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Friday, 30 November 2012

I am lying on the sofa. Another Spectator magazine has arrived in the post and I have closed my eyes and put it into the wicker box on my table next to the sofa, along with all the other Spectators.  I will read them.  I will wake one morning and know that today, it is time to read all of the unread Spectators hidden around the house so that I will not suffer from anxiety from not reading them in the correct order, or at all, before the next one arrives.  I could stuff a mattress with them, there are so many.  But I have been in this state of siege before with the Spectator;  I went to Ireland to my Darling Dublin Friend and her husband, the Nicest Man in Ireland's holiday cottage with a suitcase full once, and read them all there.  It was necessary to leave the country, and all of the distractions of my home, in order to return myself to square one with Spectators.  I must remind you here, that the reason that I have the Spectator delivered to my door every Friday is that one of my dear brothers has taken out a rolling subscription for me, which will last from now until the end of time.


On Monday my dear friend Gail Dyson from Elizabeth Way Funeral Directors www.elizabeth-way.co.uk, came to stay.  Gail's approach to her work is guided by compassion and love.  There is nothing dark and gloomy about Elizabeth Way's premises, there is nothing sombre, distant or formal there.  There are cups of tea, brightly painted rooms and a great deal of care and understanding about the terrible confusion and pain into which we plunge when we lose someone we love.  Not only does Gail run her Funeral business, she is a celebrant, and bereavement counselor, a Soul Midwife and now the founder of a local charity helping children to deal with bereavement, called Roxie's Rainbows www.roxiesrainbows.org.uk. It won't surprise you either to know that Gail is blonde, beautiful, witty and amusing.  You can see why we get on.

On Tuesday we had our Soul Midwives meeting.  It stared early with a meditation with Gail on compassion. This was her idea entirely, my meditations are usually a mental free for all revolving around shopping lists and imaginary dialogues with my mother; but Gail is a Buddhist and has a wonderful simple and effective approach to life.  It is so important for us Soul Midwives to keep meeting each other to examine our work and our effectiveness.  We practice in very different ways, Gail as a funeral director, Nigel as a community palliative care nurse, Bex as a wise woman in her community and the founder of the Rainbows End project, care home and forest school in the making, Cathy is looking to become a celebrant, and Mandy is a healer and a Soul Midwife; Mandy sits with terminally ill people for Macmillan and chats, listens, helps and makes them laugh.  As for me, I realised at this meeting that I am principally an artist.  That is where my gift lies, and from there, all my other work comes.  Painting for A Graceful Death is what I can do to make a difference, and it involves Soul Midwifery in all stages of making a painting.  I work with someone who wants to be painted, and I ask them, Who are you?  What will you say now, and what can you tell us?  I make them visible and show everyone that they are ill, they are dying, they look like this today, and they are not hidden.  And until they die, they are alive and look!  This is what they look like and this is what they say.  It is a powerful experience to work with someone who is dying, or someone who has faced the prospect of dying, and to ask them to tell us who they are, today, now, at this moment.  And then to paint it for all eternity.

Tuesday was a day of talking, of listening and of advising.  We need feedback, we all need to articulate how and what we are doing, and to listen to not only how it sounds, but whether it is working or not.  So Tuesday was filled with passion, ideas, discussions, challenges and lunch.  Lunch consisted of things we brought to add to the table, and everyone thought they would buy the puddings so, quite rightly, we dined on mince pies, cheesecake, biscuits, doughnuts and teeny glitter fairy cakes.  Good, we cried as one voice, as Soul Midwives we need to feed our souls, and nothing does this better than strong tea and a lunch of only cakes.

Bex, wise, patient and kind Bex, stayed the night on Tuesday and by Wednesday midday, we had completely reorganised the world to our liking, and knew exactly what we were going to do.  Or perhaps, Bex had completely reorganised my world, and I knew what I was going to do. This is the plan -

10am Thursday 29 November was the anniversary of Steve's death.  Steve's funeral was a terrible experience for me, and I remember thinking at the time, thinking through that terrible fug and confusion and horror at what was happening, that I have to do another one, a proper one, where I can recognise the man I lost, and where I am part of the proceedings.  But I have not been able to face it.  Bex and I talked of a way that I could do this, and six years after he died, next November, I will have a memorial that will put to rest that terrible day. Bex did point out that a full Viking Burial where I send a burning boat out to sea from Bognor beach wouldn't work.  It would get caught in Bognor Pier, and set it alight and then I would have to go to prison.  My house wouldn't get a blue plaque when I die, it would get turned into a rehabilitation centre for grieving pyrotechnics where they would learn that one of the best ways to remove yourself from everyone's Christmas card and party lists, is to have full Viking Funeral under Bognor Pier.  Don't do it, they would say, don't do it.  You don't want to end up like that.

I went into where Alan was working at my dining room table, to tell him that it was Steve's anniversary, and that at 10am, he had died.  I started to cry and Alan gave me such a lovely hug and said that I of all people, should know that today would be hard, and to give into it.  Alan was, and always has been, so kind and supportive, so full of good advice, I am very lucky indeed. I am glad he was there.

So Thursday was a difficult day in which to concentrate.  I tried to work on the book that I am illustrating about a little girl witch called Isi, but it was slow work.  I tried to paint the Angels commissioned for Christmas, but they all looked a bit spaced out.  This is what happens, on anniversary days, and I can tell other people that it is normal, and to expect a slow and sad day, but for myself I was strangely ignorant.

And now, Friday, we come to the end of the week.  We come back to the sofas, to Eileen, and to the Spectator.  The Spectator is safely out of sight, and Eileen and I are safely on the sofas, each doing her own thing, together but apart.  Tomorrow, Saturday, is another day.  The week has been full, fun and at times, sad.  It is time to go to bed now, and to start again in the morning.  I am spending tomorrow in the studio and Eileen is going to take photos and films of Bognor and of me.  I need my beauty sleep, so that if Eileen does film me, I can say Oh!  I always look as fresh as this.  No, I never even think about it.  I never go to bed early on the off chance that someone will take a picture of me the next day, I am just so natural.

I shall not mention either that the blog is a day late, because I am hoping that you haven't noticed, and because the world hasn't ended, it may just be all right.