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When I was a child Christmas was magical.  It began in mid December when the Lewis’s Christmas parade would burst into Porthill in full technicolour with loud Christmas music and  causing universal excitement.

Standing against the fence high above road at Bradwell Lodge gazing down in wonderment at Santa and his helpers the sound of Christmas music and sleigh bells. A few days later there would be the visit to the grotto in Lewis’s in Hanley, with the chance to tell Santa just what you wanted for Christmas 
The Christmas tree was always up by my birthday on December 17th with a party and presents. When Christmas Day finally came there was always a pillow case full of stocking fillers, nuts, tangerines, Meltus Fruit Jellies, pens, pencils, stationary, lots of wonderful bits and bobs. Being an only child I would wait with anticipation for mum and dad to wake up so we could all open presents together. Over the years there were so many wonderful presents a silver cross dolls prom, dolls house, Sindy, a blue Chopper Bike, Etch a Sketch and Spirograph. 
Then as I got older presents changed they were usually focused around music, a tape recorder with a tape splicer (which I never ever used), LP records I clearly remember a blue vinyl copy of David Essex’s Imperial Wizard, a walkman, headphones, a radio, my own stereo, graphic equaliser… I was music mad  
Our little terraced house was always decorated with bright glass baubles, fairy lights, metallic brightly coloured garlands, a wind chime was hung above the door and there were fairy lights warm and inviting garlanding the windows. 
Being the daughter of a coal man there were always roaring coal fires in both rooms, it would be so hot that you would be in a t shirt, it was too hot for the obligatory Christmas jumper.
Mum would make an enormous Christmas dinner with loads of sprouts, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, peas, cabbage; she was the daughter of a green grocer. Dad would always moan about there being too much veg, but wouldn’t moan about the turkey and the pigs in blankets. 
Dad would spend most of Christmas day doing his predictable tease. Which would be deciding to open his presents or not. He would wait till late afternoon then start picking up presents, shaking them feeling them and predicting that they were socks, hankies or smellies. He would put them all back, an hour later doing it all over again and predicting the brand of the  smellies Brut, Denim or Old Spice.  It would be late evening  before he finally gave in and opened them, his predictions were usually right. 
Then I got married my first Christmas our combined families the Hancocks and the Donallys came round for our first Christmas dinner. 
Then the following year a few weeks before Christmas; my dad collapsed with a brain haemorrhage and died.
That was the saddest most desolate of Christmases. 
After that Christmas was always sad, it as always the reminder that dad was dead, a failing marriage and a mum would couldn’t cope with the loss of the man who meant the world to her combined to make Christmas a time of dread.
Then I met Seth that “ nice little chubby man “ he loved Christmas. He would set about decorating his house with lights, tinsel and trees something in every room in the house. He would help me with my decorations too, two houses full of Christmas cheer.
We got married on the 17th December 2004, it was my fortieth birthday and Seth his inimitable mickey taking way proclaimed that “he was the best present”  I could have received on my fortieth birthday. 
Our wedding day was the day we moved into our new home, we had so many Christmas decorations it made it feel warm, safe, cosy and full of love. Every year we would buy  a few more decorations but Seth had a special angel and two ceramic candleholders sentimental reminders from his childhood that always took pride of place along with my golden bunny bauble made from glass with fluffy ears and tail from my childhood Christmas tree
For the next nine years Christmas was a magical time, we spent our Christmas days with family often going to Seth’s twin brothers in Southport. Boxing Day then became our own personal special Day when Seth would cook a fabulous Christmas dinner. The following days were always full of love, joy and that warm safe feeling of being with the person you love, that opportunity to relish in the time you spend together, just being together, knowing that you were loved unconditionally, adored and revered Seth always made me feel so very special 
Then Seth died. 
My first Christmas without him was dire, I wanted to be alone on Christmas Day I was still in shock about his death.  I was traumatised. The people who cared about me wanted me to spend time with them. It caused friction and made Christmas unbearable. 
The second Christmas was even worse the finality of the loss, the stark and painful knowledge that Christmas would never be a time to relish and celebrate was all consuming. 
My birthday, wedding anniversary and Christmas are three significant events all within a week of each other and for all those reasons for celebration laid my grief bare. Grief accentuated by everyone’s love for Christmas, a love for Christmas that I used  to have and that now like Seth …… it a live that is lost. The love of Christmas evaporated the day that Seth died.
Since then I have avoided Christmas, I don’t do the shops, I can’t bear the joyful Christmas music, the cheery tunes of snow, love, Santa, mistletoe, and snowmen. I can’t bear to see presents in the shops and where for one split second my stupid brain  thinks I “oh Seth would love that”. I know all to well Seth is dead there is no need for presents. 
I can’t bear the thought of putting up those bright, shiny and memory laden decorations that we both loved so much. I can’t face opening up Christmas cards that say to Lesley instead of Seth and Lesley. It’s simple I just can’t do Christmas anymore. 
So to honour Seth’s memory and do something positive; for the last three years I have gone away before my birthday and for Christmas. It seems the most sensible thing to do, it feels a positive way to respond to grief, the heartache, the gnawing pain of loss. Throughout the year the grief and pain ebbs and flows, some days so intense that I feel like I can’t breathe, there are days when the pain is so great it makes me feels nauseous, days when the grief is tempered and slightly dulled by the love, humour and memories that made our life together so wonderful. 
But my birthday, wedding anniversary and Christmas  exacerbate the pain. 
Today is my birthday, my fifth birthday without Seth, this birthday I am 55 years old, Seth’s is fovever 49, a fact I can’t change. 
I am in  Singapore today and I will be at Raffles Hotel  in the Long Bar and I will raise a Singapore Sling to Seth. I will be remembering the most loving relationship, which ran so deep, a marriage that was that full of love, respect and mutual compassion and to the man I loved with all my heart. 
But In truth I dearly wish I was back at home with a house full of Christmas decorations with Seth singing White Christmas very badly and out of tune. 
But I’m not ……….. and there is nothing I can do to change that.
What I can do though is celebrate the nine and a half years we were married, the 16 years we were together and the 26 years I had the privilege of knowing and loving Seth Goodburn. So today that’s what I will do …. Seth I will love you with all of my heart forever.