8 articles Tag death

The Importance of Music

Music is something which is hugely important in the Mum’s the Word house. Husband and I are both avid listeners of all types of music and it has marked so many important occasions. When we met, one of the things that we realised we had in common was a massively eclectic taste in music which, surprisingly, overlapped in so many places. When we discovered that our favourite song was one and the same, something just clicked and felt completely…right.

I can never get my head around those people who say “I’m not really into music”. There are some songs which seem to speak to my soul on such a deep level that I can’t imagine not being moved by music. I suppose I’m quite an emotional person (in both a good and a bad way!) and on any given day a song can make me smile, cry or change my mood completely. There are some songs which almost reach out and make me sob involuntarily.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year or so, you can’t help but have noticed that many wonderful musicians have been taken from us, quite unexpectedly in some cases. Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole, John Bradbury, Glenn Frey to name just a few. For both Husband and I, the music of these amazing artists has been hugely important to us and although we didn’t know them as people, the loss of them as artists has been quite rough.

When you love an artist, especially ones who’ve been around your whole life, I think you kind of have this image of immortality in your head, thinking somehow that they’ll always be around and that you’ll get the chance one day to see them in concert. We’d both have LOVED to see David Bowie or Price or any of the others (although we were both lucky enough to see Motorhead in concert back in 2006, so that’s a small consolation). I know it’s quite naive to think that these people will be around forever; many were in their late sixties and certainly didn’t live very…clean…lives, but it still feels as though we’ve been robbed.

As a result, Husband and I have made a silent pact with one another to try to get to as many gigs as we can from now on. Last year, we saw Bad Religion, a band we both love, and it was amazing timing as they played in London on our wedding anniversary, so we got to have a night out together seeing a band who’s music means a lot to us. We’ve also got tickets to see Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys in September, which is a real ‘Bucket List’ item for us both as we’ve both loved The Beach Boys since we were tiny (when I was little, I collected vinyl records that I’d buy every Saturday from the second hand record shop at the end of my road and a Best of The Beach Boys was one of my prized possessions!).

We’ve also got tickets to see The Cure when they tour at the end of November, which is another really exciting thing for us – The Cure are one of those bands who we’d both wanted to see for such a long time but they don’t tour hugely often and when they do, the tickets are like hens teeth, so getting hold if tickets for this tour was a bit of a dream come true.

It may sound morbid, effectively ticking our favourite bands off of a list to make sure we see them before any key members die, but I like to think it’s more of a pragmatic nod to the fact that even the biggest stars are only human and we need to make an effort to absorb their art while they’re still around. Live music is such a wonderful experience and having more of those experiences together can only be a good thing.

Are you still reeling from all of the sad losses of this past year? Has it inspired you to watch more live music? Who’s on YOUR gig bucket list? I’d love you to leave me a comment below. Also, if you know of any amazing gigs coming up, do let me know!

Suicide is Painless…?

…or so Mike Altman would have us believe. I’m not sure if I do…

I’ve had conversations with people about suicide before and in general people get very animated about it. I’ve heard a lot of negativity about people who choose suicide, words bandied about like ‘selfish’ and ‘cowardly’ and if I’m honest, I dislike it.

In terms of selfishness, I have two thoughts. Firstly, I don’t believe that you can apply rational emotions to someone who is so close to the end of their tether that they’d consider taking their own lives. Secondly, if you have got to that point and you can see no way out, you’re too tired to go on, surely its selfish of others to expect you to live a life against your wishes for the sake of them?

That’s a very base way of looking at it and I know people who are left behind have to deal with pain and suffering, I’m not trying to denigrate that in any way, I’m just making the point that people take it personally when it’s not about them.

In terms of cowardice, I don’t know about you but I think it probably takes a lot of courage to be able to take the steps to end your own life. I’ve been at a very low ebb on a few occasions in my life and although the thought of suicide has crossed my mind, I’d never have the guts to do it.

Is it guts? I don’t know, I guess I’m just lucky enough to have more reasons to live than die.

We were there.

Husband and I were discussing suicide today after we found out that an acquaintance of ours had taken his life and he put a perspective on it that I hadn’t thought of. I told him how sad I felt that the guy had been so low that he’d ended it all and he said that if suicide is a conscious decision (i.e. not drink or drug related) then it needn’t always be sad. Maybe some people just decide that enough is enough and that they don’t want to go on any further. I guess I can understand what he means, but I’m socially programmed to view suicide as an act of sadness and desperation.

All I know is, I’ve seen literally hundreds of Facebook statuses and conversations today that suggest that PB will be sorely missed and the fact that he made a mark on the world is something to be proud of.

I hope so many people miss me when my time comes.

Melanoma – You know it can kill you, right?

Please read the comments before reading the first paragraph of this post. I jumped on something someone said and took it the wrong way and seem to have got things arse about face. Either way, the main content of the post still stands, just not the catalyst that got me writing it.

Apologies for the provocative title, but I’m feeling rather provocative and I need people to listen.

Yesterday, I read a tweet that bemoaned the lack of sunbeds available by 9.30am. I replied somewhat snarkily and said that I was amazed that people even use sunbeds these days. Maybe I shouldn’t have been snotty, I don’t really know the Tweeter in question and I guess people are free to do what they like, but after watching someone I love die from a disease that can be caused by these machines, it makes me wonder why the hell anyone would go near them?

Lorraine was an otherwise healthy 40-year-old woman when a ‘dodgy mole’ on her leg became malignant. I’m not sure if she used sunbeds, I think she said she had once or twice, but she lived in Jamaica for a portion of her adult life too, enjoying the sun and the easy way of life.

Lorraine’s mole was removed and as she had an aggressive form of melanoma, the doctors removed her lymph nodes in her right groin too as this was the logical place for the cancer to spread to. Unfortunately for her and us, although she had no lymph nodes for the cancer to attack, it went to her brain and her lungs instead.

She had radiotherapy which made her lose her hair and had just been accepted onto a trial for a new drug when the cancer got the better of her. The melanoma in her brain (and yes, when melanoma spreads it’s still a melanoma, unlike other cancers) caused her to have seizures, become confused and made the pressure in her skull build. On the day she died, I stroked her face and was amazed by how hot she felt. They explained that the pressure around her brain was giving her a fever.

Lorraine died 20 days after her 42nd birthday. Melanoma killed her.

This post may seem harsh or insensitive and if my Dad or Lorraine’s family ever read this, I hope they understand the intention behind this post.

Melanoma is not just about having a mole removed and moving on. Melanoma is aggressive and it can end your life. Think about this next time you decide you want a tan at any cost. Think about this next time you look at your kids and decide not to wear sun screen.

Some facts about Melanoma:

  • Unlike most malignancies, malignant melanoma is more common in women than men. In 2008 it was the sixth most common cancer in females. Between 2007 and 2008 malignant melanoma moved from the ninth most common cancer  in males to the sixth most common. This is due to an extra 600 cases being diagnosed in males in 2008 than in 2007.
  • In 2009 in the UK, 2,633 people in the UK died from skin cancer.
  • If diagnosed at stage 1A, 88% of patients will live for 10 years. If diagnosed at stage 4, that number becomes 7-19% living past five years.
  • Overall, people from higher social classes tend to have better survival rates than people from lower social classes.

I know this may be a shocking or depressing post for the Easter weekend, but if I can make just one person wear sunscreen when they go out in the sun, I’ll have done something really important.

When Did Your Kids Become Aware of Death?

I’ve had this post in my head for a while but have been finding it hard to find the right words. Sausage, just recently, has been talking about dying. During her games with her dollies, she’ll talk about them dying from one illness or another (mostly due to starvation, if I remember rightly…) and she starts random conversations about people passing away.

When my step mum died last year, I thought I did a really good job of hiding my grief, but looking back I know I failed. She saw me crying, utterly bereft, in denial, angry – the full set of emotions that goes with losing a loved one. Maybe this has contributed to her sudden awareness of mortality.

Then there’s Disney.

I wrote this post not long after I started my blog, but due to that wonderful parental pressure that kids know how to exert, Sausage now watches a small selection of Disney films, with Lilo and Stitch being her absolute fave. In fact, there are FOUR Lilo and Stitch films and a TV series, all of which she now has. In Lilo and Stitch 2 (for those of you who haven’t seen it…) Stitch’s batteries run out at the end and everyone thinks he’s dead. Sausage fixates on this part of the film and even though he comes back to life, often says repeatedly “Stitch is dead, isn’t he Mummy?”.

I always said that I wanted to protect Sausage’s innocence as much as I possibly could, but there comes a time in a child’s life when they start to ask questions.

“Daddy, why don’t you have your cat Mitzy anymore?”

“Mummy, why don’t we see Lorraine anymore?”

She also became aware of the concept after seeing charity adverts on television. She asked her Daddy why the little girl in the Water Aid advert looked so sad and Husband explained that she and lots of other kids didn’t have any clean water to drink, to which Sausage responded that she wanted to give her Christmas money to the little girl to help her. Husband made a donation on Sausage’s behalf (though not out of her Christmas money) and he and I were bursting with pride at our child’s kindness.

And how do we answer those questions without touching on the subject of death? To an extent I feel like I’ve failed her, should have given her a more imaginative answer and skirted around the issue, but at the same time, I don’t condone lying to kids when the truth will do. I think I just have to come to terms with the fact that she’s a bright kid and it was time for her to learn certain facts of life. She’s only three and a half, though. Seems horribly young.

Do you know when your kids became aware of death and dying? Did they hear about it from you and how did you handle the subject?

Grief and Faith.

Some of you may know and some of you may not know that my stepmum passed away at the end of last year and while we’re all dealing with it, there are times when it still feels very raw and painful. On a seemingly unrelated note, Husband was bought a book on Buddhism by my little sister for Christmas and when reading it, found the story of Kisa Gautami. It goes something like this:

Kisa Gautami was a young woman from a wealthy family who was happily married to an important merchant. When her only son was one-year-old, he fell ill and died suddenly. Kisa Gautami was struck with grief, she could not bear the death of her only child. Weeping and groaning, she took her dead baby in her arms and went from house to house begging all the people in the town for news of a way to bring her son back to life. Of course, nobody could help her but Kisa Gautami would not give up. Finally she came across a Buddhist who advised her to go and see the Buddha himself.When she carried the dead child to the Buddha and told Him her sad story, He listened with patience and compassion, and then said to her, “Kisa Gautami, there is only one way to solve your problem. Go and find me four or five mustard seeds from any family in which there has never been a death.”Kisa Gautami was filled with hope, and set off straight away to find such a household. But very soon she discovered that every family she visited had experienced the death of one person or another. At last, she understood what the Buddha had wanted her to find out for herself — that suffering is a part of life, and death comes to us all. Once Kisa Guatami accepted the fact that death is inevitable, she could stop her grieving. (source)

If you’ve read this blog lately, you’ll know that I’ve been musing over faith, mortality and eternity and while Christian teachings allow us to take comfort from the idea that we’ll live forever in Heaven, what I really like about the Buddhist parable is that it makes no promises. It doesn’t speak of clouds and winged angels and halos, it simply teaches us that in grief we are never alone as everyone has suffered loss and that it is an inevitability in life.

I don’t know why, but I find this very comforting and have felt strangely peaceful since Husband told me. What do you all think?

R.I.P. Bob Holness

I was saddened today to hear about the death of Bob Holness, better known for his role as the presenter of Blockbusters. He lived to the ripe old age of 83 and leaves behind a wife, three children and seven grandchildren. My thoughts go out to them on this sad day.

Just hearing his name brought back such a flood of memories, with Bob and Blockbusters featuring in some of the earliest snippets that I remember of my life. I have one flash of memory that is so tiny but must be from at least 25 years ago, as my Mum and Dad were still together. Mum and I were standing in our kitchen in the maisonette that we lived in, I believe it was a winters day and  Mum was cooking dinner, and Blockbusters came on the telly. Nothing special or outstanding about that, but it reminds me strongly of a time that seems like a lifetime ago now.

My Mum reminds me often of how I used to adore Blockbusters and how I could answer the questions even at a very young age. I remember adoring the programme and wishing that I could be a contestant on it as soon as I was old enough. I think, in a way, that’s where my thirst for knowledge began. It definitely sparked my obsession with Trivial Pursuit and as a child I was mad about general knowledge, choosing to stay in and answer quizzes made up by my Mum or Grandad rather than go out and play with kids my own age. Hey, I never said I was cool, okay?

Sadly, Blockbusters finished when I was 10, so I never got to be a contestant, but I’m still thankful for the entertainment and urge to learn that the show gave me.

Rest in peace, Bob. I’ll leave you with this…(skip to 1:02)

Guilt, Grief and SSRI’s.

Let me start by saying that this is one of those blog posts where I feel a bit like I’m ripping my guts out and smearing them all over the page (apologies for the rather visceral visual…). It’s very personal and there’s always that worry that someone will take what you say and use it against you. In short; be gentle with me.

As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been something of an emotional rollercoaster for myself and my family. Grief is an unfathomable creature, making you feel one way and then another without so much as a moments notice. I imagine I’ve been quite difficult to live with, really.

I’ve suffered most of my life with some form of anxiety or depression, remembering even as young as four or five the abject panic that set in when I was away from my Mum, the cutting out of primary school 5 minutes after I was dropped off and chasing my mum or nan up the road, begging not to be left. Anyway, the point is, I’ve dealt with it for about 20 years and have largely managed to resist taking tablets to get by. I’ve seen counsellors, been given diagnoses and had them taken away again, but I’ve always maintained that there’s no point in giving myself a false high if there’s something underlying that’s causing my issues. I’m anti-paperingoverthecracks, if you will.

A couple of days ago, Husband was listening to me pour my heart out for the millionth time, about how sad I feel, how I feel completely and utterly cheated out of the chance to get to know Lorraine better, something which I took for granted while she was alive and am completely rueing now. At her funeral, I found out she was a fan of The Only Way is Essex and Alanis Morrisette, two things we have in common that I never knew about (despite THIS post. Yes, I know, I got sucked in. What are YOU saying?!) I’m struggling to get my head around the fact that she’s no longer here, my heart actually physically aches for my Dad when I think of how devastated he must be, how he’s got to go about his daily life despite the fact that his world has been torn in two.

My family life is suffering because of my grief, and while I know this is normal, I hate the fact that I’m grumpy, snappy and prone to tears at the drop of a hat. So, I asked Husband, shall I go to the Doctors? Well, he said, you know they’ll just offer you anti-depressants. And it’s true. I don’t know if it’s my surgery or all of them, but ours seem to have a stash of pre-printed prescriptions. Anything physical; antibiotics. Anything mental; anti-depressants. It’s like a conveyor belt where you get handed one or the other, no questions asked.

So, do I take them? I came to the conclusion that it’d be largely pointless. Hear me out, this is not me casting judgement on people who DO take them. Some people’s depression genuinely does come from their body’s inability to process serotonin adequately and they need a helping hand. My ‘problem’ isn’t chemical, it’s real. I could take anti-depressants but when the time came for me to come off of them again, the ‘problem’ will still be there, Lorraine will still be gone and I’ll still miss her. Sure, they’ll give me a boost for now, but I still think I’d be better off going through the natural process and dealing with each stage of grief as it comes.

I was explaining to Husband last night that although I still feel overwhelmingly sad at times, some of that sadness is giving way to a really intense anger that was worrying me. He gave me a wry smile and told me to Google ‘stages of grief’. Step One, denial, Step Two, anger. So while I might be feeling awful at times, at the very least I know I’m normal. And that’s something to be positive about, right?

I don’t know how long it’s going to take and I feel guilty for saying I even want to feel back to normal already, like I’m doing Lorraine a disservice by not permanently grieving, but I know for a fact that it’s not what she’d want. She adored Sausage and would be gutted to think that I was making her suffer with my behaviour. So, I need to use every ounce of mental strength that I have to stop me slipping back into the mire of depression, as it can be so bloody hard to get back out of.

Wish me luck…

Cancer is a C*nt.

I feel that I should preface this post by saying that there is a lot of bad language, a lot of emotion and a whole load of anger. If you’re sensitive or easily offended, don’t read it as I will not apologise for a single word of it.

What do you say to a person who has been told they’re going to die? When a person is ill, even seriously ill, but there’s a glimmer of hope you can do your best with “I’m sure it’ll be fine” or “stay positive” or even “don’t worry, I’ll be praying for you”. But when someone has been sent home from hospital, being told that there’s no more that can be done to save them from a disease, what do you say? That’s not a hypothetical musing, I genuinely need some help with this.

Because what I really want to say is “Fuck you, cancer, you’re a cunt”.

It may be a complete cliche, but cancer is indiscriminate. Cancer doesn’t give a fuck whether you’ve been a brilliant person, whether you’re too young to die or have a shit load of potential that won’t be fulfilled. I’ve heard so many people say “It’s not fair, why do nice people get ill when there are paedophiles and serial murderers in prisons who never suffer?”. And the only answer I can give is that cancer DOES. NOT. GIVE. A. FUCK.

I cannot even begin to imagine how scary it must be to be told that you only have a certain amount of time to live. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m terrified of my own mortality and I think that comes from my internal conflict over the afterlife. See, I do believe in a ‘higher power’. I look at the universe and I feel that I couldn’t not believe in a higher power, at the very least something or someone to plant the seed from which everything as we know it grew. But I also have a more scientific, reasoned side to brain which tells me that everything is carbon and will be once again, and that’s all there is to it.

But then, I’ve not suffered, have I? I’ve not opened my eyes in the morning, only for the pain to kick in and just wish that it would all go away, wishing for sweet release from a body that’s letting you down.

I just don’t know how to get my head around it.

Maybe it’s down to experience. My Nan died about 7 years ago and while that was utterly heartbreaking, she was an old lady and she’d been ill for a while. It’s easier to reconcile something when you can get your head around the timing.  Old people are supposed to die. It’s shit, but they’ve had their life, left their footprint on the world and we can let them go with the most minute amount more ease than someone whose death is untimely.

I guess the point is, I’m really fucking angry.

I’ve not cried. I’m not quite sad yet. I’m numb, I’m waiting for the worst to happen, I swing from being confused to enraged to totally and utterly devoid of words to even explain how I feel. I can’t even begin to imagine how my Dad must feel, how her Mum must feel. All I know is, I’m devastated for them all.

So, I’ll say it again. Cancer is a cunt. And that’s all there is to it.

If any of you want to donate to Cancer Research, I’ve added a widget in my sidebar. Thanks.