Hello there, Mrs Dud here.
Sorry for the big gap between my second post and this one. There, I’ve said it – apparently you are not supposed to apologise for not blogging, just get on with the next one and leave it at that. But I don’t feel I can do that, I feel the need to say that I fully intended to keep going with Dud’s blog from the second post I did. However, what I didn’t take account of was how grief can affect you and your ability to carry out even the most mundane of tasks, let alone trying to be creative. One of the things I’ve found the most difficult is getting back to doing things in the evenings after work and at the weekends. Dud and I were never ones for sitting around and watching TV all evening although, don’t get me wrong, we could gorge on a box set with the best of them now and again. However, we spent more time sitting in the conservatory talking through our next project, be that a talk one of us was giving, some research we wanted to do, or just the next trip to Crete!
So, that brings me to the purpose of this blog – talking and its importance.
Since Dud’s passing in January I’ve been out to Paradise (otherwise known as the village of Mochlos in Eastern Crete) on several occasions, this current sojourn being my fourth. On this latest visit, I’ve been accompanied by some family and friends and on 2nd July we had a lovely little ceremony over on the Minoan island to talk about Dudley over a glass of champagne and celebrate his life. I’ve even left some of his ashes over there – although obviously I can’t tell you where or I’d have to kill you! At the same time, I was so proud to be able to announce that a book Dud had been editing before he died had been taken on by two archaeological colleagues and was ‘hot off the press’ that week. There is also going to be a memorial conference to Dud in October, to launch the book, but more about that another time.
Today, 22nd July, would have been our fifth wedding anniversary (we were together for 19 years, I was just a bit slow at saying ‘Yes’) and I’m joined again by my sister and a couple of close friends. Of course the day will be tinged with sadness, but also with so many happy memories. I can honestly say that 22nd July 2011 was one of the best days of my life. Whenever Dud and I had people come on holiday with us, we would prepare a little ‘itinerary’ and called ourselves ‘Bramber Tours’. I did one for the party that was here for 2nd July and I’ve just done one for my sister and friends. This second one I’ve called “Return to Mochlos – Old & New Memories”. So today, 22nd July, we are going to celebrate the time that Dudley and I had together, all 19 wonderful years. Then, we are going to spend the next few days making some new memories in the Paradise that is Mochlos.
What’s all this got to do with talking I hear you ask?
Well, as I mentioned at the beginning, Dud and I talked and talked about many, many things, often accompanied by a glass (or more) of red wine. Now, one of the things we talked about was death – and not enough people do in my opinion. Maybe it’s because I’ve studied death and the way past societies deal with it for many, many years but I’ve always thought it important to talk about it. One of the only certainties of life is death (and taxes apparently). Anyhow, Dud and I DID talk about it and now I am so glad and grateful that we did. Why? Well, it meant that when he was taken so suddenly I knew without a doubt what music he wanted played at his funeral and where he wanted his ashes. Don’t get me wrong, we hadn’t planned each others funerals or anything like that. What we had done though was talk about what we would do when one of us went – I always thought he would go first because he was ten years older than me, just not so soon of course. So, we had listened to ‘Mr. Bojangles’ (Sammy Davis Jr version of course) many times and even shed a few tears together because I knew I would have to have it played at his funeral. However, the upside of that is the comfort it brought me to know that he had wanted that piece of music and that it was something we had shared in life as well as in his death. I even asked him if he would ‘come back to me’ – now you are going to think I’m a completely mad person but there you go, grief makes you care less about what other people think and you do what you feel you need to. So, Dud’s answer to my question was that “Yes”, he would come back to me, if he could. Without going into the full details (at the moment) I’ve had a couple of unexplained (to me) incidents with our cat (Dizzy) and some music playing on the iPod that I certainly hadn’t chosen. These too have given me comfort, so who’s to say what they really mean.
A short while before I came out to Crete for the summer, I happened upon a book called ‘Water Bugs & Dragonflies’. It’s a small, short book, designed as a way to explain death to children. However, I’ve found it helpful and aren’t children just small adults anyway – or maybe adults are just larger children. So, the essence of the book is that there is a colony of water bugs living quite happily below the surface of a pond. Every so often though, one of their colony climbs up the stem of a water lily, disappears and is seen no more. The water bugs get together and decide that the next one of them who climbs up the lily stem must promise to come back and tell the others where they went, and why. Not long after this the bug who had suggested the plan found himself climbing up the lily stalk and ended up on the lily pad, where he fell asleep. When he awoke he had changed completely – he had become a dragonfly. He flew around and generally enjoyed the new atmosphere he found himself in. Suddenly he looked down and saw his friends under the surface of the water and remembered the promise that had been made. Unfortunately though, now he was a dragonfly he could not longer go into the water….. The story ends that the dragonfly realises that even if he could go back to the water, his friends would not recognise him, but when they become dragonflies too they will understand.
Having found the Dragonfly book so helpful, I actively looked around at books explaining death to children. The second one I found is called ‘Always and Forever’ – and is about Otter, Mole, Fox and Hare who live together in a house in the woods. Fox is the ‘father figure’ of the house and was always on hand with a helpful suggestion and an encouraging word. One day, fox goes out into the woods and doesn’t come back, but lays down and dies under an oak tree. His friends find him, bring him back and bury him in his favourite place (under the willow tree). They are so sad that Fox has gone and spend their days mourning him and saying how he was always there for them and missing him greatly. This continues for quite some time and then one day Squirrel comes to visit them and asks where they have been. They say they are so sad they cannot go out and they miss Fox too much. They are pleased to see Squirrel though and invite her to stay for supper. Now, this brings about a change in their attitudes. Otter cooks a meal and this prompts a discussion about how bad a cook Fox was and they certainly don’t miss his cooking! The conversation moves to how bad a handyman fox was and how he didn’t know carrots from weeds! Suddenly, they are all laughing and remembering the funny things about Fox. Mole makes a bench for them, in Hare’s garden where they sit and recall happy times. They even think they can hear Fox laughing too… and so he was with them …always and forever.
OK, so now you don’t need to get either of those books yourself (but they are on Amazon if you want to) but I hope you can see the reason I’ve mentioned them. For those of you who knew Dud I expect you can see some of Fox in him (I certainly can). His cooking repertoire consisted solely of spaghetti bolognaise, he considered that manuals were for wimps (and then wondered why he ended up with extra bits left over when trying to put some flat pack furniture together) and he certainly didn’t know his weeds from his wisteria! However, he did know his ‘Law from his Elbow’ (there could be a book in there, oh there is!), he was always smiling and laughing and he always had words of encouragement for any and everyone, no matter who you were.
I do miss him desperately, but I am beginning to laugh again and to remember the happy times, of which there were so many.
So, I would encourage, no pretty much insist if I could, that you talk to your loved ones about death. You might not find it easy, but one day you might be glad you did. I would not wish my journey on anyone, but it is a journey that is slightly more bearable because I know we talked about …… death.
Talking of ‘bearable’ for some reason I find great comfort in a little bear that Dud gave me, who I’ve now named ‘Dudley Bear’. He comes away with me and is always sporting his bow tie and Spartacus badge.
I’m going to end now with some words I found just yesterday on the internet and which really struck a chord:
Your grief is your love, turned inside-out. That is why it is so deep. That is why it is so consuming. When your sadness seems bottomless, it is because your love knows no bounds.
Love you forever Dud, Happy Anniversary xx
Next time, and I know now that there will be another blog….I’m going to move on to some of the many topics that Dud and I spoke about but that he hadn’t been able to write about….so I’m going to do it for him.