#ShortenedStories

Today is MND Global Awareness Day. I remember 2013’s MND Awareness Day, just after Dad had died. Nobody knew very much about MND; the ice bucket challenge was yet to come, as was The Theory of Everything. We’ve come so far with raising awareness, but today will help us to raise the profile of MND even more.

This year’s Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Awareness campaign is called ‘Shortened Stories’. It highlights how many people’s life stories are cut short by MND; 50% of people die within 2 years of being diagnosed.

On the 1st June my fellow committee member from the MND South London group suggested that the group could use MND Awareness month to share the ‘Shortened Stories’ of our families and friends who had inspired us to volunteer for the Motor Neurone Disease.

I thought this was a fantastic idea, but it also filled me with dread, as it would mean I would have to write about my Dad’s story, which was cut short in April 2013. He was 49.

Let me set the scene for you: my Dad really was the life and soul of any party. He was known for it, among family, among his friends, among my friends. When I was 17 I secretly invited about 25 friends over for a party and, rather than kick them all out, he shrugged his shoulders, put some music on and got cooking a chilli for everyone; this is the man he was.

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He was a huge sportsman – watching and playing. We’d spend every other Saturday watching Huddersfield Town play; he coached the Scratch Team at the golf club to victory; he played football, golf and cricket, and taught me, my brothers and my sister to do the same – we’d often have a kick about or a game of cricket on the back lane.

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When I found out he was going to die, I was surprised not to hear the noise of my heart breaking.

He lost his voice within months; I used to have dreams where he would talk to me. I’d wake up in tears when I realised it was just a dream. He was dead within 4 years, and I know we were lucky to have him for that long.

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I could write about what his life would have been like for pages and pages, for he was always doing something with us, or with his friends: instead I’ll keep it very brief, and selfishly, only on the shortened story of Man and Eldest Daughter:

Since Dad died, I have graduated. I’ve transitioned in to the life of ‘proper work’. There was the first Christmas without him going downstairs first, and saying ‘he’s been!’ There have been two more Christmas’ since then. There have been family holidays without the chief planner. I moved to London.  I met the love of my life, and he asked me to marry him.

There will be a Huddersfield Town season ticket, without him sat next to me. There will be a ‘first home’ where he isn’t there to help do the DIY. There will be a wedding without a Father of the Bride speech. There will be his first grandchildren, who will never know him. There will be countless occasions where he will be missed so sorely that it often feels like my heart is breaking all over again.

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#ShortenedStories

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4 days in Budapest…Day 3, and a surprise engagement!

On Day 3 in Budapest we left the ‘Pest’ side of the river Danube, which is where we had spent most of our time so far (with the exception of Gellért Hill). We crossed the river via the Chain Bridge, and went up on the funicular which we had been told was fantastic – we were actually a little disappointed and regretted not walking up – the views were nice though!


Buda is definitely known more for it’s culture and history than its variety of bars and restaurants, but nevertheless we found ‘Ruszwurm’, one of the oldest pastry shops in Budapest, opened back in 1827! We enjoyed coffee and strudel, before spending the morning wandering around Buda Castle. The building and inside was beautiful, but we found that we already knew most of the information from our visit to the House of Terror yesterday, and so we didn’t love it as much as others have told us they did.



Our next stop was ‘Sziklakórház’ – Hospital in the Rock. The Hospital is built in to the caverns underneath Buda Castle, and was initially built in preparation for the Second World War. The Hospital, which was used most during the siege of Budapest in 1944-45, is now a museum with lots of wax-work figures which recreate what the hospital would have looked like when it was in use.

Our next stop was St Matthias Church, a really stunning church by the Fishermans Bastion. You can get a ticket and climb to the top, but we just had a look around inside, had a dusky picture taken at one end of the Fisherman’s Bastion before heading to a shop to grab a couple of beers each.




We walked along the Fisherman’s Bastion, and found a little secluded spot to enjoy the views of Budapest lit up at night, and to enjoy our beers. Halfway through the first beer, Nick took my hands, stood us both up and told me how lucky he had felt to spend the last two amazing years with me. Then he got down on one knee, and asked me to marry him! I was completely overwhelmed as I wasn’t at all expecting it, and I cried/laughed my way to a yes!




We walked back down the hill towards the Chain Bridge, and I rang my mum – Nick had asked her permission a month beforehand, but as I told her she still burst in to tears. She said she was in the car with the radio on, and as I called ‘Can’t help falling in love with you’ came on. That song was one of my mum and dad’s songs when they were going out, and it is also one of the songs that reminds me so much of Dad as we used to sing it at the top of our voices at football matches – it felt very special, and almost like a blessing from him.

As if he hadn’t already surprised me enough, Nick took me to Costes restaurant on Ráday utca, which was the first restaurant in Budapest to receive a Michelin Star. We had the most beautiful meal, and I will never forget the most amazing evening!





After I posted my blog post yesterday about my dad, I felt so much more in control of life. I went from being a nervous wreck to feeling calm and stable – and I really think that was due to writing down the thoughts, and putting them on to a page that other people might come across.

I’m still deciding whether or not to share this with friends/family/twitter acquaintances, so if you are one of those people you’ll either have stumbled across this by a mistake, or I have made the decision to share!

Either way, perhaps this is a blog that will stay for a little while – perhaps even branch out in to things less dad-related! – but for now, I wanted to talk about grief bursts.

Yesterday I wasn’t in a great place. I could barely see the screen through a sheen of constant tears welling up in my eyes, which maybe explains why I couldn’t articulate my thoughts as well as I’d have liked.

And the reason was – I had a grief burst. Grief bursts are slippery little suckers that come out of nowhere. One minute I’ll be happily driving in my car, and suddenly I’ll find myself pulling over and sobbing, whilst Going Underground by The Jam plays on the radio – reminding me of my dad.

I’m never safe from them – and I doubt I ever will be. And I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one who gets caught off-guard by them either. They’re not always a negative thing either.

Surely a grief burst must mean that you care, love and miss that person. It demonstrates your ability to connect with your emotions, to feel the grief. I’m not locking it away in some guarded corner of my mind, where perhaps it would have a big impact on my future wellbeing and happiness should it happen to escape.

No – as long as I am aware of the fact I might be hit by a grief burst; as long as I have people I can rely on to be there and to listen; as long as I am nice to myself, and understand that this is natural, then I think that these grief bursts aren’t such a bad thing.

This week will see the second anniversary of the date that my Dad died.

Two years. Twenty-four months. One hundred and four weeks. Seven hundred and thirty days. By all accounts, that’s a pretty long time. In two years, a lot can happen, and certainly a lot has happened for me. I graduated. I’m on my third job since April 16th, 2013. I’ve run a half marathon, met my partner, moved to London and I’m happy.

It’s strange, because after the influx of cards and flowers and best wishes and visits that April 16th 2013 brought, by the time a month had passed it was as though nothing had happened. Flowers were thrown away, cards neatly filed away in a box at the top of a cupboard, funeral catalogues disappeared and my dad became a topic left unspoken, except for, perhaps, within our kitchen over a cup of tea.

And this is something that surprised me – perhaps it shouldn’t have, but it did. My life was turned upside down, so how come everyone else seemed to move on?

I never realised how often people talk about their dads until mine wasn’t around any more. I wanted to talk about mine too – I had a zillion memories, even if they weren’t necessarily the same as somebody talking about how their dad was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro this week.

I’d want to tell them – ‘my dad climbed Mount Snowdon and was at the top when me and my friends were doing the Three Peaks!’ but that might have also included explaining that we were doing the challenge in order to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, because my dad had been diagnosed with the illness the year before. And that’s where whoever I was speaking to would search frantically for the right words to say, making me wish I hadn’t mentioned it. ‘Mount Kilimanjaro? Wow, that’s amazing!’ I’d say instead.

Talking about my dad almost became a taboo subject – more because I didn’t want to upset someone else than because I didn’t want to upset myself. It was often assumed that if I brought my dad up it was because I was upset, or wanted to have a deep and meaningful conversation. But what if it were only to mention the fact that he made a smashing chilli? A fond (and spicy!) memory for me was perceived as a cry for sympathy and attention by somebody else.

And it’s tough, because no-one really talks about grief. It’s not that friends don’t realise something’s up – it’s because we’re taught, from a young age, intentionally or otherwise, that it’s not okay to talk about death, because it’s upsetting. Does anyone stop to wonder how upsetting it can be to not talk about death?

I get angry with myself, often, when I feel upset about what happened. I berate myself – ‘it’s been a year! Move on, everyone else has!’ as though losing my dad to a hideous disease four years after diagnosis was only as traumatic as not being picked to sing in the choir at primary school.

And herein lies the reason I wanted to write something – anything – about my dad. I need to remind myself that it’s okay to grieve. Yes, even after two years have passed.

In fact, when I’m feeling rational I’d even go as far to say that maybe it’s even normal that I can go from feeling on top of the world one minute to being unable to breathe due to tears pouring down my face the next.

My hope is that as I start to write down some of these thoughts, seeing them on a computer screen will help me to start to understand them. Grief is something we will all experience – it’s inevitable. We will all lose someone we love, and we will all have to learn to carry on with life afterwards. So why can’t we talk about it?