Since we got back from our travels almost two months early on 30th March, life has been slightly surreal to say the least. We stepped out of a pretty normal life in Auckland on 1st March when we boarded the M.S. Maasdam cruise ship and 28 days later we stepped off into what felt like a semi apocalyptic world in San Diego – and life hasn’t been the same for any of us since.
For the first few weeks I found myself saying “I should be in ……. now” on almost a daily basis, and just yesterday I was there again saying “I should be boarding a plane to Singapore today, and after a week there embarking on a 4 week cruise around South East Asia/Japan” I don’t deny that still being restricted by fairly tight lockdown rules whilst thinking about all those unfulfilled dreams has been pretty soul destroying at times.
LOSS: Sometimes though you just have to trust that you are completely in the right place at the right time, because on 1st May when I ‘should’ have been on a cruise ship in the middle of Alaska I received a phone call from Yeovil hospital telling me that my Dad was now in end of life care and probably wouldn’t last 24 hrs. Having not seen Dad since December due to travelling and subsequent lockdown restrictions, I dropped everything and drove the 130 miles (picking up a speeding ticket on the way) and managed to spend a very precious 36 hrs at my Dads hospital bedside holding his hand. Dad has always been a fighter and was clearly going to defy the doctors one last time. It was decided then to move him back to his care home so that we could spend his final hours there with my Mum.
The saddest part meant that I could no sit and hold Dads hand because I wasn’t allowed inside the care home, I could only sit at the patio door and talk to him through there. I made those next few days as special and as memorable as possible though. I gave Dad his own special V.E. Day concert from the patio and just 2 days before he died I was able to fulfil Dads dying wish and helped him to renew his wedding vows to my Mum after 52 years of Marriage. The ceremony also took place through the patio doors and with the ‘bride’ wearing full PPE, but it was none the less special and was an afternoon filled with love, laughter and tears.
After the most incredible and valiant fight which also became excruciating for us as a family at the end, Dad died peacefully at 11.50pm on 15th May. As heartbreaking as it was we took comfort from the fact that he was finally at peace after a 2 1/2 year battle with Dementia.
I made the decision to conduct his funeral myself, it was both the saddest and proudest day of my life and I am so glad I did it for him. Although we were small in number, we held the ceremony in a beautiful Garden in Somerset and Dads huge love of life was celebrated in exactly the way he would have wanted.
LOVE: Dad died safe in the knowledge that I had finally found the true love of my life though and he knew I would be looked after and protected in the way that he would have wanted me to be.
Immediately after I returned home to the U.K. I knew I had to quickly transform my training business and start offering my celebrant training courses online. It was less than a week after I got back that Simon quite literally ‘zoomed’ into my life.
The strange thing is that the more I travelled the more independent I have become and the more convinced I was that I didn’t want to commit to any one person or settle down. When I met Simon though something inside me instantly changed. Maybe I didn’t want to commit to anyone before because nobody has ever made me feel like he makes me feel, but I knew within just days that I didn’t see a future without him in it.
Not being able to immediately meet in person just enabled us to put down rock solid foundations, we were able to explore one another’s minds and hearts in depth before we ever met face to face. Our ‘zoom dates’ became really special, we both instinctively knew that something amazing was happening and joked about who would use the ‘L-word’ first? It was him, just 5 days later. Fast? yes, but nothing ever felt so right – and hey, my Dad proposed to my Mum just 2 weeks after they met and they went on to spend 52 years of married life together. (I’m not in any rush to get married again, but it does prove that when it’s right, it’s right)
Our first socially distanced walks might not have always been a full 2m apart, but it did mean that the art of courtship is not lost.
From that first call I had about Dad from Yeovil hospital on 1st May Simon became my strength and my rock. It was already hard to believe we had only known each other a month because it felt like forever. 5 very difficult weeks followed; Dad fighting on for 15 days after being given just 24hrs and then waiting another 3 weeks for the funeral, I was both physically and mentally exhausted, held up only by the love of my family and friends.
The night before Dad died I was finally let into his care home to be at his bedside. I spent all afternoon with him and went back later in the evening and spent the night on the floor sleeping next to his bed, listening for his every breath. Simon, unwavering in his support got the train to join me in Somerset and whilst I spent the night sleeping on Dads floor he offered to sleep outside in the car so that if anything happened in the night I wouldn’t have to come out and be alone. In the hours that I ‘swapped shifts’ with my sister so she could sit with Dad, Simon was the one who held me, who stroked my hair whilst I cried, who made sure I ate even when I didn’t want to, and held my hand as we walked together, reminding me that the sun was still there even when the clouds were hiding it from view. He looked after me in exactly the same way that my Dad looked after me 35 years ago when my Nana died. Although Dad never got to meet Simon in person, I did at least have to opportunity to tell Dad about him and to show him photos.
These past 4 weeks since Dad has died I have been up and down to Somerset every week to sort out and attend Dads Funeral, Simon has been by my side helping and supporting me every step of the way. We shall be back down there tomorrow for a couple of days, not only so I can collect Dads ashes, but we are also now going to start looking for a small property in the area to use as a second home so that I can also spend more time with Mum once the lockdown in her care home is lifted.
So yes, I ‘should’ be cruising in south east Asia right now, but life had very different plans for me. We also have a slightly different cruise planned now because Simon has just booked us our first holiday together on the Norfolk Broads next month and I am SO excited about it. There really is nowhere else in the world that I would rather be right now.
It truly has been the most surreal 10 weeks, not to mention a roller coaster of emotions. In lockdown I have lost and I have loved. No one knows for certain what the future holds but I do know that I will go on living and loving life to the full in exactly the way that Dad would want me to.