1 EAGLETON NOTES: "Do not stand at my grave and weep"

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Sunday, 5 June 2016

"Do not stand at my grave and weep"

As I mentioned in my last post yesterday was a Good Day. Today the sun is shining out of a solid blue sky and there's hardly a puff of wind: just enough to be pleasant. So I spent three hours gardening. I have never regarded that as work. For me it was, and is, a way of relaxing and allows me to think about the meaning of life in a way that I can't if I'm doing anything else.

Today I reflected on the life, and death, of our older son, Andrew, who died ten years ago yesterday. Who knows what might have been. To be honest I never think of that. 

One of the things that has struck me more as I get older and as the two World Wars get further away (I was born 2 days before D-Day) is how many parents (on both sides) lost their children without them even getting out of their teens or early 20s and how many had children who went away as 'normal' children and came back mentally or physically scarred and changed: often beyond recognition? 

No parent expects a child to die before they do. It goes against the natural order of things.

Andy, as he preferred to be known, had cancer. He had the very best of treatment at the Royal Marsden in London one of the finest specialist cancer hospitals in the country. It was a horrible cancer and it was a horrible way to die. That was as bad a period of life as a parent as it could be.

There was no funeral. Andy had arranged for a Humanist celebration of his life with his friends and family. We celebrated that life.

I think of Andy most days. I think of the good times. I think of the positive things he did. I don't think about the pain and the suffering. I do not grieve. Grief is a negative emotion. We grieve for ourselves and those who are left behind. Grief doesn't help the person who has died. 

So today I thought even more about the happiness that he brought to the family and to his friends during his 33 years on this earth. And I was thankful.

I posted pictures of Andy last year here but here are a few more:

Andrew's first catch?
Andrew seemed to spend a lot of time in small boats which was strange because on the ferry he was always sick before we left port.
In Uig
Early signs of a career as a computer programmer?
A birthday with friends at Coll (some of you may recognise yourself!).

34 comments:

  1. What a beautiful post, GB. I am so sorry for your loss, because even if the pain dims it never entirely goes away. Hugs to you, DeeDee

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    1. Thank you DeeDee for your thoughts and support.

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  2. So very sad for you, Graham. Gone far too soon...far too young. So unfair; so wrong. A beautiful, beautiful boy he was...and remains so in your mind; your memory, and in your heart.

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  3. Your spirit, as always, is indomitable. You are an inspiration.

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    1. It's lovely of you to say so Pauline.

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  4. Your posts about Andy always move me. They remind me to treasure the time we have .

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    1. Fi I know that you understand as much as anyone the importance of treasuring the time we have with those we love.

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  5. I often wish I could be as positive.

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    1. Adrian you have a positivity I could never match: just over different things!

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  6. What a super post Graham, very moving but positive outlook on life and things - I admire your positivity, you have a really wonderful way of looking at things and outlook on life. I wish I could learn to view things as you do, but struggle sometimes with the black dog that is always hovering too close sometimes.

    Great photos of your lad.

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    1. Thank you Serenata I'm not sure whether a positive attitude is part of my make-up or whether I got it from my parents but I've been very fortunate in that it's always been part of me. Having said that I did suffer from depression after a serious operation to remove part of my lung when I was 16. Even then I was sure it would pass and when it did I've been fortunate in that it never returned. However it was a superb experience because it's enable me to understand what it's like and empathise with those who suffer. (And I still dare not to go for long walks on my own as I did then).

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  7. Massive typo in the first version of this comment - I really couldn't leave it like that! Second try:)

    Graham, you are one of the few people who do not need a lengthy explanation when I say that the completely unexpected death of my husband 6 1/2 years ago, a few days after his 41st birthday, has changed my life... for the better, and that gratitude is the emotion that seems to be dominating my life.
    I do not say this to people often, especially not to those who do not know me, because I suppose they would misunderstand and think the life of woman changes for the better after her husband's death only when said husband has been a total bastard and/or she never loved him, neither of which is true with Steve.
    But from your words, I can see how similar our attitude is; thinking of the beloved person most days, not with grief for their death, but with gratitude for their life.
    Yes, I know, losing a partner is not the same as losing a child, but I know you know how I mean all this.

    The last picture is my favourite - how focused the kids are, with the exception of the one boy behind Andy, who looks at the photographer instead of the candles.

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    1. Meike losing a partner or a child has a similarity when the loss is so early on in the life of the partnership. We expect to lose our parents. We expect that one or other of the partnership will likely die before the other....eventually. We don't expect to lose a child or a partner prematurely. I've noticed that you and I think similarly on quite a lot of things.

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  8. You make some good points about loss and grief. We have to have a way to resolve our losses. Remembering everyday and marking anniversaries is a good thing to do. Losing a child is often described as a parents worst nightmare. My parents lost an eleven year old daughter. My Mom resolved the loss. My dad had a challenge as she was an only daughter.

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    1. Red I think losing a child is always terrible but, ironically, the younger the child I imagine the harder it would be to bear the loss because the fewer the memories to cherish.

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  9. A beautiful tribute and thoughts, Graham. Hugs to you.

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  10. What a beautiful, brave post. And what a lovely looking boy.

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    1. Thank you Frances. I hadn't thought of it as brave but rather as cathartic.

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  11. I seem to remember sitting west of the wall near the old temple at Northton when you got the news. Another beautiful day.

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    1. I've been trying to work out, Donald, how you would have known when I got the news.

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  12. That's an extremely sad story Graham. As someone with 3 children, I cannot imagine losing one of them. However, I did lose a cousin about 30 years ago (murdered in Canada) and I still grieve for him; it was like losing a brother.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear about your cousin Cro. Those circumstances must be exceptionally hard to accept.

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  13. Dear Graham,
    Thank you for sharing the photos of your handsome son. I am sorry for your loss. Oh dear, I wrote more here but the words...well, my heart aches for you and I know others would say they would send you hugs but I am more likely to just pat your arm and wish you peace. x

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    1. And that would be very much appreciated Kay.

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  14. These are lovely photos of your boy, Graham, and good memories to look back upon with a smile, even when mixed with the pain of loss. (What you say about grief sent my mind off in a long chain of thoughts... We have an old proverb in Swedish, I think originating from an old Swedish hymn - or else the other way round - but anyway to do with that mix of emotions in human life: 'sorrow and joy walking together'. Can't find a proper English translation of it though.)

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    1. I'm sorry Monica but for some reason I missed this comment until now. I think that is a very apt and appropriate way of expressing the reality of the situation.

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  15. I applaud the fact that Andrew asked for a Humanist ceremony and that you arranged that for him. It would have been a travesty if his farewell wishes had been overruled in favour of a Christian funeral ceremony. What a handsome young lad he was.

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    1. I'm sure, YP, that it happens although I cannot imagine a parent doing that and perhaps using their beliefs to overrule those of the deceased. It never occurred to his mother or me.

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  16. GB it is so brave of you to be able to reflect on his life this way. When youngsters leave us it is so much harder to accept (my brother passed at 23 years old), but we can look back on the times we shared with them and relive some of the treasured moments through such lovely photos.
    Andrew was quite a cutie.

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    1. Having grown up with a brother to whom I'm close I can't imagine your loss Virginia. What would we do without photos? I would have problems I know.

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  17. Thank you for this beautiful post. The question of how we handle the death of our deeply loved ones is so worth sharing. I was very moved by these photos of Andy rowing, fishing, paddling - he seems to have had such a happy, healthy childhood. He was a handsome boy too. Photos are precious indeed.

    As a mother of three young adults I can only relate with fear at the idea of losing one of them. But knowing how I handled (and am still handling) the death of both my parents (my father ten years ago and my mother last year)I can relate to what you're saying when you talk about your feelings of gratitude rather than grief.

    There's far more I'd like to say but it isn't easy.
    Can I just say that I'm with you?

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    1. Thank you Nathalie for those beautiful thoughts.

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