Saturday 12 February 2011

An anniversary

Today is the nineteenth aniversary of my first husband's death.

You never forget anniversaries. I didn't realise this until it happened to me, but as the years roll round and we come yet again to February 12th, everything comes back .

I remember so clearly the phone call (he was in hospital at the time), the mad rush to get someone to take our two younger children to school, the fact that the car wouldn't start (our cars never started in the winter), the crazy dash to the hospital. And arriving too late.

There are little things, too. The flowers - so many arriving almost at once, that we had to borow vases. Someone phoning to ask if there was anything they could bring (more tissues, please), the crowds of people sho suddenly seemd to appear. And worst of all, telling the children.

Two were at school, and they were brought home by a teacher so that I could tell them myself. But two were in London, and I had to find a kind friend to track down my daughter, so that she didn't have to be told by the hospital authorities (she was a student nurse). I am still appalled that she cried all the way home on the train, and no-one - no-one at all - stopped to ask her if they could help. I remember a neighbour who had come round saying "she wants me to light a fire, but she doesn't really need one, does she?" (why on earth did I want a fire lit?), and the birthday cake my small son made for me (my birthday was the day before the funeral) but which nobody ate.

The funeral was huge. He had been a headmaster, and the entire school turned out for it, but we also had lots of friends and family, too. We didn't want black cars, so my brother-in-law drove us. The car had heated seats; I'd never come across those before. I remember the lovely funeral director saying "I've got children at the school. I only sent them there because of Dr. Garrood". And there was the tiny bunch of snowdrops - our special flowers - that I dropped onto his coffin; and the mud and the wind and the cold of that day, like a funeral in a film.

And then the long, long journey afterwards; finding out that with grief, there are no short cuts. The evening when I drove out into the country and screamed and screamed and screamed. That helped. The journey the children had to take; a different one for each, because they were different people at very different stages of their lives. One of my sons checking on me at night, to make sure I was still alive. And all those anniversaries.

We are all right now. We have survived (we had no choice, really), but we have all been affected. I have married John, who has been wonderful, and the children are all well and happy. But for all of us, the scar is there; not as painful, but there. And sometimes it flares up, reminding us of the huge gap he has left. And one small granddaughter still weeps for the grandfather she never knew.


  1. Hugs, Frances. I'm so sorry to read about your loss - because even though you're happily married again now, it's still a loss, isn't it, and always will be - especially as your children are always there to remind you of him. But of course I'm sure it's the children who enabled you to get through it. Thank goodness for them. x

  2. My thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. Thanks, Olivia. Thanks Keith. Yes - without the kids I really don't know what I'd have done.

    I suppose this was a rather self-indulgent post, but it made me feel better (everyone who knows me knows all about it anyway - one of my sons even has a birthday on the same day, which was pretty awful timing!).Writing about it was my way of marking the occasion, and afterwards, I went for a wonderful ride in the sunshine, and saw lots of snowdrops.

  4. Just back from Oxford and my son, this post really made me grateful for everything I have and so sorry that you all had to go through that. Thanks for putting it up.

  5. Thanks, Alis. Altogether not a good week-end (see email). Hey ho.

    I hope you had a lovely time with your son. I assume this was no. 1 son?

  6. Frances, I'm so sorry that this anniversary makes your scars burn. I hope it passes quickly and smoothly for you.

    And thanks for the post. It's jostled something in my mind that is starting to help explain some things to me for my own self.

  7. A very moving post, Frances.

    We are always being encouraged to "move on" from past tragedy, but I think it's good to remember. The anniversary will always be painful, but it helps keep alive all the good times you must have had too.

  8. Hi, Nevets. I hope the jostling isn't too unpleasant.

    Tim, you're right. Gradually the good times take over from the bad, although he is especially missed at important moments in the children's lives. But I was lucky to have him. No regrets.

  9. That is so sad, Frances - what a dreadful thing to go through and for your children too.
    And appalling that your poor daughter had to cry alone on that train journey.
    I had only just got to reading about this after your comment on mine - what a horrid time of year this can be, but I agree writing about it helps x

  10. I'm so moved by your post, Frances. Sometimes it's hard to believe the human spirit can cope with the dreadful grief and survive a tragic loss like that. Thank you for this haunting and beautiful post.

  11. HI, Teresa. After I'd commented on your post, it occurred to me that it might look as though I was asking for attention! But it was so strange reading yours after writing mine. I don't think people who haven't been bereaved really understand about anniversaries (why would they?). I certainly didn't befor it happened to me. Thanks so much for your comments.

  12. Joanna - thank you for your generous comments. I guess in those circumsatances you have two choices: give up, or carry on. With four children, the first wasn't an option, although without them, it would have been very tempting.