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.

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.

32) Legal Beagles

English: Public court room in Independence Hall

We all think we are right!  It’s so true. We all think we are right because we see everything from our perspective.  It is how we are.  We often find great difficulty in looking at a situation from someone elses point of view.  It is very challenging to try to put yourself in someone elses shoes, to look at the world the way they see it. I feel it is impossible, even no matter how hard we try, to truly appreciate what someone is going through, to actually feel their joy, their pain, their concerns. And yet, even though we can never completely understand what it is  like to be someone else, we somehow feel we have the right to judge them.

Many of us make judgements about people’s physical appearance.  We make comments about their  choice of clothes, hairstyle, weight etc.   Even if we don’t verbalise what we are thinking, most of us do still think it.  How many times have you seen someone and within a millisecond a thought rushes through your head about how that person looks?  It is a habit that is so easy to get into. Even worse we think we know how to dress them better than themselves!  How can we always be so sure?  I might never ever in a million years wear a pink leather mini-skirt with high heels and wear bright red lipstick – but who says that I am right?  My choice in clothes most probably looks as dull as dishwater to someone else.

Have you met a friend’s partner and immediately made a snap judgement about them?  Just a look, just one word, or the way they dress can be enough for your brain to warp into judgement mode.  Even the way someone speaks, their accent,  can lead us to make sweeping judgements that could be totally wrong!

Our magazines and newspapers are full of judgements about people in the public eye.  Reporters judge everything about people: their lives, their love lives,  finances, children,  homes, even their political views.  Unfortunately it is rarely objective, and usually biased to entice more readers to read all the latest gossip, no matter if the ‘victim’ is a pop singer, a politician or a member of the royal family.  All appear to be fair game.  Even countries are attacked in the press, their cultures, their traditions, their politics.  It is felt that we are able to judge anyone/any country  who/that does not do as we think they should, who does not comply with what we consider is normal or correct.

I enjoy listening to lively debates on the radio and it surprises me how often I change my mind as I carry on listening to different views.  To begin with I am sure that Mr ‘A’ is making perfect sense, then Mr ‘B’ will chip in with his remarks and I start thinking, well, actually that really does make sense, then listening to Mr ‘A’ respond, I am once again seeing and appreciating his point of view.  From listening to so many over the years I have come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to tell the right viewpoint from the wrong one.  Even to the point where I wonder at times if there always is a right or a wrong one! It all depends from which angle you are looking at it.  As an onlooker it can be almost impossible to make a decision of who is right, but if you are personally involved then it becomes even more difficult to be objective.

My husband had to complete jury service recently.  Although he couldn’t discuss the case with me, I knew he was finding it very difficult to make a judgement about the ‘accused’.  Some days he would come home and feel he had totally understood what had happened and would appear relaxed. On other days he would come home obviously agitated after further evidence had been submitted into court which threw a spanner in the works, and suddenly the case didn’t appear as black and white as it had a couple of days before.  In the final days of the trial it was evident that Simon was really struggling.  He is a fair-minded man and was so concerned that he would come to the wrong conclusion, that because of his judgement an innocent man may spend time in prison.  Then he would be worried that if he judged the man innocent, and he was actually guilty, that he would be walking free in society, and what could be the possible consequences of that.    After much debate the jury found the accused guilty and Simon said he was so pleased when his previous convictions were read out and he had carried out similar crimes several times before.  He felt that they had come to the right decision.  His relief when it was all over was amazing.  The experience had really brought home the massive responsibility that there is in making judgements. Goodness knows how I’d ever cope if I had to sit on a jury!!

I do wonder what makes someone decide to commit a crime.  I have no idea of the mindset or thought process that you would go through to plan to take part in something criminal.  I avoid arguments and conflict as much as possible but it has crossed my mind whether someone decides to be abusive to someone else, either physically or verbally, or if it just happens, almost beyond their  control.  I do however know that I am extremely fortunate that I am not them, but somehow I used to think I had the right to judge them, not that I would normally tell others what I was thinking, but in my head I would be making judgements.  What right did I possibly have to do that?

I was sitting quietly one day, thinking about what is right and what is wrong, when I received the following words from one of my writing guides.

Look kindly on your fellow-man

Do not judge too harshly

For where he walks you too may tread

And understand his pathway

Just a few lines, but I feel it is a such powerful  message.  I have  had these words run through my mind so many many times over the years.  When I catch myself making a judgement about someone, suddenly I’ll hear the words “Look kindly on your fellow-man, do not judge too harshly ….” I immediately try to consider where that person is in their life and always ask myself “Who am I to judge?”  I cannot possibly imagine what made them make their choices about their lifestyle, their behaviour.  I have not shared in their life and come to their conclusions. I try to accept others as they are, accept they have their own opinions and have their own roads to follow.

Of course I’m not talking about our formal legal systems, these have to be in place, and we accept that our society chooses people to make legal judgements.  That is totally different to the judgements we all make that I am talking about here.

It  also made me think about the soul choices we make we enter this incarnation.  We can’t all choose to be kind and thoughtful or we would not be able to learn what is right and what is wrong, how to behave with care and generosity towards others.  How tough it must be to live your life as one of those people who are always on the wrong side of our man-made laws. How tough to wake up in the morning and know in your heart that you have been cruel or mean.  We can’t all be the same, we are all unique in almost every way and I say thank goodness for that.  In our diversity we have literally hundreds of thousands of choices throughout our lives, and who should ever judge us for them?  Only ourselves.  My guides know that we are not saints, that we have our human foibles, that we will most likely always make judgements, I feel it is a rare person who never does.  But, if you do find yourself judging, please just think of the words I received, and try not to be too harsh!

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