos were a mile long and thought that I’d just have to sit and wait it out with everyone else, at least I was sitting down and on my new cushion I couldn’t have been more comfortable.  We only waited a couple of moments and I couldn’t believe it when an official lady very kindly asked me to take a totally different route and I was shown into a palatial loo, complete with its own basin and top of the range toiletries.

We had the most fantastic day, and, thanks to my wheelchair, we saw everything we could have ever wanted to with the very best possible views. It was everything I had ever hoped Chelsea would be.

It was only when we were leaving the apartment that we found they had upgraded our room, totally free of charge, no wonder it was so spacious and well equipped! That type of thing always seems to happen to other people but it happened to us!

Again, the train journey back was just great.  Everyone, from the moment we left the apartment, until we arrived home, was so helpful and friendly.  I can honestly say I felt I had been blessed the whole weekend.  I was humbled by the incredible kindness of every single person we met.  Not one person complained that I was in the way, or that they had to move for me.  Everywhere we went people asked if we needed help, if there was anything they could do for us.  It was incredible.  When you think of all the people we had come into contact with over that weekend, and it seriously must have been in the hundreds, it was amazing how every one of them showed  such consideration.

We are all open to the news, whether it’s through newspapers (which I actually don’t read) or through the tv or radio, and the reports always seem to show that the world is full of rude and uncaring people, that we live in a world of selfishness.  I can’t believe that we were just lucky with who we happened to meet  in London, it proved to me that virtually everyone is actually basically good.  Isn’t it a great pity that our news doesn’t reflect the reality of the society we live in?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our news corporations gave us a more even view of our world, rather than focussing, as they do, on acts of violence and betrayal?

So, after all my despondency, seriously considering cancelling the whole weekend and concerns about using my wheelchair,  I loved our  break in London.  I have some wonderful memories of our time at Chelsea, but I know what will stay with me forever were the overwhelming gifts of kindness and thoughtfulness that we experienced from perfect strangers.  The world  is a far better place than most of us realise. It really was one of the most inspirational experiences.

42) An Apology

The pier at Burnham-on-Sea

The pier at Burnham-on-Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I owe God an apology.  Well in fact it’s an apology both to God and Jesus.  It’s an apology from myself and also on behalf of my twin sister Tina, as we were in cahoots at the time, so I hope they will accept this from both of us.

When we were about eleven years old, Mum was, spiritually speaking, trying to finding her way.  From my earliest memories I remember Mum trying various religions.  Some she would really get involved in and others she would dismiss very quickly. She was a natural medium, but even with the knowledge that spirit is energy and so, ever-lasting, she was still searching for the meaning of life and felt that ‘somewhere’, ‘ out there’ she would find it.

She was working as a secretary for an airline in Hounslow, Middlesex,  close to Heathrow Airport, and it was there that she met another secretary, Jean.  Jean was a staunch member of the Plymouth Brethren Church.  Unfortunately for us, Mum thought that this religion might be the one that we should all take on board.  All, meaning Mum and Tina and myself, as Dad would never step foot inside a church and by that time our older brother,Ray, was more into becoming a hippy and playing his guitar than wanting to find himself embroiled in some religious activities.

Jean belonged to a small Plymouth Brethren church that Tina and I attended with Mum on a few occasions.  The whole place was very understated and to me felt totally flat.  There was no atmosphere at all, no feeling of joyous celebrations of life, just really boring sermons, uncomfortable chairs and self-righteous middle-aged ladies, faces scrubbed clean and dressed in drab neat boring clothes.   They had such strict rules which basically meant that if you were to become one of them you wouldn’t be able to have much fun at all. I couldn’t help but wonder why Mum was at all interested in this very odd religion, but I think that the stranger it appeared, the more Mum thought there must be something to it.  I am also sure that Jean felt that she could somehow change Mum, give her ‘real’ values and that she would throw away her makeup bag, her fashionable clothes, and become just like Jean – a mouse of a woman who spent her life adhering to the strictest of religious rules.  Jean must have been very persuasive to get Mum to even consider joining.

Jean asked Mum if  Tina and I would like to go on a Plymouth Brethren holiday and she had said yes.  Mum told us that it would be really good fun and that she felt we hadn’t given the church much of a chance.  Reluctantly we agreed to go, after all, we thought, it might be ok because it meant that we would be away on holiday just the two of us for the very first time.  We really thought that it couldn’t possibly be that bad!

We had never been camping before and this was a holiday in big tents, so we really were quite excited as we packed our tee shirts and shorts and swimming costumes.  I remember feeling so grown up as I carried my own suitcase onto the coach.  The holiday was at a campsite at Brean Sands in Somerset, right beside the sea.  To me as a child, a seaside holiday meant making sand castles, sunbathing, sticks of rock, chips and fizzy drinks, , swimming in the sea, playing in penny arcades and donkey rides. I imagined us all sitting round a camp fire at night singing jolly songs.

When we arrived we were all shown to our tents with our allotted sleeping bags already laid out on the ground.  It didn’t look at all comfortable! There was a large wooden cabin were we all had to meet up for meals and for ‘meetings’.  The lady in charge was called ‘Captain’, I would think she was in her mid fifties and wore a rigid black suit with a high neck buttoned white blouse, not your usual holiday clothes at all.  She looked like a sergeant major to me and I had an uneasy feeling about her from the off.  It was obvious she already knew lots of the other children and her tight-lipped stern expression only softened into a smile when she was addressing those she knew.  The rest of us were greeted with a scowl and a look of disdain.  Not the best welcome to a week-long holiday.

After sorting out our clothes we had to go the cabin for our tea.  Captain sat at the top table and before we’d even eaten a sandwich she was standing up calling from a register and issuing your orders for the week.  When she came to Tina and I she told us that we were on latrine duty.  I had no idea what a latrine was but soon found out. Basically we were going to be toilet attendants for the week.  Somehow that did not thrill us.

After tea we were told that the Bible verse for the week was John 10, verse 10. ‘The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly’.  Captain explained that what that meant was that we were all sinners and unless we behaved ourselves and repented that we would not go to heaven.  I was really worried, because I knew that I wasn’t always good and had sometimes been naughty.  I was convinced that there was no way I was ever going to be able to get into heaven.  That first night when I went to sleep, in my sleeping bag on the lumpy ground, I was trying so hard not to cry because I really thought I was going to be in such trouble with God.

The following morning after breakfast (and prayers …. lots of prayers) Tina and I had to carry out our latrine duties for the first time.  The loos were dreadful.  Everything smelt of jeyes fluid and the brushes for cleaning the toilet bowls had seen better days. It was not a pleasant task.  I can’t begin to explain the state of some of the seats …. I still don’t know how they ever got like that.    We had though been told that we would off on a bus to go to the beach for the rest of the day, so that was something we could really look forward to.

We all went and waited at the bus stop with our swimming costumes and towels full of happy thoughts for the day ahead.  The bus arrived, complete with some local passengers and on we all got.  Much to our absolute horror,  Captain got everyone singing hymns. “S-A-V-I-O-U-R- we want you all to know, you’re the one, the only one who saves from sin (saves from sin), if in him, you will believe, his pardon you’ll receive”, etc etc.  I felt a total fool with everyone staring at us.  I had no option but to get used to it, because it happened everyday for the whole week.  I just kept thinking that no-one would know Tina and I and at least we weren’t singing hymns on a bus where we lived.

Even on the beach the theme of the week continued.  We were dispatched to sandcastle making teams.  It was all very formal and efficient.  Each team was given a passage from the bible that you had to make into a sand sculpture.  My team had the verse ‘For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.’  Captain explained that in order to get into heaven we had to walk along the narrow path , but that most of us walked a wider path.  There was that threat again.  Behave … or else!  There was no swimming, no boat rides, no ice creams. No fun at all.

To me, even at that young age, I felt that their whole philosophy was one of fear. So it went on through the whole week.  I really wasn’t sleeping very well and both Tina and I cried ourselves to sleep every night because our worries were growing by the day.  I made the massive mistake of asking Captain if we would be able to go to the pier and the fun fair.  My goodness, she was not happy with me at all.  I was told that I was sinful to want to go against the teachings of the bible. Then to top it off Tina and I were severely reprimanded by Captain, in front of everyone, because we were found walking across a field towards a donkey derby, which we were told, was strictly against God. That’s it, I thought, I’ve totally had it now.  I was convinced that I was going to hell.

It was becoming an increasingly miserable time apart from every night, after the sermon, when other children were standing up telling how they had found Jesus or God.  Everyone would be clapping and they would then become an accepted member of the group. It was obvious to us that there were very few left who hadn’t found Jesus, and we were definitely among those few!  It also appeared that those people who had just found God or Jesus were  given the better jobs within the camp.  People who had been on rubbish patrol would be moved to cutlery placing, those on washing up were put on bread and butter service.  It seemed that was the only way to get ahead.  Tina and I reckoned that as we were already in so much trouble and we were going to go to hell anyway, we would hatch a plan  to get out of latrine duties!

The following evening, after we had cleaned the loos before supper, we had our course of action in place.  After we had eaten and said more prayers, and Captain had given us all yet another lengthy sermon on behaving, we stood up in unison.  We told her we had found Jesus behind the cabin. She did look a little stunned, but managed a very small smile and everyone started clapping wildly.  “The twins have found Jesus”, “the twins have found Jesus” they exclaimed excitedly! People gathered round us and hugged us.  Suddenly we were no longer the outsiders, we were part of the group.

The next morning after breakfast we were given new instructions for the rest of the week .  No longer did we have to clean the loos, we were told we would be in charge of handing out breakfast cereals and porridge.  We had certainly been promoted.  Our plan had worked!  Then, the dreaded guilt set in.  The realisation of the lies we had told and the total certainty of an everlasting life in hell really took its toll on both of us.  We couldn’t wait to get home to talk to Mum and Dad.  We were praying they could somehow fix everything with Jesus and God.

Thankfully the time to go home eventually arrived.  Even now, forty-five years later, I remember how long that week felt. Mum and Dad met us at the coach station and had expected to be meeting two very happy sun tanned girls.  Instead we got off the coach and just fell into their arms crying.  Through sobs we told them that we were going to hell.  We really were distraught.  They asked us to explain what had happened and after we had, they told us there was no way in the world we would be going to hell. Dad really was quite cross that anyone could put such fear into children but was laughing uncontrollably when we told him about us finding Jesus behind the cabin. Mum explained that God is love and that there is no way in the world that God would want anyone to be frightened of him. Quite seriously it took months for Tina and I to get over the fears that had been instilled in us that week.  Mum, thankfully,  decided not to go to the church with Jean ever again and was very pleased when Jean moved offices!

Now, as an older woman, with many years of life’s experiences under my belt, I feel that the higher spirit, the creator of our universe, is as Mum said, pure love. Of that I have absolutely no doubt.  I tend to follow my own spiritual pathway and rarely become involved in anything termed as ‘religion’, although I pray every night, and happily pray with friends.

I believe with all my heart that we all share a creator, no matter the title that anyone or any group may give to this divine spirit, and that this creator would never want to threaten or frighten, but instead would wish to instill love and compassion and empathy in all those who live.

I do still wonder whether the other children on that holiday were as frightened as we were. A whole week of being indoctrinated is pretty hard for an adult, never mind a young child.  Thank goodness Tina and I had each other and parents who showed us, through example and guidance, what a wonder our creator truly is.  I do though still wish to apologise for telling the lie about finding Jesus behind the cabin.  Quite possibly (hopefully) God and Jesus had a good laugh about it.  I am hoping they have a good sense of humour!

29) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!

Smiley Face

How easy it is to be a moaning Minnie.   I’m sure we all know someone (or ….. gulp, even ourselves sometimes) who get into moaning mode all too easily.

When I look back, which is far easier than looking forward, I know there have been times in my life when someone has asked ” How are you?” and it’s been all too easy to forget all the positives in my life and have a good old moan.  I honestly believe that there’s nothing wrong with that occasionally, we all go through difficult, challenging, heartbreaking times when I think we should not chastise ourselves for moaning, especially to our closest friends who are trying to help us, but it’s the habit of moaning that I’m writing about today.

I used to have a Father-in-law who could have moaned for England.  Seriously if there was a gold medal in moaning he would have been on the podium each and every day.  No matter what you did or what you said, he’d find something to moan about.  When we were first married we went to visit him in our old car, he complained that we were obviously not working hard enough and should be ashamed at driving an old banger.  A couple of years later we drove up to see him and we had a new car.  I couldn’t believe it when he started moaning that it was obviously alright for us, swanning around like we were above everyone else because we had a new car!  We just couldn’t win.

His wife, my ex-Mother-in-law, was also a pretty good moaner. She was staying with us for a while (too long!) and I remember asking her if she had any preference for lunch, whether she would like a hot cooked meal, or a light cold lunch.  She said she didn’t mind.  I even asked her if she was sure and she said yes, anything would be fine.  I was immensely busy at work so prepared a salad with some homemade bread.  She scowled as I put the meal on the table.  “I would have preferred a hot meal”  she moaned.  I can honestly say that in the twenty-six years I knew her, it was a very rare event that she made a happy, upbeat or positive comment about anything. They were obviously well matched.  In fact, thinking about, I can’t think of one instance where she was genuinely pleased with her lot.  How very sad.

I believe that this personality trait actually ages you.  When I first met my ex in-laws, when I was in my early twenties, I assumed that they had been old parents when my ex-husband was born.  Their whole house felt grey and dowdy.  Wrongly, I presumed that they were ancient, which to me at the time was anyone past sixty (how our perspective changes as we head toward the higher ‘tens’ ourselves).  In reality they were exactly the same age as my parents, and had in fact been extremely young parents.  You just would never have believed it had you met them.  The difference between them and my parents was that mine had the wonderful knack of finding the humour in everything, including themselves, they never took life too seriously.  Their houses were always colourful and full of life – they were not what I would call ‘grey’ people!

Dad had nicknames for everyone, my sister was Prunella Pimple Face and I was Fish Face Charlie – we never knew why – we just were!  He had a wonderful sense of timing where humour was concerned, saying just the right word at the right time.  Very dry and extremely observant, he did catch a few people off guard at times, which made it all the funnier! He went through some incredibly traumatic times in his life, both during his childhood, during his time in the war and in latter years, due to his health.  Amazingly though, through everything, my Dad always found something positive to say about every event in his life.

He had to undergo life threatening surgery when I was in my early teens.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to undergo surgery to remove one of his lungs.  This was in the late 1960’s and the medical treatments at that time weren’t as advanced as they are now, so it was very dangerous surgery at the time.  Dad had undergone a routine medical for the organisation he worked for and much to his horror a large shadow on his lung showed up on his chest X-ray.  He was taken into Harefield hospital and underwent an exploratory operation and they confirmed to Mum that he had lung cancer.  They gave her the choice whether to operate and possibly prolong his life by a matter of months, or to just leave it and let nature take it’s course.  Mum, after much consideration and heart searching, chose the operation.  Thank God she did, as when they operated they found that Dad didn’t have lung cancer after all.  He had an unusual form of tuberculosis in a cyst in his lung.  He was in hospital for quite a long time on a large ward. Everyone commented on how he was such a lively spirit and how he lifted the atmosphere.  Within a couple of days of the surgery he was cracking jokes, mainly about himself, and had everyone in stitches (pardon the pun).  I remember the sister on the ward saying that she would miss him so much when he went home because he had made their lives so much more enjoyable and how his warmth and humour had affected everyone so positively.  I was so proud of my Dad.

Mum too had difficult times but without fail she always managed to find something positive to say.  She used to quote Thumper from the film Bambi – “if you can’t say something nice don’t say nothin’ at all” , which is dreadfully difficult to adhere to at times (see above!), but she really did try to live by this, apart from when she and Dad were arguing, and then all their rules went out the window!

When Mum was busy working, more than full-time at times, she and Dad agreed to employ “a lady who does”, in other words, a cleaner.  I think it was Dad’s way of avoiding helping with the housework!  They employed a woman who left notes for Mum every time she left the house.  She complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t working properly, or that the polish Mum used wasn’t the right one, or that the broom wasn’t good enough, the house was too hot, the house was too cold etc.  The list was endless.  Dad called her “Mrs Moan-a-lot”, not to her face of course, but within the family.  The awful problem was that the name stuck and we could never remember her real name, which was embarrassing at times!

Mum and Dad had real highs and lows financially throughout their marriage.  Usually the highs where when they were both working for large companies and the lows were sometimes when Dad would start a new business and things didn’t always go so well.  They both took every opportunity they were ever given, even emigrating to Chicago in their mid-forties.  They sold their house and gave away everything they owned and off they went with huge smiles to start their new life.  Try as they could, they both hated living there!  They came back a year later and in that short time the property market had gone wild in England.  Neither of them had employment and their money, having been exchanged into dollars and back again, was nowhere near enough to buy a house again.  They moved into a bed sit and looked upon it as an adventure, both of them optimistic that something would ‘turn up’.

Much to everyone’s amazement, but no surprise to them, a large flat came up for rent in the town they both loved, Twickenham.  They had enough to put down the deposit and moved in to the two top floors of a large Victorian house.  Within a short time they both managed to find work they enjoyed within a short distance of their new home.  Two years later the landlord offered to rent them the ground floor flat as well and they jumped at it.  He was fine about them restoring the two flats back into one very beautiful large house.  Another year on and the landlord suddenly needed to liquidate his assets and offered Mum and Dad the whole house at a crazily low knock down price.  Of course they couldn’t refuse.  They bought the house, did a little work on it, and sold it six months later for a massive profit, putting them in a stronger position than when they had gone to America.  Mum took great delight in telling everyone that she had known everything would be alright.  Through all the ups and downs I never once heard them complain.  Dad used to say it was better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.  Mum being more of a romantic would quote, “it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”.  Looking back I realise how amazingly lucky I was to have such a pair of positive optimistic parents, which at the time I suppose I assumed everyone had.

Strangely I feel like my journey through life has always shown me two sides of everything.  I do believe that my parents were a couple of old souls, who made light of their problems and put a positive spin on their difficulties and challenges.  I wonder if my ex-in laws were younger souls.  In reality, they had very little to complain about it, but moaned about inconsequential things most of the time. My ex-in laws were pessimists about everything and saw life as a dull routine to be gotten through, whereas my parents were invariably optimistic and saw life as exciting  and enlightening.  How fortunate I was to have chosen them. I can appreciate why I feel that life is full of lessons because that is exactly what Mum and Dad taught me, and importantly, they taught me to ignore the dull routine and always look on the bright side of life!

28) Great Expectations

English: New Year fireworks at the London Eye

Will your world change after midnight?

Every New Year’s Eve there is a global feeling of anticipation that changes are afoot.  No matter where you are, who you are with or what you are doing, it is almost impossible to miss the  dawning of the new year.  All around the world there are massive celebrations, huge displays of fireworks, parties arranged and a feeling of camaraderie that only exists for maybe even just a few minutes either side of midnight.  If you are in a large city or even at a local event, complete strangers may well hug and kiss and you and wish you a happy new year.

And then, the morning arrives, and all is back to normal.  What happened to the optimism of the night before? Where has the camaraderie gone?  Is there any perceivable change in your life from yesterday?

No other species on our planet celebrates New Year.  I’ve never seen sheep dancing in a field at midnight! So why do we feel the need to make such a big deal out of a change of year in our calendars? Is it that we have an intrinsic need to focus on the possibility of change for good?  Is it that we are dissatisfied with our lives and want a better future?  Why is there such a negative spin in our news through most of the year, and maybe just a glimmer of positivity on New Year’s Eve?  Why do we look forward to the New Year rather than spend time celebrating the year we have just had?    How many people will look back at the year that is coming to a close and be thankful for the experiences they have enjoyed, the spiritual advances they have made, the new friendships formed, the new lives that have begun, the understanding and compassion that has been shown to them, or they have  shown to others? It always feels to me that it’s all about looking forward to the new and getting rid of the past.  What a shame.

I just read a wonderful blog written by a woman who has been making huge changes to her life.  About accepting that she didn’t have to be superwoman after all, that she can feel free to follow her dreams. I felt that this arrived in my inbox at just the right time to be included in this end of year posting.  She importantly mentioned the notion of ‘having it all’ and as I commented on her post, I thought long and hard about that well used phrase. Why can’t we have it all, I wondered?  But, most importantly, we first have to qualify what having it all truly means to each of us individually. It will be different for each and every one of us.  None of us have to adhere to the classic examples portrayed in the media, to the general consensus, to society’s view of what this phrase means.  No, we can take it and shape it to suit us.

My interpretation of  having it all had to change drastically when I became chronically ill, when my life had no option but to become smaller.  Suddenly, having it all had to alter to fit in with my physical capabilities.  My expectations had to change. It took a long time to adjust, but now I can say I truly feel fulfilled,  feel loved, respected and accepted.  I am true to my beliefs,  to my spiritual goals,  to my souls desires.  That to me is having it all.  I don’t try to be something I’m not and hope that I don’t expect that of others. My days of trying to be superwoman are long gone!

Instead of only focussing on what the New Year may bring to our lives,  just on New Year’s Eve, why not think of every new day as the dawning of a new year.  Feel the optimism and the camaraderie with others throughout the year. Consider what we, those we love and those who are in need, really require, and try to work towards that.  When we go to sleep at night remember to thank spirit for the positives we can take from the day and ask what our expectations and intentions should be for tomorrow.  Look at our lives and learn from our experiences. Feel if we have managed, in our own way,  to have it all, even just for that one day. Sense if we have inspired others and if we have been at all instrumental in them finding fulfilment in their lives.

Many people spend much time in thought and then make long lists of resolutions for the new year.  Maybe they find that the list will motivate them to bring about change in their lives.  Maybe their resolution list is in fact more of a wish list. How many of us have written this list and targeted massive changes that are due to take place from 1st January only to give up within a matter of days or even a couple of weeks?  The resolutions soon become forgotten.

So, for this change of year, as the clock passes midnight, and 2011 becomes 2012, I am not going to make a resolution.  I am instead going to make a promise to spirit.  I will promise to treat each day as a new dawn knowing it has the spiritual potential for the greatest of expectations.

27) Making New Memories

Mince Pie

Mum always made certain that even though she had three children she would make  time for each of us individually.  These times weren’t necessarily important dates or special occasions, just time we all had alone with Mum whilst we did everyday things.

Mum and I always used to make the mince pies for Christmas whilst the rest of the family would be in the lounge watching television.  In those days we would always wear a pinny when we were cooking.  I don’t know why really, because these days not many people ever do.  When we put our pinnys on it was almost a sign that we meant business, we were undertaking important and valuable work and we were set apart from the rest of the family in their civvies.

It was during these Christmas baking times that we would often chat about Mum’s life as a young woman, where she lived, what she did, who she shared her life with.  She had the most wonderful knack of talking about how life affected her when she was the same age as us.  It bought to life, in our minds, her history.  When I was growing up I always seemed to think of Mum and Dad’s childhood in black and white, like an old movie.  I always thought that their clothes would have been scratchy for some reason.  Strange what goes through children’s minds.

Mum had a difficult childhood, bought up by her Dad and a variety of Aunts, until her Dad married when she was nine years old.  She adored her Dad more than anyone in the world and would often become tearful when she talked about the wonderful Christmas’s she shared with him.  He had died before I was born, and she never really managed to overcome her grief.  I found that very hard to understand as a child, especially as I had never met him, so he didn’t seem real to me, even though Mum told me so much about him.  It was as if she was describing an old film she’d seen.

Something though that Mum said, that has always stuck in my mind, was that she always felt it was important to make new memories.  Not to erase the old ones, but to add to our itinerary of memories, to make our own histories. That seemed strange when I was a young girl, but as I’ve grown older I do understand what she meant by that.

We all have times in our lives that our thoughts go back to, especially at Christmas.  Times we wish with all our hearts that could be repeated right now. People that have passed through our lives who we miss and wish that we could be with once again. In Mum’s case it was definitely time that she spent with her Dad.  She would have given the world to spend even just a few moments with him once more.

I cherish the memory of my Dad singing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve the last Christmas he was alive. We were at a very grand party and the local choir were singing traditional carols.  We were in a huge elegant room with a grand piano and we were sat on the type of furniture you normally only see in stately homes.  The type where the ropes are around them to stop the public touching it!  It really wouldn’t have mattered where we were, my memory is of my Dad’s twinkling blue eyes, his warm smile and his deep rich voice.  I was so very proud of him. I would give anything to be back at that party with my Dad.

I cherish the memory of Mum and I cooking Christmas dinner, drinking too much sherry, and laughing and giggling like a couple of teenagers whilst we jived around the kitchen to ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’.

I cherish the memory of my daughter rushing into my bedroom first thing in the morning, so excited to tell me that Father Christmas had been, with her arms full of presents that she wanted to open on my bed.

I cherish the memory of Ray, my brother, playing his guitar, making up his own silly verses to Christmas Carols, whilst drinking his favourite brandy and coke.  ‘Merry Crimbo’ he used to say.

I cherish the memory of my twin sister, Tina and I, waking up to find chocolate santas lined up around our beds and beautiful party dresses, one made for each of us, hanging on our wardrobe door.

So many memories of wonderful Christmas’s, but now, as they say, those days are gone.  It’s tough.  I know it always will be. If I could just snap my fingers and be back there just once more …………..

Now, I have new memories to make.  Memories where in the future I’ll look back and long for these days.  Where I’ll wish with all my heart to be able to share these times once more. That’s the Christmas I’m going to have with the people who are in my life right now, the people I share these special times with, the people I hold dear and love and cherish.  This Christmas will be part of my history.

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