Pretty Prickly

Grief and mourning

I have been very prickly, lately. They say things get easier with time. Six and a bit months later, things have certainly not got easier. They are different. And it’s hard to explain exactly what that means. What is different is having to accept that you never know – really – what will trigger an emotional response.

grief, mourning

At the beginning of December, I was at the opening of the McGregor Art Walk. It’s an event that had been in the planning since February or March, and when that began, it was with The Husband’s full support. He was supposed to have been at that, and other, events over that weekend. Needless to say, I was flying solo that evening. That’s not new, but it’s most certainly different now. People’s conversations with me are different.

Conversation one

Pleasantries dispensed with, “I so admire widows and widowers….” she gushed.

Something in my brain clicked. I have absolutely no recollection of the rest of conversation other than that I somehow had to extricate myself from it, and move on. Once the formalities of the evening were done, I bade the host farewell and confessed, “I have to flee…” Mercifully, she understood.

I retreated to my usual Friday haunt and shared the gist of that conversation with a friend who lost her life partner a few years ago. She was aghast. As I had been. I spent the best part of the next couple of days, vacillating between bridling with incredulity, and reflecting on whether my reaction to the word “admire” was appropriate.

I did what I always do, and consulted the dictionary:

This is what Collins told me about admire:

Word forms: 3rd person singular present tense admires, present participle admiring, past tense, past participle admired
1. VERB B2
If you admire someone or something, you like and respect them very much.
I admired her when I first met her and I still think she’s marvellous. [VERB noun]
He admired the way she had coped with life. [VERB noun]
All those who knew him will admire him for his work. [VERB noun + for]
Synonyms: respect, value, prize, honour More Synonyms of admire
2. VERB B1+
If you admire someone or something, you look at them with pleasure.
We took time to stop and admire the view. [VERB noun]
Synonyms: marvel at, look at, appreciate, delight in.

When I read the first definition, I began to second guess my reaction . Then I read the second and which is the context – and which connotation – I usually associate with the word. I cannot – and could not – reconcile either pleasure or delight with the unwanted condition of widowhood. In my understanding, when one admires someone – like a firefighter, nurse, or teacher – it’s aspirational. Unless one aspires to being a mariticide. And the woman said it with her husband of at least 40 years at her side.

On reflection – I’m doing a lot of that – I realise that she was probably less admiring of the condition than of how the widow appears to getting on with things. It’s taken me nearly a month – and a second conversation – to get to this realisation.

Conversation two

I had a catch-up conversation with a client last week and it included a brief look back at the year, which from a work perspective has been a relatively good one. He thanked me for my contribution – especially given what had happened this year – for not dropping the ball. He concluded that it – how I coped – was an inspiration.

Why, I asked myself, had I not balked at that remark?

Again, I went to the dictionary, and before I did, I realise that the comment had context: he (and the team) – as far as anyone can – had shared my journey. We had much more than the perfunctory conversation that happens when you happen to bump into someone. There was empathy, compassion and concern which, when my house was burgled, translated into practical and material help. And, with all that, they gave me space to work at my own pace which enabled me to continue meeting deadlines – and earning. I needed the work for other reasons, too it was more than a necessary distraction. It helps to give my days, weeks, months, shape. A real reason to get out of bed.

More reflections

So, when I reflect on the context of both conversations, I’m struck, again, at the power of language – to break down – and build up. It also reminds me of the sports’ rule: play the ball, not the player. Yes, I am now a widow, and perhaps that’s why I had such a knee-jerk reaction to that comment. One doesn’t sign up for widowhood and if one has the misfortune to lose a life partner, even though you think you are, you’re never prepared. Nor is one prepared for the journey that is mourning. It’s different from any other, and until one embarks on that new

sunrise mourning grief

path, one cannot even dream of beginning to understand.

Now, I must look to the sunrise each day, and start all over again. On my own.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script
If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised application’s.

    • From WordPress, I use the Exxp plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here to sign up.

    • Join Hive using this link and then join us in the Silver Bloggers’ community by clicking on the logo.
Original artwork: @artywink

Different people. Different grief.

The other day, someone asked me,

Do you miss him?

I was a little girl – probably nine or ten – when I first encountered a death in the family.  My father’s mother.  We called her Wee Granny.  I don’t remember her.  Hardly surprising because the only time I did ever meet her, I was an infant and she never left Scotland.  Glasgow, to be precise.

Next, it was Big Granny.  Now, I do remember her.  I have vivid memories of her trip to South Africa.  I also have vivid memories of my time with her – as that three-year-old – on the eve of our departure from the UK, en route to Johannesburg.  She’d been ill, and my mother had been called to her deathbed in England.  About a month after her to South Africa, Granny died.  I was about 16.

Neither of those deaths had a profound impact on my young life.  Mainly because neither of the grannies had been part of my everyday life.  Ever.  In a world without the Internet and social media, intercontinental, trans-hemisphere communication was by letter.  Trans-Atlantic telephone calls had to be booked and were reserved for life – and mostly death – emergencies.  And telegram.

Because we were so far from blood family, my parents built close friendships with contemporaries. Members of their inner circle substituted for grandparents.  So, the death that first really hit me was Uncle Ritchie.  That time taught me two life lessons.  Firstly, that death hurts.  And secondly, that bad news really does travel fast – via routes least expected.  I wasn’t living at home and was in the throes of my first-year university exams so they decided I should not be told.  Little did they know that among my circle of friends, was somebody who had also known Uncle Ritchie.  I didn’t believe her.  I rushed to the payphone.

They didn’t want me to go to the funeral.  They couldn’t stop me.

In the years that followed, I lost friends, colleagues and acquaintances:  car accidents, illness and suicide.  With each death I learned that grief is as individual as the person for whom one grieves. That lesson was hardest when my parents died within eleven months of each other.  My mother, unexpectedly after a short illness.  My dad, although of cancer which only emerged after Mum died, The Husband and I always believed, of a broken heart.

It’s no secret that my mother and I were not friends, but she was my mother and her death hit me like a sledgehammer.  I wept for months.  Dad and I, on the other hand, had a special connection which deepened after she died.  I miss him and wish him here more than I do her.  Nearly a quarter of a century later.

The death of a parent, even as a thirty-odd year-old child, changes one’s world.  Suddenly, somebody who, from the beginning of one’s memory, was always there, and integral, is just gone.  That is an enormous adjustment.

Nothing, however, prepares one for the death of one’s life partner.  Oh, you can prepare in your head.  I knew, in my brain, that with a significant age gap, biology and statistics suggested that he would die first.  But the brain and the heart don’t work together very well especially when the older person is healthy, fit and never got ill.  Especially when the stock response to hearing his age was an incredulous, “Really, I thought you were ten years younger than that!”

The Husband died exactly a month short of his 77th birthday.  He went to hospital to get better.  The operated and removed what had made him suddenly ill. He came through the surgery with flying colours.  So well that the medical staff called him their miracle man and even with all the post operative pain and discomfort, his lust for life had not diminished.  Three days after that surgery, he developed a clot, was rushed to ICU and intubated.  On top of that, he had an infection, and he went into organ failure, and I was called to his death bed.  Not ready to give up, few hours later his body had rallied, and he’d turned the corner and continued improving.  Until.  A series of hospital-based infections eroded his already compromised body and, eventually, his life.  For the last 37 days, thanks to being ventilated, he could not speak.  He could, though, communicate, and in our last conversation, he was still determined to come home.  That was his plan.  That was our plan.

Three days later, he died.

For seven weeks I had been home alone and visiting him in hospital.  I put stuff on hold because he was coming home.  This could wait.  That could wait.  He was coming home.  I put the laundry away.  I ordered a chicken for a Sunday supper.  He was coming home. Knowing he’d be weak and not be able to climb stairs, I began planning to move ourselves into the guest room.

Marriage is “in sickness and in health”.  They warned me it would be a long path after six weeks in ICU and the extent of muscle wastage.  If it meant his coming home and – again – grabbing the brass ring, it was what I had signed up for.

I chose to sign up for a life with him.  It was a choice.  And we made a life.  We scrapped and disagreed – as all married couples do.  But he was the person I bounced ideas off.  The Husband was the last person I saw as I went to sleep, and the first when I woke up.  I’d reach over in the night to see that he was warm and still breathed.  My worst nightmare was waking up and he’d be gone.

I am living my worst nightmare.  He is gone.

I am not alone.  I am not lonely.  I am lonely for him.  For my friend.  The person I chose to spend my life with.

I miss him all the time.  I shall miss him always.

Until next time
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:

  • re-vamping old recipes. As I do this, I am adding them in a file format that you can download and print. If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
  • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts.

I blog to the Hive blockchain using a number of decentralised applications.

  • From WordPress, I use the Exxp WordPress plugin. If this rocks your socks, click here or on on the image below to sign up.

Original artwork: @artywink
  • lastly, graphics are created using partly my own photographs and Canva.


Contemplating the incomprehensible

A friend and I had a conversation at the market this morning.  Little did we know that exactly what were discussing – and fearing – she more than I – had come to pass.


My heart aches for her:  the burden she has carried over the last few years and, particularly over the last few months.

Mental illness is invisible.  Mental illness is insidious and doesn’t only affect the sufferer.  It affects all people who care for the person who has it, espcially those who are closest to him or her.

Today is World Mental Health day, and a very talented person ended his battle with his disease today.

He created beautiful things with his hands. He was passionate about his craft.

My friend shares that passion.  Mental illness has robbed her of the person with whom she was going to grow old.  With whom she also created beautiful and functional ceramics and recipes.

Paul de Jongh is on our table – often.  We drink coffee from his mugs, and sup many meals from his bowls.

I trust he is now at peace.  I wish Nina and the children, especially Nina, peace and strength as they face a different chapter.

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer


English writing, research and online tutoring services

writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here


And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a coffee. Or better yet, a glass of wine….?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I also share my  occasional instagram posts to the crypto blockchain using the new, and really nifty phone app, Dapplr.  On your phone, click the icon below, and give it a go.