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Memories can be good or bad, happy or sad, close or distant, cherished or reviled.
Each day social media and cloud based photo storage solutions suggest the memories that we should recall. These are the ones that are recorded forever in digital perpetuity and ones that pop up every year on this day with familiar regularity. But for each of the digital memories that are proffered there are days that go by that are unremarkable; that don’t warrant a digital record, unmemorable enough not to prompt a photo.
So do you remember what you were doing on 12th May in years past? Does it warrant a digital prompt… a photo proudly presented as a record of those days?
Do you remember what you were doing on 12th May?
Maybe you do? Maybe you don’t? Maybe it was always an unremarkable day for you
It seemed that way for me in 2014, but since then it’s been a day etched forever in my mind, my experience and my heart….. It was the beginning of the end. But it was a day so unremarkable it didn’t even prompt a photo.
It was the day of a planned trip to London with my job, going along to present work we had been doing on involving patients, carers and the public, understanding their experiences of care.
I remember getting up early before Seth, I clearly remember the clothes that I wore that day, I remember the brooch, the jacket, the dress, but worryingly for me I can’t remember the shoes!
I was up before Seth and was finishing getting ready as he emerged from the bathroom, he started to get dressed, but he was breathless, tired and just not quite right. He had just finished antibiotics and steroids prescribed the previous week and after feeling like things were turning around he said he was going to go back to the GP after work. He was struggling to put on his socks and his shoes and remember helping him and then rushing off to catch a train.
On the way down to London and during the day there were texts from Seth telling me he had a GP appointment at 4.30pm. My day flew by in a blur of presentations, discussions and networking.
I caught my train about 5.30pm and tried to get hold of Seth to see how he had fared at the GPs, a call no answer…..a text no answer… a call to the landline no answer….. Again and again I tried but nothing….. I tried not to panic but there was an underlying unease… why had Seth needed so much help that morning? Where was he? Surely he was out of the GPs by now?
The train arrived back in Stoke at 7pm and I was hoping that Seth would be there when I got home. There was however, this underlying nag… doubt… foreboding that he wasn’t at home …. If he was he would have answered the phone…
I arrived home and pulled onto the drive, no sign of Seth’s car, that feeling of stomach churning despair when you know something just isn’t right. In the lounge there was a post it note from Seth saying he had been sent to the A and E for X rays. He had left his wedding ring on the post it note, knowing he would need to remove it for the x ray. There was something poignant about that circle of gold with its Celtic engraving it seemed symbolic it was he never wore his wedding ring again.
I rang the hospital, they tried to find out if Seth was there, eventually I was told that Seth was in A and E, I arrived at reception they directed me to a cubicle I was asked to take a seat and told that Seth had gone for tests and would be back soon .Sitting on a hard plastic chair… waiting…. waiting….. interminable waiting… then a trolley with a patient and being pushed by porter and yes, they were headed to the cubicle. But then the realisation that this was an elderly lady, when they arrived the porter asked me what I was doing there? I explained “waiting for my husband” oh no he said he had taken the bloke from this cubicle to medical assessment hours ago.
I eventually found Seth, he was in pain, his abdomen was so distended and he was upset.
Time went by in a blur and sometime after midnight on what was now the 13th May; I left Seth in the assessment unit and headed home in tears, tired and with a sense of impending doom. I knew there was something very wrong …. But I had no idea that Seth was dying from late stage pancreatic cancer.
That’s why I always know exactly what I was doing on the 12th May 2014 and why I know exactly what I have been doing on 12th May for the last six years.
Each year I replay the remarkable mundane detail of the start of the day as well as the momentous and devastating end of the day. I can also recall with crystal clarity what happened on the following 32 days in rich detail, detail that is etched in my mind, etched so deeply it will never fade.
I know that the days between 12th May and the 14th June 2020 will all be vivid, painful, moving, just as they are every year. However, with time I have learned that as painful as those days were in 2014, they were also the most poignant, life affirming, connective and loving days of my life.
So today is the start of reliving 33 days and as I do it brings home to me how lucky I was. I had 33 days of knowing that Seth was going to die, we had chance to talk, plan and prepare, I was there every day with him, I was with him when he died and I was able to give him a funeral that paid tribute to his life and was attended by all of those people who loved him.
Today I am very conscious of all those bereaved by Corona virus who didn’t have the luxury of 33 days and it makes me desperately sad. Sending my love and strength to those who have lost loved ones.