From One Home to Another

Tomorrow I am flying home (my Nashville home, that is). When traveling back to the States to visit family and friends I always refer to it as flying home, but when I leave I say that I am flying home to England. I have learned from years of living abroad that home is much more people than places. Terry was my home here in England and my family are my home in the States.

The school year ended last Friday and whereas in previous years there is a childlike giddiness associated with six long weeks of summer, this year I’ve felt a bit flat since that last school bell sounded. Even with my lovely summer plans, I am not excited this summer as it is the first of many without Terry. Summer in the past has been full of lie-ins and lazy mornings spent in front of the TV with a cup of coffee; often Terry would come home from work to find me still in my PJs. DIY projects that I didn’t have time to undertake during the school year were relegated to the summer where I would present them to Terry when he came home from work. Since the school year ended I have spent time with friends going to beer festivals, local parks and out for lunch; I have completed three three mile runs as I continue to train for my half marathon and yet I do all of this without Terry and it feels a bit hollow. It feels very hollow, like some sort of mock summer. It looks like summer but I can’t make myself feel like summer. It’s sad to think of how happy my previous summers have been and to realise that this summer, like so much of this past year, is about survival and little else.

Tomorrow morning I will get a taxi to the town centre where I will catch a bus to London Heathrow for my flight at a stupid hour of the morning because Terry isn’t here to drive me to the airport as he always did. Then I will arrive at Heathrow for the first time ever without my gorgeous husband; our airport – the one that saw us through five years of international dating. The one that Terry always complained about the ongoing construction because it made his eyes water. I really should write them a letter, he would say as he wiped his eyes with his sleeve and sent me on my way to wherever I was off to on that adventure. I would smile and wave him goodbye, counting the days until I would see him again. Tomorrow I will not wave him goodbye, nor will I count down the days until I will see his beautiful smile again when he picks me up. When I was younger, airports meant adventure, jetting off to exciting new places. As I grew older, airports became an important aspect of Terry and my relationship as the place where we would say goodbye for a period of time and also where we would be reunited. Now airports are just buildings fully of happy memories that make me sad.

Nonetheless, tomorrow I will brave Heathrow airport for the first time since Terry died to fly from one of my homes to another. I will travel internationally for the first time since that awful day in September to spend five weeks in the states with family and friends. How exciting! everyone at work told me, when I mentioned my summer plans and on paper they are exciting, but I approach them with a heavy heart. I am lucky to get to spend five weeks in the States this summer and lucky to have such loving family and friends to spend time with. I am lucky in a lot of ways, but this trip will be difficult in ways that I may not even anticipate.

I am undecided as to whether or not I will post on this blog while in Nashville. If I don’t, you will hear from me when I return at the end of August, ready for a new school year to begin.

Always Stay Happy

I’ve been having an emotional few days reading through some of the thousands of emails that Terry and I sent to each other while dating long distance for five years. The most recent batch that I was reading were from the months during which I graduated from university, applied to and was accepted to the Peace Corps, flew to England to see him for two weeks before moving to Africa. The emails that we sent are so beautiful and optimistic and I have wept for the youthful optimism that we once shared. We truly believed that one day we would get to live happily ever after in the same country and it breaks my heart that neither of us could have ever anticipated the way our story would end. One email, sent shortly before I left for Senegal reads:

Hi honey,

I really enjoy talking to you and I always look forward to talking to you every night. I know that when you go to Senegal we won’t be able to talk every night, and to start with that will be very hard as i have gotten use to talking to you every day and I love it.

I will always be here for you and even if we only get to talk once a month then that is what we will do and we will be fine. I will write you emails and letters and I i will send you pics and stuff we will get through this and grow stronger together.

I love you with all my heart and always will.

So don’t worry about whether I am ok about you going coz i am fine with it as I know that we will be together at the end and we will be going travelling together after, with the next chapter in our lives together.

You really are amazing and I am head over heels in love with you, you are every thing to me so there are 2 conditions of you going to Senegal.

  1. you have fun and enjoy this experience and
  2. you come home safe to me.

Love you so much.

Missing you

Love always

Your silly brit

T

XOXOXOXOX

These words are some of my most cherished possessions but they are still incredibly painful to read and they remind me of the magnitude of the love that I have lost. Having spent the weekend pouring over Terry’s emails, I went into school emotionally drained and a bit sad this morning. I had volunteered to lead an arts and crafts session on making handmade cards with a group of students. We spent the morning making marbled cards using shaving cream and food dye and then used pencil rubbers as stamps. While making a card with one of the Year 7s, she reminded me that I had been her teacher in September. You were a really good teacher miss, and I was really sorry to hear your sad news. And then the conversation went on to other things, as they do with young children. 

At the end of the day, the girl brought me this card that she had made for me: 

Never ever cry or be sad. Always stay happy.

 It took me almost four months to build up the courage to go back to work after Terry died, but being back in school and being around my students has been so helpful these last six months. Teenagers often get a bad rap and while they are capable of being absolutely horrendous, they are also capable of being kind and compassionate and this girl’s card melted my broken heart. 

I wish that it was possible to always stay happy; these days happiness is a struggle for me. It does not come so naturally as it once did when all was well in the world, but these past nine months have shown me that even in my darkest days, happiness is still possible.  It is worth fighting for and when it presents itself, it should be held onto for dear life. 

Jogging On

I mentioned in my previous post that I have recently signed up to run a half marathon in October having not run in years. Although traditionally I have been a very thorough planner in all aspects of my life, since Terry died I have found myself to be much more impulsive, hence signing up for a race that I am not in shape enough to run. There have been a few signs that I may have bitten off more than i can chew since I entered the race:

1. I downloaded a training app where I entered my level of fitness (non-runner) and the race date. The app then refused to provide me with a training plan, informing me that the race date I had entered did not give me enough time to train properly. I then lied and said that I could already run 3 miles and the app happily gave me a training plan. I could not run three miles when I said this.

2. I went to a specialist shoe store to get measured for good running shoes. ‘What are you running?’ the salesman asked. A Half marathon. “When?” In October. “Great! What are you running at the moment?” I’m not actually running at the moment. ‘I would recommend that you give yourself a bit more time to train for a half marathon as a beginner, have you thought about entering a different race?” Nope. already entered this one. Which shoes would you recommend?

While buying the shoes, he asked me why I was so keen to throw myself into a half marathon. The truth is that another widow asked me to run with her and i feel like focusing on running will help me to survive the one year anniversary of my beloved husband’s death. All I could think of to say was it’s complicated.

Race For Life
This is what I’m training for. On race day I plan on being somewhere in the back. photo credit: York Race For Life 2015 via photopin (license)

In spite of these two warning signs, I have managed three seperate two-mile runs this week and tonight I will run three miles. It’s difficult, but each run a bit less so as my mind tries to convince my body that I can do this. My legs have been really sore this week although this weekend they are less so, which may be a sign of progress.

Thanks again to those of you who have already donated via my Just Giving page – I’ve already smashed my original fundraising goal of £50!!! I’ll be honest, if those donations hadn’t been made I would be trying to wriggle my way out of this one, but I’ve already raised some money and that is really helping to keep me going on these runs that my body is not even close to excited about doing.

I’ll keep y’all posted as I continue my training. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have three miles to run.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

There are some serious changes taking place in my life at the moment. Terry’s death has taught me that there will always be changes in life: some wanted and others very much unwanted. I wish I could do something about the unwanted changes, but I just have to roll with the punches. I do, however, have some control over my life by making positive changes that are within my power to make. This week I have made two huge changes:

1. I applied for a promotion at work. This was really scary as it was a big step up, but it was a maternity cover within the Modern Languages department that just happened to pop up and when it did I realised that I wanted it. There was another member for my department who was PERFECT for the job and I was tempted to chicken out, but I applied in the end to get the experience. I was invited to an interview this morning and left feeling like I did a good job. I was later called back and told that I had interviewed well and they had created a new role for me within the department: I have been promoted to the Head of Key Stage 3 Languages at my school. What that means is that I am responsible for all language learning (French & Spanish at my school) in Year 7, 8 & 9, which equates to Middle School in the states.

2. I have signed up to run the Race for Life Half Marathon in London on 4 October. I have never run a half marathon, or anything more than a 5K so this is a huge challenge for me. My interest was peaked when another widow asked if anyone would be interested in running a marathon with her. I know I couldn’t handle that challenge, but I voiced an interest in the half marathon on the same day and we have been in touch since. I have just registered tonight and have bought myself some new running shoes as a reward for getting a promotion. I have set a fundraising target of £50 at https://www.justgiving.com/amandakimberly if you’d like to make a donation. I’m rubbish at fundraising and have no lofty ambitions: i just want to finish the race. I don’t care how long it takes, I would rather not be last, but I just want to finish it. At the moment I have my doubts, but I have a good feeling about this and feel like it’s a challenge that I can and should do, although I can’t explain why I feel that way.

I am really pleased with both of these recent changes as they are active changes, not passive ones. I made these two things happen and to succeed, both require a lot of work. This will give me something to focus on as I approach the dreaded one year sadiversary of Terry’s death, mere days before I run my first half marathon. These changes are bittersweet as there is no one that I would rather celebrate them with than Terry, but I know that he’s cheering me on as always and I hope to make him oh so very proud.

I’m First Aid Certified

Today I finished a three day training course and am certified in First Aid at Work. This, in itself, is a big accomplishment but for me it is very special and I will explain why. 

First Aid
photo credit: Young Red Cross nurses, 1950s via photopin (license)

I was originally scheduled to go on this course the week after Terry died but my school offered to send me on another one when I returned to work or to cancel it if I so decided. I had asked to take this course as I was to run the school French trip this year. Last year while chaperoning the French Trip with my Emergency First Aid at Work qualification we had a student collapse and have a seizure and although I dealt with it exactly as I was trained to do, it panicked me and I only agreed to run the trip if the school would provide me with additional First Aid Training. 

When I first went back to work in January, the school asked me if I would still be interested in attending the First Aid training and although it still seemed like a distant dream, I knew I wanted to do  it. Terry was a Scout Leader and trained his Scouts in First Aid every year. I took for granted all of the First Aid knowledge he had, taking comfort that if anything went wrong with the children or me he could always fix it. I remember coming home from work one evening to Terry smiling from ear to ear and proudly telling me how one of the scouts, who was only 13 at the time, had saved a man’s life by putting him in the recovery position and calling for help. Terry was proud of me when I dealt with a seizure on the French Trip with only basic First Aid skills, although to be fair Terry was proud of everything that I did. 

And so a few months passed and I asked the school to choose a new course for me. We found one at the end of June that I signed up for. I felt really confident signing up for the course, but as the weeks drew nearer I began to panic. The last time that I had used my First Aid training was when I found my husband unconscious on the couch and had to put him into the recovery position as I called 999. I was not cool or collected when I found him, I screamed at the 999 operator to please come and help me, I begged the paramedics to tell me what was wrong with my husband, to tell me that he was going to be OK. Terry’s mother says that when I phoned her from the ambulance I was screaming hysterically, but I don’t even remember the phone call. On the course they would ask me to put people into the recovery position and I was terrified that it would bring back flashbacks to finding Terry, a day that I avoid going back to if at all humanly possible. My school sent an email to the trainers advising them of my circumstances. I asked members of my Widowed and Young Support Group for advice and was surprised to find that several other widows had competed First Aid training after using First Aid on their spouses. They told me I could do it and so I went for it. 

On Friday afternoon as I told my colleagues I would see them on Thursday, it seemed like a good idea, but as I parked my car on Monday morning and walked up to the First Aid Training Centre my heart was pounding and I was actively fighting the urge to run back to my car and drive away. I arrived at the centre early so that I could speak to the instructors. ‘Did my school tell you about me?’ I asked them. They then asked for my name. Yes, the school had informed them of my circumstances and if I needed to leave a session I could just show myself out and they would come and find me to see that I was OK. I chose the seat right next to the door and planned my escape for when the recovery position was taught. 

And then something funny happened: I was paired up with a lovely Polish girl to practice the recovery position and I did so over and over with no flashbacks. I was focused on doing a good job and that got me through it. There was a moment on the course as we were discussing dealing with unconscious breathing casualties that the trainer told us to always keep speaking to them as hearing is the last sense to go. I flashed back to my panicked screaming as I dialed 999 and was devastated that the last thing that Terry heard was me terrified and panicked. I went to the toilet and cried at the mere thought of it. But then I mentioned this to my support group and a widower told me that although I was terrified, the last thing that Terry likely heard was my voice, which was all he wanted to hear and I was upset no more. 

I learned a lot on my three day course and met some really lovely people that I trained with. I feel confident using my First Aid skills if needed, although I hope that I never have to use them ever again. Now that Terry is gone and cannot advise me on all things First Aid, I must learn to do it myself, as with so many other things. 

As I drove out of the parking lot today ‘Burn’ by Ellie Goulding came on the radio. This was one of Terry and my songs and I cried as I drove myself to get a celebratory Frappuccino. This training course was terrifying. On Monday as I took a seat I didn’t think that I could do it without breaking down but I did. I am strong and capable of saving lives, just as my Terry once was. I know that he is so very proud of me and I feel that my newly honed First Aid skills are another way that I can carry on the legacy of Terry’s altruistic life that I was lucky enough to share with him for a few short years.