Sunday 18 December 2016

On falling in love

Chapter One

I have decided to be in love.  There is someone I know well, but am not always very nice to, who could do with some attention.  To mark this rather revolutionary thought, I decided to cook a wonderful meal.

When our lives become difficult, when we face losses, setbacks, upheavals and sadnesses, there is one person to whom we tend to be unkind.  There is one person to whom we speak roughly, and for whom forgiveness and tolerance is slow in forming.  This person suffers terribly from not only the situation in which they find themselves, but from dismissal and lack of kindness from ourselves.  We judge them faulty and we refuse to give in.  This is the person I have asked to my dinner.

Antonia, meet Antonia.  She's an old friend, and someone you could really love.  In fact, falling in love with her is probably the best thing you could both do.

The person who could most do with our kindness, tolerance and forgiveness, is ourselves.

Sitting on my sofa, sitting on Alan's sofa, I decided to fall in love with myself.

The place where the love affair started

Chapter Two

Alan died eight weeks ago today.  We, his family and I, have had eight weeks without him and we are doing well.  I am doing well, I have given myself time off to rest and recover in Alan's house, and that is what I am doing.  I have a list of things to do, all of which are about not doing.  I'm not going out.  I'm not doing anything I don't want to do, I am not answering the phone and I am not ready to be involved in the world outside.  Most definitely I am not stinting on butter and cheese.

But living here, inside, time moves slowly.  I can do things like watching television, like making tea, like having a bath, these are good things and they are about recovery.  There are many excellent things I can do to make myself feel pampered and I can give in to all the things I want, so that I can please myself and take some of the hardness out of the fact that I am a widow.  So.  Mince pies are the answer.  I eat six and that was very nice and after they are finished, nothing much has changed.  Alan isn't coming home. Another six and I begin to doubt mince pies are the answer.  I don't look forward to them much now so perhaps they were only temporary.  The same with television, despite being able to watch back to back police car chase documentaries which I love.  After many days of this, hour after hour, my back hurts and I know how to be a cop, and still I have to turn off the television.  I still have to experience the silence after the show, I still have to walk from the sitting room to another room, and in that action, step back into the fact that I am here, on my own, and somehow this rest and recovery that I have wisely decided to do, is in fact nothing but long periods of nothingness.  I don't know what I should be doing, not really, except that I can do anything that I want.  What do I want?  Well, I want to feel less awful.

I can do my crying and I can feel huge gatherings of grief in my stomach.  I can speak to my family and friends and they are good and kind.  Sometimes I am so blinking angry with Alan for being such a difficult person when he was alive because now I can't do anything about it.  I can't go back and give him fantastic one line answers to make him gasp in admiration.  I can't go back and win, which would have made me feel much better at the time.  This makes me point my finger at his photo on the wall and tell him off.  He just smiles back at me, and so I stop and think, as usual, that didn't work.

Sometimes I remember just how kind he was and I am horrified at how I took it all for granted.  Sitting in his house with all his things, without him, I begin to understand how much he loved the view from the sitting room over the Sussex Downs.  I begin to understand how brilliant it is to spend a whole evening watching telly, which is what he loved to do and I hated.  I don't watch television and thought (until now) it wastes time, and so I huffed and puffed and did other more worthwhile things but he wasn't bothered.  I'm fine, he would say, and when you're ready come and watch this amazing programme with me.  Huff, I would say, I'm busy being productive,  I will give it some thought after this virtuous thing I am doing is done.  And now, I am doing the same thing as Alan did, on his very sofa, and loving it.  Damn, I say to myself with shame, I wish I had watched more tense TV dramas with him.  I understand it now.

Time passes whatever we do or don't do.  And I try to fill this time with healthy healing in an ordered and upbeat way, so that when this period of mourning is over, I get back into my former life to carry on older and wiser.  This is not how it happens though.  This time, this long slow time creeps into my days and nights and says to me, I am still here.  I am sitting with you always, and when you cannot fill me up, it all comes back to us, to you and me and silence.  Time is ticking away from the moment of Alan's death, time is what I have given myself to recover, and time is the thing I am trying to fill.

Little memory spot going upstairs.  Alan loved flowers.

Sitting in silence here, sitting in the time I can't fill, I think about all the things that Alan and I did, and didn't do.  I think about who I was when we met, and who I became.  I think about him, and how much I still don't know about him, I remember how marvelous he was. How much he taught me, how patient he was, how wise and insightful he could be.  I think about the unkind things he did too, and how I was so naive, about how I had to grow up and find inner strength.

Sitting in this silence when the police documentaries, the border control documentaries and the mince pies all have faded away, I think, there is someone I am avoiding.  To stop doing all this thinking, time filling, waiting and remembering means I come back to myself.  I am at the centre of all this and I am hoping not to get myself too involved.  And so, if I were to suddenly meet myself now, in this room on this sofa, what would I do?  I tried to imagined how I would feel if someone like me walked into the room and sat down next to me.  I was filled with sadness and compassion with this thought.  I was moved by how quiet and alone the figure that I had imagined looked.  In my mind, I thought, this is serious, and this person needs my attention.  In my mind, I thought, if this is me, I know what to do.

Taking imaginary Antonia's hands in mine, I say,

"I love you.  You poor thing, this is hard for you, sit down and tell me about yourself."

"At last, you really understand.  My chest is hurting, my eyes are sore and I cannot work this thing out. "

"Antonia, " I say, still holding my own hands, "let's spent time together.  We will consult ourselves and understand ourselves, after all, this whole time right now is about us.  Let us talk now, and after, I will cook us dinner.  Whatever we eat, it will involve butter and cheese."

Later, as I was preparing a candle lit meal for one, I decided that I was going to fall in love with myself.  I had invited myself to dinner, and this was a celebration of my love.

I am of course, one person.  To love myself is always the answer.  But I don't really know how.  Falling in love with myself seems a beautiful way to proceed.  It involves being aware of myself, listening to myself, taking care of myself as if I were precious and seeing myself as truly worthy.  It involves sitting in the silences and letting time just pass.  It involves taking time to know what is happening when all the distractions are done, and accepting it.

Watching the sun rise of a morning with candles and pot of tea.  

Of course, falling in love is the first stage.  When I am more used to myself and can see more of my flaws, when I annoy myself by forgetting to put the rubbish out, I will be in a more permanent relationship with myself.  I will have put in place the foundations, I hope, of a lasting effort to love and take care of myself.  But right now, taking myself in hand, asking myself if I am managing, is wonderful.  Here is a list of the things I have done with and for myself

  1. We have early nights.  I read a book on sleep recommended by Alan's son, and now I understand all about sleep.
  2. We have lovely evening meals.  We eat them in front of the telly which we turn off at the right time because now we have strict bedtimes.
  3. We bought ourselves the most expensive candle in the world from Neals Yard shops, and laughed in the face of caution.
  4. We get up early every morning and watch the dawn rise with candles. We wrap up on the sofa with a pot of tea, and think in the silence and feel calm.  We also light the most expensive candle from Neals Yard and tell ourselves that when it runs out, we will simply buy another.  That feels like freedom.
  5. We have discovered, thanks to my daughter and son in law, walking on the Sussex Downs.  We go there and laugh in the wind, and avoid the cows.   

On the Downs, cows probably avoiding me

   Chapter Three

Mum and me 
Over the last year and a half I have loved and lost my mother, my youngest brother and my husband. Each death leaves us changed and each dying leaves a legacy.  My mother's death left a legacy of love, my brother's death left a legacy of wisdom, and my husband's death left a legacy of magnificence.  I am in a place of recovery now, to think on the love, wisdom and magnificence of these three people.  They have not left me, and I understand that now.  Nine years ago, when my then partner Steve was dying, he used to say that he would never leave me.  This changed as his health deteriorated, to always being with me.  I was infuriated by this, what kind of talk was that?  I didn't want some airy fairy presence with me, I wanted a strong solid alive  person with arms and legs.  I couldn't bear that always be with me stuff. But I understand it now.  They are always with me, and it is comforting.
Dom and me

Now that they are all dead, and physically disappeared, it is a comfort to feel that somewhere in the back of my mind, somewhere in the silences, somewhere in the middle of a day or night, I get a feeling that they are in the room with me.  But here in this world, where I am still living, it seems it is not just a question of being quiet and taking time out.  Life does not stop because I have hidden from it.  The time that passes through this little place in which I hide, the silences settling here as I take time out, are powerful and revealing if I take myself by the hand, state my intention to learn to love myself better, and let time take over.  There is, in the end, after all, only love.
Alan and me

Thursday 17 November 2016

All is well, all is not well, all is well

On the 23 October, three and a half weeks ago, my darling husband died.  He fought hard at the end, before finally drifting into a deep peace. He died with his brother, his son and me holding him.  As his brother spoke the words commending Alan's soul into the hands of God, Alan died gently and silently.

Mr B.  Wonderful, stubborn and loved.

All is well

One morning, Alan's pain and discomfort was too great for him to convince himself it could be managed at home.  He spoke on the phone to his hospice nurse, who sent the hospice doctor to our house.  The hospice doctor asked to use the phone and after a while, managed to arrange a bed at the hospice where Alan had long been a trustee and had been instrumental in its set up many years ago.  Alan had very much wanted to go to that hospice, if he had to go to one at all, and he was relieved.  Later that afternoon as Alan walked slowly to the car, he told me that he feared he would not see his home again.  I told him that he was going for respite, of course he will be back.  He was dead within the week.

Sleeping peacefully at home while I sit on the sofa, reading or watching telly.

Before we packed his bags for the hospice, the post arrived and in amongst the envelopes was a small Amazon delivery.  My engagement ring had arrived.  I made him sit up, open the parcel, and put it on my finger.  We laughed, it was absurd.  We had married in a hurry on the 22 August when he was so ill in hospital, and when eventually he was allowed home, he set about selecting the engagement ring.  Back to front, he said, it was all back to front.  But I needed a ring, he said, and so we looked on Amazon, selected one, and sent off for it.  The last day that he spent in this house was the day that it arrived, and I take great comfort that I didn't open the parcel on my own later and put it on my own hand.  Thank goodness, I say to myself, he put my engagement ring on before he left for ever.

The care at the hospice was more than we in our daily lives can imagine.  Perhaps this is what true goodness is.  To take seriously someone's suffering, to keep watch for all those who are with the person who is ill, and to show foresight, compassion, tenderness and strength to all.  The nurses, the consultants and the doctors, the volunteers, the housekeeping staff, hold the hospice together as a place where dying is given honour and space.  Alan's condition deteriorated after his admission, his medication having to be constantly reviewed to give him peace, relief and comfort.  When the pain broke through which it did often, it was quickly and efficiently dealt with.  It gave Alan huge reassurance and relief, and it enabled us, his family and friends to be just that, family and friends, and to spend quality time with him.  We could focus on loving him, and being there for each other, knowing that Alan's pain was under control.

A few hours before he died, as he lay unconscious, his breath rattling and his face pale, two nurses raised his bed, and quietly stripped his crumpled sheets and pyjamas, washed him gently, shaved him beautifully and brushed his hair.  They remade his bed with crisp, fresh sheets, put clean pyjamas on him and placed the most beautiful brightly multi coloured knitted blanket over his sheet.  I watched them from the spare bed in the corner, where I and Alan's son, would stay.  Here is great care, I thought.  Here is care from the heart, care that cannot be thanked, here are two ladies who do this day and night for people, gently, kindly, taking the initiative because it is the right thing to do.  And that blanket -  Alan would love that blanket.  He would smile because he would know I  would love that blanket!

And so, later that night, at 10.15, we three sat together holding him as he quietly, with very little warning, ceased to breathe just as Alan's brother was praying for the commendation of his soul.  His son and I were watching him, holding his hands, and all of us loving him in our hearts.  When it was over, when the nurses told us to take our time with him before we washed and laid him out, I saw that there were no flowers in the room.  I took the two little model aeroplanes he'd brought in with him and put them on his pillow instead.  There, I thought, they will fly you away up into the sky now to your next life.

All is not well

Alan's son and his brother left the hospice some hours later and I did not.  I was not able to leave Alan and felt that if I did go, he would know and feel afraid.  I stayed, talking to him and crying a little, packing my bags, sitting down and holding his hand, and then continuing to pack my bags until well into the early hours. I had changed into my own pyjamas earlier in the evening, and could almost imagine that we were both just getting ready for bed, not that he had just died and I was packing up my things to leave him for ever. He looked fine, he looked well, just very, very still.  He was no longer breathing those little breaths, there was no tension in his face, and he looked beautiful.  Clean shaven, hair brushed, just as he would have wanted to look with his favourite maroon coloured polo shirt, and that bright, happy, colourful blanket.  And his two little aeroplanes, those two little planes he loved that reminded him of flying with his father when he was a boy, on each side of his pillow.  Very masculine, I said to him, very manly.  I wondered if he was still hovering somewhere in the ether and could hear me, but I didn't feel anything.  Just my own sadness and a reluctance to go home.

Holding Alan's hand, one of the aeroplanes, the colourful blanket and, my engagement ring.

Let us know when you go, a nurse had said, come and find us.  Don't leave without telling us.

It was raining heavily outside.  Pulling my suitcase behind me on its little wheels along the silent dimly lit hospice corridors, I found the nurses and told them that I was leaving.  It was 3am.  In my dressing gown, pyjamas and slippers, pulling my suitcase, I walked into the storm outside followed by a kind and experienced nurse, making sure I reached the right car and was fit to drive. It felt very Shakespearean with the wind and rain manifesting outside what I was feeling inside.  Wet through, my cold, soggy dressing gown clinging to me and my slippers slippery on the pedals with the rain, I said goodbye to the nurse, himself wet through now, and left the hospice without knowing how I would ever sleep again.

I went to my daughter and son in law's house, and lay down for my first night of widowhood, wet through, and cried.

All is well.

In the days spent sitting in silence with Alan before he died, I told him that he had been my greatest teacher.  I spoke to him of the gifts he had given me, of how he had shown me how to live, how to be myself and how to speak my truth.  I told him he was magnificent, and that I would miss him.  Of course I told him I loved him, that is a given, but I wanted to tell him more, of the deeper and more powerful things that one person can give another.  I told him I knew of his greatness, of his strength, of his wonder.  Some of the times I couldn't speak, and I couldn't find the words, and so I stayed silent and hoped that he would know, somehow, in his silent unconscious world, he would understand with the greater powers that the dying may have, that I could not find the words to articulate his wonder to me.

And now, after the funeral, after the celebration of his life that we held last week, I sit in his chair here in his home and I try to work out where this heavy sadness is located in my body.  Ah, it is coming from my chest.  My heart is heavy, and the heart holds love and loss.  Today, I collected his ashes.  I walked a mile to the next village through the autumn winds, through the swirling leaves as they flew about me, and collected a black carrier bag containing what is left of Alan.  He went out in style, in his full American Football kit, and I wondered if the ashes of his special football trousers were mixed in with them.  Walking home, I have put the ashes next to the television.  He loved his television, and next to them is his American football and on top of them, is a framed, signed photograph of his hero, John Wayne.

Alan went out in full American Football gear, in great and fitting style

In the days before Alan died, there was a night in the hospice where I was overcome with grief.  Leaving Alan sleeping, I went into the Sanctuary, a room set aside for prayer, meditation, thinking and peace. Sitting on a chair, I gave in to the tears I wouldn't cry in the room with Alan, and cried.  I tried to pray, and couldn't.  I tried to think of my brother Dominic who had recently died, and couldn't.  I tried to stop crying, and couldn't.  Into this bleakness came thoughts of my mother, also recently dead, and in my distress, I felt her put her arms around me,  It was not quite that she put her arms around me, more that I felt her pass through me, I felt her presence and knew that she was with me.  I felt that in my mind I saw her like the wind, a gentle wind blowing through me and bringing comfort that filled me with calm.  My crying stopped, the storm passed, and deep peace entered the room.  I am not alone, my mother is with me and now, I am calm. I went back to Alan knowing all was well, all was how it should be, and that I could do this.

I found this prayer from Alan left in the Sanctuary and took it.  I felt God would read it whether it was in my purse or in a pile of prayers in a hospice.  It says Please pray for Antonia Rolls, my new wife, who is providing me with such wonderful care. Alan.

There is a legacy when someone dies.  The legacy is in the relationships of those left behind, to each other and in memory of the departed.  The legacy of my remarkable Alan is visible in the love shown by his family, his friends and his colleagues to him and to all those around them.  In the sadness of his death, the most overwhelming emotion shown by all around him, is love.  The sadness is there, oh it is there.  But the kindness of all those around him, in his world and in his family, is a great testimony to a great man.

Alan was someone who focused on the path in front of him.  He bent down to look at all the details beneath his feet, noticing each blade of grass, each pebble and how the path was constructed and where it was going.

I am someone who lives high above the ground, I am comfortable in the space amongst the stars and the clouds, loving the space and the magnificence of the sky.

Alan's gift to me was to take me by the hand and pull me back down to the ground.  Look, he would say, look at all this detail.  See how all this is significant, focus on all the things here on this path, this is deeply important.  And my gift to Alan was to take him by the hand and lift him up into the sky and say Look at the space up here!  It is safe, and magnificent, and there is magic and wonder up here.  This is also deeply important.

Thank you dear, dear Mr Bedford, from Mrs Bedford, with love.

All is well.  Summer last year, all is well.

Wednesday 12 October 2016

On the mystery of taking care of oneself

Look after yourself.

Alan, my husband, is ill.  He has terminal bowel cancer.  He takes his pills, is prescribed morphine for his pain, and we take a great deal of care to make him happy, to make him comfortable and to do what we can for the best.  He is a strong character.  He knows what he wants, and is extremely perceptive and intelligent.  This all helps, and I am so grateful that he makes his decisions and articulates his needs so well.

My job is to do what I can, and to be here with love.  I can do that, and it isn't difficult.  What is difficult is to remember to look after myself.

Be kind to yourself!

say the nurses, the neighbours, my family and friends to me, and I say of course!  I will! Thank you!  But I have very little idea of what that means.  What does it mean?  Be kind to myself.  Look after myself. Ok, I'll have an Indian takeaway and order some shoes from Amazon. I will give myself cakes, some more tea, I will have more bubbles in my bath. And yet, I don't really want more bubbles.  I will have the cake, and the takeaway, because like a hamster I will always eat and if I could store it all in my cheeks too I would, but I don't really feel any better.  The shoes arrive but they don't make Mr B, my husband, any better, and all the time, I feel a little bit sad and a little bit low.

Wearing my new shoes to visit Mr B in hospital today, getting my priorities right
There are two of us in this dance, this dance towards the end of this life for Mr B.  His cancer is defining his journey, and he is dealing with it day by day, moment by moment, all the time, and I am with him all the way.  But I don't have cancer, and I am also an observer, I am in another space to him and I can only go so far.  We hold hands, we talk, we know the score and we talk about our preparations for the future (both mine and his), but I can only watch as his illness takes its toll.  There are two of us in this dance, and though we are holding each other, we have different steps.

I am well.  Thank you, I am well.  I think I am looking after myself, I think I am being kind to myself, whatever that means.  I wonder, does it mean that with proper self care, that I will be wiser, have more energy, be less sad, make better decisions?  It may well do, it may well mean that I cope better with watching my Mr B being unwell.

But I am already coping well with Mr B's cancer.  I am already wise and energetic, and I do know the score.  My decisions are made only with Mr B, and as for the sadness, well - that just is.  For both of us.  Perhaps when I am encouraged to look after myself and be kind to myself, it means not only that people mean well but that they feel powerless too, that it is a statement of understanding that there is very little else anyone can say to me.  And here is the funny thing, it makes me feel powerless too.  It makes me feel as if I haven't been doing it right, and sends me into a little spiral of doubt.  This little spiral of doubt is probably because I think that I am absolutely fine, on the surface, and have been ignoring the little suggestions my body is giving me that I am not absolutely fine.  (How could I be?  Precisely. Wake up.)

It has been on the one hand, a very busy time.  Mr B has a routine that works for us and there is always much to do.  Household things, practical things, caring things.  I have my family and a tiny bit of my outside life I still deal with, taking time away from the house when it's possible.  On the other hand, there is so much time.  Sitting with Mr B when he is resting and sleeping is good for both of us, and when the jobs are done, we love to spend an evening together watching television and chatting.  Nothing gets done, and time goes by, it is a different kind of busy completely.  I am amazed at how calm I am as the days go by, and I am pleased by the lovely little things that Mr B and I order online for the household and for the sheer hell of it.  But recently, he went back into hospital for a few nights in great pain, and I came home on my own.  It was after a second night of hardly any sleep that I began to realise that this is a symptom of not knowing how to really look after myself.  It wasn't just these two nights that I have not slept, it is every night that I don't sleep.  I just noticed it when Mr B wasn't in his bed in the sitting room.

I am tired when I go to bed but I don't want to sleep.  My body resists it, my mind resists it, and I have been pretending to myself that this is not the case.  And what is more, I want to eat all the time. I want to eat things I don't normally eat, like huge white bread sandwiches in the middle of the night, and chocolates.  I am not hungry but I want food.  I want comfort, I want to feel content, I want to save myself from feeling the sadness.  And I can't sleep because I don't want to let go.

I haven't spoken to anyone about this business of looking after myself, of being kind to myself.  I thought I was looking after myself - in many good ways I am.  I have a lovely memory foam mattress for my bed, I have baths in the afternoon when the sun is shining into the bathroom and the house is full of flowers.  Mr B certainly seems as shiny and comfortable as he can be, and it is a well known fact that if he wasn't shiny and comfortable, he would let me know.  But the deep, silent, inside places, the vulnerable places where I don't want to go, where I fear the difficult feelings, are not being addressed.  And so, I am not sleeping well, I am wanting to eat sandwiches in the night, and all my body is aching.  Being kind to myself, looking after myself, means paying particular and dedicated attention to these parts of me, and looking them directly in the eye, so to speak.

Here is what I will do.  Solutions.  Plans.

Acknowledge that I am not meant to be on top form all the time.  And when I am asked how I am, which I am a lot, by caring, compassionate, kind family and friends, blinking well tell them if I am tired, or craving deep fried mars bars with custard.

Tell myself it's safe, it's fine, to feel lost and low, tell myself that anyone who is walking the cancer journey with a loved one, will feel very sad at times.

Take up yoga.

Buy more shoes.

Wearing my awesome wife t shirt and drinking from my Mrs mug, spoilt rotten by Mr B.


Having written this, it seems that looking after myself, being kind to myself, is not so much a physical act, but more of an exercise in self awareness and courage.  My husband is suffering from a cancer that will not get better.  He is often in pain and coping with a disease that will end his life. Of course I won't be sailing through this as if all it takes is a bit of planning and some late night snacks.  Of course there will be consequences for me and for all his family and friends, and I bet I am not the only one craving white bread and butter sandwiches in the early hours because I can't sleep.

It seems that this looking after myself, being kind to myself is an ongoing thing.  It must be this way for all of us. and perhaps, in the long run, we all get by somehow.  I will keep you updated.

Mr B tonight with supper, newspaper and on the telly, football.  Perfect.

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Mr B, still in hospital, still smiling.

Life.  An update.

Alan, still in hospital, still smiling.
The inner life

Making space to journey with someone who is terminally ill is best done consciously.  Changes are needed in all areas of the life of the person who is ill. The ripple effect includes family, friends, acquaintances, passers by and all those professionals who take part in this final journey.  Those of us caught in the ripple effect, especially those of us closest to the person who is dying, are required to stop and take notice, slow down, and as far as is possible, become present.

Becoming present, slowing down, being patient.

I have been learning much about patience recently. It has been necessary, and I have been made aware of how much patience is needed in life, if we are to understand and connect with what is happening around us.  I have made a decision to enter a state of patience many times over the last year, and have become aware of what this means. It means that I surrender my time and accept that for as long as is needed, within reason, I have stopped wishing to do anything else but sit where I am. I am learning to step away from time passing as a thing to be watched, and to let go of wanting to do, to learn how to simply be.  A Qi Gong teacher once told me about smiling from the heart, and so I do what I think is smiling from the heart.  This makes the stepping away from time as doing, into a more profound experience of time as being. The idea is that I am much nicer while being, which will come as a huge relief to those around me.

Holding hands in silence with Mr B

On a practical level, when I am sitting with someone who is ill, it is my decision to sit with them, I am under no obligation.  There is often nothing that can be said, and so entering into a state of gentle patience, is a discipline that I am delighted to practice. I remember once, a while ago, sitting through the early hours of the morning in a hospice, and noticing as I took my seat that it was 4am.  These early hours are long and silent and dark, and I remember making the decision to be patient.  There was nothing else I could do, and if I was to sit as I intended, then that was all that I could do.  The morning would come at some point, things would change with the day. Eventually, when I looked at the clock as the morning was dawning, I saw that it was 8am and that four hours had gone by.  Four hours and nothing had changed, except that the day had come, and I had learned a valuable lesson.  I had learned that patience is a discipline, a state of mind, and when it is needed, it is very powerful indeed.  The time spent by that bedside was neither easy nor hard.  It was neither long nor short.  It was a time of silent giving and receiving, a time of respect and love, a time of offering the only thing I could offer in those circumstances, my time and my willingness to stay.  In order to do those things, I had to practice patience.

When I left the bedside at 10am, I was very tired indeed, and needed to take time to come back to myself, to sleep, to have a pot of tea, and to be and do all the things that made me who and what I am.

The same idea of patience was needed in the hospital with my son in law and my daughter, when she was experiencing a long and painful labour with their son.  The hours, the days, so much time passed, and I made the decision to practice loving patience then too.  And in fact, the long hours waiting for a baby to be born were not dissimilar to those long hours by the bedside of someone who is waiting to die.

Practising patience, loving patience and kindness, giving time willingly, and learning to strive for authenticity, are lessons that benefit us in all areas of our lives.  Though I accept that giving time willingly in a traffic jam and practising loving patience and kindness when someone queue jumps, or when our children drive us to distraction is quite something else.  I haven't totally got there yet.  I can still say rude things to people who annoy me. This patience, this discipline of patience, is a state that I am still learning to inhabit, when it is important that I focus and give the gift of my time and attention.  I am, it is, a work in progress.

The outer life

So this is where I am now.  I live in Mr Bedford's little house on the High Street for the while, and I am married.  I am married of course to Mr Bedford, and as such I am now Mrs Bedford.

Mr Bedford is still in hospital.  He is due out in a few days time, and I am here getting the house ready for his return.  When he returns, he will be driven down the little back lane, come in through the back garden full of flowers and colour, he will be helped up some little wooden steps to the decking outside the sitting room, and into his new bedroom in the sitting room overlooking this wonderful garden, and beyond that to the village green, and beyond that, in the distance, to the tennis club where for so many years, he has been and still is, famous as a player, an ex chairman and quite simply for being Alan Bedford. .

Mr Bedford, Alan, my husband, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in April this year, on the very day that my youngest brother, Dominic, died of the same cancer.  For a while, Alan underwent all that was prescribed for him, taking his diagnosis, his chemotherapy, and his failing health in his stride. But there was always pain, great pain, great discomfort, and Alan found that when he was feeling bad, he was feeling very very bad indeed.  And when, somehow, the medication worked, he could get by quite well.

Three weeks ago, Alan and I visited a dear friend. We sat in the sunshine in her beautiful, extensive gardens, eating cake and drinking tea, talking of his illness, and talking of life in general.  We were not married then, and there seemed to be time ahead of us.  Plenty of time, and in that garden in the sunshine we talked of many things while feeling that whatever was ahead of us truly was ahead of us.  It wasn't with us yet.

That night Alan began to experience dreadful pain, such dreadful pain that the next day he could not make it to his GP a few hundred yards from his home, and had to be taken from the street by a kind passer by in a car to the surgery from where he was taken by ambulance to A&E.

Three weeks later, things have changed for us.  Alan is still in hospital, having undergone abdominal surgery that discovered that there is no more treatment for him.  His cancer is denser, there is no more need for chemotherapy, and his life expectancy is drastically reduced.  In this difficult time, on a Thursday afternoon, 18 August, on the ward as he drifted in and out of consciousness, we decided to get married.  Alan felt he may not recover enough to wait for a wedding in the time it normally takes to arrange, and so on Monday 22 August at 9.30 am I collected the special licence from the registry office and at 11.30, in a room made wonderful by Alan's family with flowers, bunting, a full cream tea and balloons, we were married.  My family was there, Alan's family were there, and it was at once a joyful and tearful occasion. Mr B was so ill I had to wake him up to respond to our vows of marriage. I am not, I said with extreme loving kindness and patience, marrying a man who can't look at me.


With our marriage, I have moved into Alan's house and have prepared it for the delivery of his hospital bed and other equipment later today, with a view to Alan coming home at some point soon.  We will begin our married life here, and end it here.  Both of us look forward to our time in this house together.  We know the score, and with help from the palliative care team, the hospice team, the carers and the district nurses, with help from Alan's family and friends, my family and friends, there is much to look forward to.  I spend time each day in the hospital and come home to a quiet little house. Soon Alan will be here, and when he is here, things will change again.  We will enter our next phase of this extraordinary thing called life, and we will see where it leads us next.

My husband and I just after the wedding with grandson George who has no time (or patience) with hospitals or weddings or anything like that, he just wants to bash things.

But George did get to bash Alan's chair earlier on 

Monday 25 July 2016

Not yet the final set, Mr B x

Setting the Scene part I

Mr Bedford and I sit together in the early morning in our hotel room in Eastbourne.  The sun is shining, the seagulls are seagulling, and the fresh sea breeze blows in through the open windows of our room.  We are here this weekend so that Mr B can play tennis.  He has been an enthusiastic member of the Active Away Tennis Holidays for years now, playing abroad and playing in the UK, and loving every minute of it.  This particular short break is held on the grass courts at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne, and we have come here together so that he can play as much tennis as he can, and I can have a break and watch him play.

The session has started on the courts opposite our hotel, and soon, we will go and join them.  This is day two, yesterday Mr B played far more tennis than we expected, pushing against his illness, and causing the tennis coaches and teams to call him #inspirational.

Mr B is wearing a bright blue shirt, and a white baseball cap making his 6'4" frame very visible.  I am wearing a pretty halter neck summer dress, lots of sunscreen, and pink lipstick.  The scene is set, our day will now begin.  You get the picture.  One of us who is very healthy will sit down a lot, and the other who is not well, will play tennis.

Mr B wears a jaunty blue top and plays on

Setting the Scene part II

Mr Bedford, Alan, is my other half.  We have been together for most of the past eight years.  He is tall, athletic, sports mad, clever, independent, driven, competitive.  We are wonderful together, we are total opposites, and we drive each other batty too.  And so, over the last eighteen months, my competitive, focused, tennis mad, clever, kind Mr B began to suffer intermittent heart beat issues, though not enough to stop him winning tennis cups as recently as October 2015.  As it got steadily worse, by early 2016 he began to suffer various aches and pains that were completely different. The GP didn't examine him, or refer him.

We went on a wonderful holiday in Madrid in March, where Alan agreed to come to the art galleries if I would come to a Real Madrid football match with him.  It was fabulous, the art galleries were glorious and the football match - well, it was so exciting.  Alan knew everything about the game and the staduim,  I was delighted to note that not only was the big outdoor stadium well heated, but that the passionate, shouting, excitable fans all sat down at half time and took out foil wrapped sandwiches of salami and large white rolls of bread.  I imagined their mothers packing proper snacks so that the wildly excitable fans would have a sensible food break before standing up and shouting again.

Half time at the Real Madrid match, with all the passion of the fans diverted into their healthy snacks

Madrid was wonderful but it was noticeably hard for Alan to keep up with the walking.  His energy was low, he was breathless, and despite the absolutely wonderful time we had, he didn't feel well.  I didn't give it a second thought.  Mr B is always fine, he is in control, he knows exactly what he is doing, he is Mr B!  When I think back at how blase I was about his need to stop, to rest and to get his breath, I am horrified.

At home, Alan's health got worse and worse.  I was very sorry but carried on with my busy life. Nothing seemed to work, nothing was relieving Alan of his symptoms, and it seemed that things were getting serious.  I was incredibly busy, but wasn't too worried about Alan, and hoped he would recover soon.  He always knew what to do.  I left Alan to sort himself out, thinking it was only a matter of time before all was well again.

During all this, my brother Dominic was dying.  He had been dealing with his cancer for over a year, and things were getting bad for him.  My other brothers and I took our father up to see him in Edinburgh where he lived, and we all knew the end was coming.  I am a soul midwife, I had arranged with Dom to come at the end to stay and to be there when he died.  As I waited for the time to come for me to go up and stay with him, as Dominic's next of kin, I prepared for his dying, his death and what would happen afterwards.

Late one night I arrived at the hospice in Edinburgh, slipped my hand into Dom's hand and stayed in his room with him until he died quietly and with grace three days later.  On the day that he died, as I sat with the nurse going over the death certificate, a call from Alan came through.  He had been to see a different doctor who immediately referred him and within a few hours, he had had a terminal diagnosis of cancer with secondaries.

I am, said Alan on that phone call, stuffed.

The next stage

Immediately after this call my phone rang again and a man's voice asked if I had any spaces to do some Reiki for him.  He wasn't feeling very good and he'd heard that Reiki was effective.  I took his name and number and said I'd call him back.  I hoped he'd think I was busy doing Reiki and much in demand, I hoped he didn't suspect I was sitting next to the dead body of my brother and trying to process the news that my partner, who's health and presence I had utterly taken for granted, had just been given his own terminal diagnosis.  I did call him back, but I am not sure the Reiki he eventually received was any good.

 My dear, strong, wonderful Alan has the same cancer that Dominic had.  The same cancer that Steve had.  Each time this happens, it is as if it is the first time.  Each person it happens to, it is the first time.

Of course he is having treatment, and of course he is fully in control.  We have time, we have some time, and while we all, his family, his friends, me, him, all get our heads around this, life goes on.  Alan has said that he wants a good life now, within his cancer and the chemo, and that he has lost the need to be driven.  That is true, Alan is much sweeter and it moves me that he is amazed that people are so kind to him.  Of course they are.  He is noticing now how much people like and love him, work and competitive sport are no longer in the way. But he is very weary and without his medication, can be in much pain.  His son and I take it in turns to accompany him to his chemo every two weeks, and we, his son and I, consider it a great pleasure to spend this time with him there. It is the equivalent of down time with Mr B, which in the past, would not have been easy to do.  Work, deadlines, action, sport, doing things, getting on were what motivated Alan once.  Now, paradoxically, an afternoon having chemo means we all get to chill with him, chat, read papers, sit around, and eat sandwiches. And he is amused at how this has turned out too.

Resting, catching breath, before going back on court

How am I?

Up and down, thank you for asking.  Mr B is philosophical, practical and realistic.  We take our lead from him.  But I get such sad moments and have decided to live as much as I can, as he is doing, in the present.  We are having such lovely times together, but I get lonely in advance.  Then I shake myself out of it and think, lucky me, I still have Mr B today and right now, so let's get on with enjoying that.  Mr B's illness has made me stop and take my own health into account.  I tend to ignore my own body and mind, I think I am too busy and important to stop and smell the roses in my garden.  I'll be fine, I say, don't ask me. I'm busy.  I am trying to do what Dominic did, listen to my body and really hear it.  I am trying to take stock of myself.  And the funny thing is, sometimes I don't feel right, and sometimes I do feel ill, and that is fine.  The world doesn't stop, and if I tell people, they are nice and no one thinks I am weak and making it all up.  I am in the middle of this experience with Alan, and I have to accept that all I need to do, is to say how I am feeling right now.  I have no idea how it will end, where it will end, and what will happen.  But I do know that today is a good day, and there are more good days planned.

In conclusion

It is now lunch time.  Alan has come back from playing tennis, happy, sweating and tired. We order room service and he has a bath.  He asks me what I have said in this blog, and I begin to read it to him but it makes me cry, and have to stop a few times.  He holds my hand and listens, and then being Mr Bedford, suggests some improvements.  I make them.

We sit on our bed eating sandwiches, watching the Grand Prix racing.  Alan knows all about racing too.  He needs rest now, as he will be back on the courts playing in a couple of hours.  As the oldest man on this tennis holiday at 67, with three different health issues (cancer, heart irregularities and lung clots), he's doing well. He didn't expect to get on court at all.  But here we have the essence of Mr B.  Determination, spirit, and rising to the challenge.

We go home tomorrow, and back to chemo on Wednesday.  I will take Alan this week.  We will take our sandwiches in with us, and sit together amongst the drips and tubes and bleeps of the machines, alongside the other patients in the unit, and smile as we plan our next trip away.

My champ xx

Sunday 12 June 2016

After the show, the silences

Part One

Sitting on my sofa in a pink dress with the rain falling outside, all seems as good as it can be.  I say that carefully. I've taken time off to relax, to rest, to recover and so I planned three days at home to stop.  If that is truly what I intended to do, to stop, then all the walls and bridges that one builds to keep upright and moving forward, all those rigid structures necessary to keep from stopping for a moment and noticing how tired you are, fall in around you.  The tight schedules needed to get things done, to take on more and more because you are on a roll and because you can, those tight schedules disintegrate and there is nothing to hold you up. And so, taking time off isn't about sitting down to watch telly while you file your nails and have an extra cup of tea, it is about having nothing to support your busy-ness any more and having all those walls and bridges crash down around you. You feel as if you have lost the plot and that you will never stand up on your own again.  It's quite a surprise.

Part Two

Me and Tash, my dear friend of over thirty years. Director and script editor and boss.
The A Graceful Dying One Woman Show ended a week ago today.  Phew. It has been a learning curve that I knew would be hard but not quite that hard.  It was hard because I required a few gentle metaphorical kicks up the bum to learn to focus and do things properly.  It was great fun too, and working hard with a dedicated friend and director has shown me just how amazing partnerships can be.  My dear old friend of over thirty years, Tasha Yarker, agreed to come and direct.  As with all new things, it wasn't quite as straightforward as two friends agreeing to work together and getting on with it. This was the beginning of my learning curve.

I wanted to do a One Woman Show.  During the Brighton Fringe seemed a good idea, so I found and booked a theatre.  Wonderful, so exciting.  I need a director, I thought, whatever they are, so who better than Tasha and bless her, Tasha with all her experience in the theatre, agreed.

I had begun to fund raise online for this show, and raised enough for Tash to come from Birmingham to Sussex to meet me and work on the show.  Oh how I looked forward to it!  I hadn't even a name for the show, and thought I would probably just make it up as I went along on the stage.  Tasha arrived and asked to see the script.  "I'll make it up!" I said, "as I go along!".  She asked what it was called.  "I have no idea!" I said.  Tasha was a bit quiet and asked me what the show would be about. "Don't know!" I said, then, "Dying! And death!"

"I'm going back to Birmingham," said Tash.  "When you have a show, call me."

I reluctantly agreed to write a script. I was hoping to sit in an armchair on stage and talk to people, making it all up as I went along.  If, said Tash, you want me to direct, you do what I say. When I tried to practice sitting in an armchair making it all up as I went along, I couldn't do it.  It sounded awful, and so I gave in to Tash and let her do her magic. I wrote a script that would keep me talking for three days and nights, telling everything, story after story, and gave it to her feeling I would never be able to do it.

Rehearsals.  Learn your script, says Tash.  Aaaaaw, says I.
From that first script, Tash eventually produced a script that I could understand, follow and learn. She created movement, atmosphere with music, ways in which to tell the story with different props  and she taught me how to speak more clearly.  Because Tash lives in Birmingham, we did many of our rehearsals over Skype, and I repeated my lines over and over again while driving, while shopping, in the bath, to salesmen in shops, to my Dad who has dementia.  "Do your lines while driving in the car," said Tasha, "and exaggerate.  Go overboard.  Ham it up."  Stuck in rush hour traffic on the A3 on my weekly drives to London and back to look after my father, I looked as if I was practising dreadful arguments with a pretend people in my car, with the windows up, as I shouted my lines with extra mouth movements and waved my hands in the air.  I even did it in a Scottish accent to see if that helped me learn them but it didn't.  The accent turned quickly into Hindu and then into a very bad rubbish accent that didn't belong anywhere. Then we hired Katie, our technician, forgot all our sound effects, couldn't load the films, sorted it all out and somehow, we got to our opening night.

Yes, it all went really well!  Yes, I forgot loads of bits on occasion but I managed to sort it out on stage.  The main thing for me was that people were actually there in the audience. I had imagined that I would do the show for seven afternoons to Tasha, Katie and my cousin Maddy, but in fact, loads of people came and I was really touched.  I felt as if I had so much to say, and thanks to Tasha I could really say it.

Just once all the technical stuff broke half an hour before I was due to go on. It stopped - all of it - and we had to delay the start of the show while Katie and her boss worked it all out.  No sound, vision or lights meant either giving people their money back or me going up onto the tiny stage and doing a small cabaret, a few magic tricks and a question and answer session on how to die well. Thank goodness that was not necessary, and Katie sorted something out. It went really well, and by the final night I knew my lines properly, knew all my cues and felt that I could, perhaps, do this.  I am surprised at how hard it was to do it, to keep going, and to remember everything.  I am also surprised at how much  loved doing it, loved meeting the people who came and how sad I am that it is all finished.

A photo from the show, all that hamming it up in the car worked.

Part Three.

And so now, I sit here on my sofa, shell shocked and exhausted.  It isn't just the show, though that was exhausting.  It is because a month before we opened, my youngest brother died.  I was there with him, we had an understanding that I would go up for the end, and it was such a precious time.  The day that Dominic died, another dear closest of friends received a terminal diagnosis, and I remember sitting with the nurse going through Dom's paper work and receiving this call.  It was as if I was attention seeking.  "What?" I said on my mobile phone sitting opposite the hospice nurse while going through Dom's death certificate, "terminal?  How long?  What?  Where are you?"

I realise that even if I wasn't a soul midwife, these deaths would happen.  That they seem to be arriving one after the other is nothing to do with me, but because I am a soul midwife, I will do all I can to do that dance with them as far as I can go, before they take the rest of the journey alone.  There is so much that is deeply personal about all these endings.  I am being shown something of journeys, something of endings and something of living in the shadow of dying.  I don't know how people do it, dying, I just know that they do do it.

So much learning, so much experiencing, so much to understand.

Dominic's grave next to Mum's.  This time last year they were both still here.
Part Four

Bubble baths.  The answer to my exhaustion lies in bubble baths, making a pillow mountain in my bed and watching police documentaries on YouTube. It lies in accepting that all the dreadful chaos and nonsense that goes around in my head now that I have stopped, is simply that.  Chaos and nonsense.  If my body is tired, my mind is very tired.  The best way to deal with that, I have found, is peanut butter and banana on oatcakes.  And pots of tea, and whole mangoes and huge bags of crisps and so on.  Indulgence I think, is a great healer.

I will take time this week to come down, and rise back up again.  The A Graceful Dying One Woman Show will be shown elsewhere, but as yet I don't know where.  The A Graceful Death exhibition will be showing again next year in Kent, for Dying Matters Week, so life, as we all know so well, truly does go on.

I am continuing to be a soul midwife in the community, because no matter how many shows, paintings, books and articles I do, unless I am actually doing the work, what I say will not be authentic.  I love my work though none of it is easy.  I am extremely grateful to be with the people I work with, and happy for the chance to have met them.  When I have got my marbles back, soon, I will go back into the studio and play with my paints.  Painting flowers is what I want to do, and painting big, yellow sunflowers is the best.

And now.  Back to where this blog began.  The sun has come out, the rain has stopped and the air smells lovely.  It is now the afternoon, and this is the best time for a bath filled with bubbles and glitter (you can get these things, bubbly glitter, you just have to be dedicated which I am).  A pot of tea, a jumbo packet of cheesy crisps and some more cops and robbers on YouTube on my phone.  My recovery may take longer than a week.  At this rate, months.

Grandma, let's have another packet of kit kats.

Now.  Fetch Grandma that cheesy wotsit mountain.  Thanks George. 

One of our review printed below for the A Graceful Dying One Woman Show

"An empowering life affirming experience"  by David Rumelle for Remotegoat on 01/06/16

This beautiful show is everything it says graceful,
life affirming, gentle, honest and sincere.
It takes a great deal of strength to write and
perform a subject so close to one's heart and
⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆ ⋆
A Graceful Dying One Woman Show Review…
Saved to Dropbox • 11 Jun 2016, 11:24
personal experience but Antonia Rolls has given
this subject a soul an identity and confronted it
head on. Through it she gives an extraordinary
strength and comfort to an audience who must all
have felt the power and positivity passed on in
this unique presentation.
Drawn largely from personal "first hand"
experience ,on screen interviews, and an
amazing series of personal artwork- depicting
sincere images of friends, family and those
receiving palliative care this hour long
exploration has depth, warmth and sincerity that
brings an otherwise "taboo subject" and
unexplored territory out in into the open and
allows positive reflection in an eloquent and
empowering way.
The reason this presentation such a success is
that writer and performer-Antonia Rolls is not
afraid to push the boundaries and share the most
personal and soul searching moments surrounding
death and bereavement so the show never
becomes maudlin or self indulgent. In short it is a
positive "rock" that leaves us all with an inner
strength and solidarity.
As a carer and mid-wife Antonia takes us into her
confidence and her sensitive writing expresses
what we must have felt, or are feeling right now.
There is a tremendous element of group "healing"
here -in that a first hand experience is shared in
a strong, positive way but ultimately spiritual.
In short- this presentation is for anyone who has
experienced a parting, those who have wondered
how to deal with a loss or bereavement or anyone
trying to advise others. The best compliment one
can give is that the audience leaves feeling
unified, open and ready to talk and further as
indeed many of them did at this first
It succeeds on every level-and I would urge all to
view this experience"-because that's exactly what
it is-interactive,therapy and sharing at it's very

Thursday 19 May 2016

The Show Goes On. Rest, Dom, Rest

Dawn breaks on the first day of eternity

Fr Dominic Rolls, our youngest brother, at last resting.  White roses on his coffin.
The dawn broke today, as it always does.  I woke as I always do, listening to the birds outside beginning to sing, and watching, as I always do, the light coming in through my window.  But this morning I did not wake thinking about the funeral, as I had done over the last few weeks, because Dom had at last spent his first night next to Mum under the ground.  He seems to have gone home, not come home, but gone home.  Wherever Mum went, he has probably gone too.  I like to think that she came to collect him in the hospice room in Edinburgh, telling him that it was over now, it was time to come and rest forever with her and all the other souls that had gone before, in a place so wonderful, so amazing, so full of love and light, that he would laugh as he arrived, and thank her for bringing him here.  I like to think that he scarcely thought of the room he had left, the people in the corridor talking about him, the people everywhere in their homes, their work, their churches, praying for him with sadness.I like to think that he was so delighted and happy to be free of all the things that held him trapped, like his cancer, that he threw up his hands with joy and relief, and followed the angels (and Mum) into the arms of their God.

Yesterday and the day before, Father Dominic was honoured and prayed for in style.  He lay overnight in his beloved parish church of St Jospeh's in Dorking for a vigil mass before leaving the next day to his funeral mass at Worth Abbey.  My mother had seventeen priests on the tiny altar of her most precious church in Petworth, West Sussex.  That, we thought, was fab.  Mother, we thought, you have made it.  Dominic was one of those priests, and we were all so proud of the way he spoke about our mother.

Yesterday, at Worth, at Dominic's own funeral, there were one hundred and twenty priests, a Bishop and a Cardinal.  From his joyful place of light and laughter somewhere in another dimension, I like to think that Dom turned round and came back a little closer to all of us to see how wonderful this celebration of his life was.  The hymns, the readings and the location was planned, Dom did all that.  But what was unplanned was the outpouring of love, gratitude, respect and sadness from those that spoke during the service.  I hope Dom was listening.  "Ha ha," I can hear him saying as he and mum watched holding hands and laughing, "only seventeen priests? I win!"

Mum and Dom. Ha ha, I win!
This morning was the first of many mornings with Dom laid to rest, with honour, with tears and with love.  Dom has eternity now to contemplate, Mum has already been doing it for about eight months, so perhaps, they will set something up together ready for us, the rest of the family when we join them. (We need a break now, so I think we won't be joining you any time soon, if it's all the same to you xx).

The A Graceful Dying One Woman Show.

It was never part of the deal to be putting on a one woman show about dying while attending the death of one of my brothers, and helping to arrange his funeral.  That was never part of the deal at all.

A Graceful Dying was a long time forming in my mind, and I went up for a few days with Dom in Edinburgh to talk about it with him.  If he understood what I wanted to do, then it would be fine.  Dom was wise and thoughtful.  He told me to be authentic and to follow my heart.  And then, because he was Dom, he recorded a tiny piece for me, so that he would be in the show himself.

And now, the A Graceful Dying One Woman Show is nearly ready to be seen.  I took Dom's advice and have followed my heart. The show is about how we die, and really, about how I might do it.  I have no idea, when my time comes, what I will think or feel, and no idea at all where it will be.  All I know is I don't want to go yet.  No, not at all.  But if I do have to go, at least I will have tried to think about it.

I am very lucky to be working with my dear old friend Tasha Yarker, who I call the boss.  She is directing me, and has been able to edit the script with intelligence and vigour. I presented Tasha with a whole book to work with at first, it was so long and complicated.  But now, we have everything that I want to say, the stories I want to tell, the images, the films and the music in a show that makes sense to me, that is authentic and has totally followed my heart.

A Graceful Dying will make you think.  It is gentle, but honest.  There is humour, sadness, reality and resolution.  I hope you will think about your life as well as your death, I hope you will be very glad you came to see it.

Nushi, "Cancer Chic", from the A Graceful Death Exhibition

A Graceful Dying One Woman Show

30 May to 5 June 2016, 4.30pm

Sweet Dukebox Theatre, Waterloo Street, Brighton

 “I don’t know how to die.  I am watching 

you to see how you do it.  In the end, we just have to live”

Antonia Rolls believes that unless we look at how we may die, we can’t appreciate life. This year she is performing the powerful and uplifting A Graceful Dying One Woman Show as part of the 2016 Brighton Fringe Festival. Script editor and director is Antonia's friend of many years, Tasha Yarker, 
After seven years of working with people facing the end of life as an artist and a soul midwife Antonia has a wealth of experiences, insights and questions about the ways that people have faced dying. 
This show explores the art of dying through their stories, believing that until we are dead, we are very much alive.  
She talks about things other people don't want to talk about, and does so with honesty and humour.  Antonia is part of a powerful movement of end of life awareness and companionship with a wonderful network of colleagues and friends working in the same field, all of whom are a great support to each other.
Antonia is known to love tea and cake, and will travel miles for a proper afternoon tea with friends.  

“Very beautiful.  Thank you.  I think it’s the first time I've seen death dealt with in such a loving and fear-free way.  It’s a lesson I should have learnt when I was much, much younger”
Lizzie Ballantyne 2015

  “What a wonderful powerful day.  I am SO happy to have been here to take part and be part of the A Graceful Death exhibition and experience …Thank you so much for giving yourselves so fully. Deeply moving.”
Franky 2015

Book your ticket with the direct Sweet Venues ticket link below