“Although I am always happy to recognise that I have lived another year of my life (and there were times in the last decade when that was not always to be taken for granted), birthdays have now become a reminder of the ‘missing years’ as I now think of those years of treatment. And, I still find, I am surprised at my age, as most of those ten years seem to have simply vanished – some to treatment, some to depression. I am not ungrateful that I am still well, or for the treatment and care I received during that time, but the shadows of those days remain. The recovery was long and the impact on our lives lasted for years, for both me and Ronnie in so many ways.”
Sarah, on her birthday, 2017
I like it here, in the littoral zone. Always have. On childhood holidays the beach always had a special lure, a pull, whatever the weather. Whether it was paddling barefoot, swimming or exploring rock pools. I have always been happy in the littoral.
No surprise then to find that decades later I am still exploring rock pools and the shore, endlessly fascinated by what I can find here. One of the delights of my sea kayaking adventure is how close it brings me to nature, to the watery delights of the littoral. For my birthday weekend I am spending two days on a ‘Sea Kayak Sea Life’ course with Dr Lou Luddington (marine biologist) and Jonny Eldridge (sea kayaker and coach).
I am welcomed to my temporary home in Anglesey by my AirBnB host Caroline, staying in Menai Bridge this time.
Our group of nine meet on Saturday morning and spend some time discussing the littoral and strand line, and being in the marine environment. Lou also introduces us to her ‘top ten’ marine things, which is fascinating. She encourages us to think about our own ‘top ten’ after we’ve spent some more time exploring.
The latest of Sarah’s sea kayaking posts. This one a gentle meditation on life and death. “A reminder that life doesn’t always go as planned, especially when we are living with nature, tides, and the natural cycles of life and death. This I know,” says Sarah, whose younger sister has just died.
For several weeks now I have been looking forward to May, because May is such a beautiful month and I love the increasing light, the long evenings, the shift in the season to almost summer, the growth, the fresh green, in fact just everything about May is a delight. And I also have the prospect of four days ‘on the water’ to look forward to as well.
For my latest sea kayaking trip I am staying at Ty Cert near Rhoscolyn on Anglesey. It is a barn conversion next to this disused chapel, which is currently being converted into a tearoom and gallery.
My room has its own outside area, a ‘kitchenette’, and bathroom. Cosy and compact.
Sarah, in case you didn’t know, has been working as an Independent Funeral Celebrant for four years now. Here she takes us through one of her days. A fascinating and gently observant account of helping three families through what will happen to us all one day.
“Here’s my day.
8.30am. Breakfast in my car in Anfield Cemetery. Seems strange? Well not for me as I often spend parts of my day in places that are close to crematoria, because I work in the funeral industry, as a funeral celebrant. I create and deliver individual funeral services for families and friends. It is a huge privilege. Today I have three services in three different crematoria.
This is my trusty A to Z which is falling apart but is my navigation tool of choice. My regular crematoria are marked L (Landican on the Wirral), S (Springwood, south Liverpool), A (Anfield, north Liverpool), T (Thornton), S (Southport) and H (St Helens).
Driving along Queens Drive this morning I notice that the blossom on the weeping trees is beginning and remember how much I want to tell my friend Rachel every year when I see spring start to arrive. She died in February 2012, I miss her. These strange small trees are really unremarkable for the rest of the year, but for a brief period are in blossom, and are lovely. Do look out for them if you are in Liverpool.
I can’t say I wasn’t a bit nervous as I got off the 80 bus by the Philharmonic Hall and walked along to The Everyman. It was half five and, after a cloudless blue day, finally early winter arriving, it was already a black dark night. Will people come out to this?
Tom Lang who runs The Bistro and the food here has kindly and optimistically reserved the whole of Ev3, the third room for me and what I’m about to try and do.
With the dividing doors pulled across from the rest of the early evening Bistro it looks cosy, sparkly and welcoming. But will people come out to this?
A year ago now, October 2013, I began living my life with the constant and conscious thought that this year could be my last. Questioning everything, asking ‘Would I do this work, go to this event, spend time with this person if I thought I had a year to live?’ Reasoning that one day this will be true for all of us, but that of course we mostly never know. So why not live with this consciousness for a year and see what it does?
I decided to write about it too, and you can go back and look at the posts and discussions that followed if you want. For me though, at the end of this theoretical final year it’s time now to reflect on the main things I’ve done and learned from doing it. I don’t say what follows will turn out to be all I’ve learned, but these are the first ten things that come to mind.
1. You truly never know the day.
I began this ‘Year to live’ in good health and as a theoretical exercise. Out running several times a week and fully confident in my own body. Then within weeks I was thrown into hospital land, a place from which I am yet to emerge. Continue reading “A year to live? 10 things I’ve learned”
Continuing my reflections on living as if I only have a year to go. And joining in on a ‘Blog Tour’ too.
A friend has contacted me this week and asked me to take part in a sort of blogging chain letter. Naturally my normal response to this kind of thing would be a firm ‘No.’ But the request was gently done. And pondering the questions asked in the chain letter, I thought my answers might contribute to my own chain of thoughts in my ‘Year to live’ series of posts. So I’ve decided to start writing and see where my thoughts take me. Let’s go, four questions:
Q1 Why do I write what I do?
Well I didn’t start out by writing on this blog at all. My early blogging all happened to help out my partner Sarah. She was running a blog called ‘Being Sarah’ about a book she’d written and her continuing experiences as someone who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A couple of times she’d encouraged me to contribute some of my own experiences whilst caring for her through her treatments and recoveries. And over time I became a fairly regular guest contributor, writing particularly about the walking we’d do to shake out all the hours we were spending in surgeries and waiting rooms. The walking we’d do just because we liked it.
In writing and generally helping with the editing of ‘Being Sarah’ I found myself in regular contact with Sarah’s friends in what they called ‘the Blogosphere.’ Women from all over the world who’d had breast cancer diagnoses. And it was several of them who began suggesting I start a blog of my own. Because I seemed to be enjoying writing and to have ‘found my voice.’ For a long time I resisted the idea. Having no common and binding subject to write about, as they all had, I thought I wouldn’t have much to say.
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while and now something BBC journalist Helen Fawkes has written has prompted me to get on with it.
Helen has been diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer, and told she will die some time within the next five years, possibly within the next few months. And one of her responses to this has been to create a list of things she wants to do before then. Not a (kick the) bucket list, as many people call them. But a list for living, containing 50 things like having a go in a racing car, getting a dog, going to Paris on Eurostar for lunch and presenting a programme on BBC Radio 4. She’s done some of her list and is very close to this last as she’ll be on the BBC World Service this coming Monday talking about her list.
Unlike Helen, I’ve had no terminal diagnosis and am feeling very well, thanks all the same. Nevertheless I’ve decided to live this next year as if it’s my last. I’ll explain why. Continue reading “A year to live”