A year or so ago I came out of hospital very focused on getting my life back together. Trying to move on from a life changing injury that had turned me from a Professional Cyclist and ‘Action Dad’ into a Paraplegic. Wheelchair bound.
The first six months I had great mental attitude, each day, with the help of my amazing wife Lisa, I’d go about ‘defeating’ this situation. You know what… I was doing it too. I really think I was making amazing progress.
Then my Mum died, and my understanding of life was brought sharply into focus.
Even now, writing the words ‘Mum died’ sends a lurching crunch through my stomach. She had a very aggressive secondary Cancer, that in just a few months took her away. Losing Mum had a terrible effect on everyone in my family. She was the love we all revolved around.
I found the grief very difficult to handle, I wondered how I would ever have the same interest in each day, even why I would bother to engage with the World. If someone so special, so supportive, caring, attentive and compassionate could be taken away from us, then what was the point in it all?
My confidence in coping with paralysis was completely destroyed. I’d let myself believe the accident and my injury was as bad as things could get, the worst thing in my life had already happened… I’d been so wrong.
The people I’d started to rely on for support were suffering too. How could I expect them to find each day any easier than me?
My mum and Lisa had been close from the moment they met. They laughed together, supported each other, spoke on the phone nearly every day, they were the best of friends. Lisa was clearly rocked by her loss.
And my son Alfie was facing life without his Nanna. It was too soon and not fair for him to have lost her guidance and warmth.
The two people I had supporting me were now finding each day harder to face, but still they had to rally around my daily needs. I felt so guilty to be more of a burden at this time, more than I ever had.
The funeral was beautiful, if that can ever be the case? Both my Brother Andy and Alfie said words that would have made my Mum’s heart sing. The sun shone through a stained glass window and gently touched my Mum’s coffin…
In the months following the funeral my whole family has done what fabulous families do in these situations. We have, despite distance, rallied around each other to ensure the sorrow is shared. Especially thinking of my Nan who of course faced every parents worst nightmare of losing a child. Yet it was my Nan, the rock of this family, who gave me the first piece of wisdom in how to move forward, how to cope.
“The grief and pain won’t ever go away. You will learn to accommodate it.” That is what she told me.
So I started to put that into action. I started to try to accommodate all those deep feelings of loss. All the memories, the magic moments shared. A rich and sublime mixture of thoughts and feelings. A past long gone and a future that can never be…
And I started to recognise that process. I have realised that in my first energetic months after leaving Hospital, where I had been so focused and full of action, I had not understood that I need to mourn for my physical loss too. I have memories of a blessed bike riding career, moments of joy playing football and running with my son, even playing chase with my childhood sweetheart who is now my wife. A past full of physical capability long gone, and of course a future I expected, that can never be…
I have to accommodate those feelings, mourning for my Mum and mourning the use of my body below the waist. I have to do that because the memories are sublime and need to be cherished.
In death my Mum managed to teach me one of the most important lessons life has to offer. Every single moment is precious, right now. Don’t fail to notice it, don’t waste it.
I left hospital thinking I’d fight back from the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I will never believe things are as bad as they can be again. Instead I will honour my thoughts of the past. The future from here is just fiction. Anything is possible…
Thank you for reading. Please understand I know I’m not unique when it comes to the feeling of loss. I wrote this post to myself because I needed to. My FB and Twitter posts are always positive, because I don’t want to be the downer on anyone’s day. However I need to be honest to myself and writing this stuff down helps me. I’ve posted it here because I hope it’s been useful to someone else too