Saturday, 30 June 2012

My Eulogy to Helen

Because I wasn't in Helen's life at the end, I wasn't involved in the tributes to Helen at the funeral service, and this was only right and fair. Hearing Helen's friend C and her partner K talking about Helen in the service yesterday was wonderful, and when I looked around the room and saw so many people in tears, I realised how many things Helen was to so many people.

She was a partner, daughter, sister, friend, confidant, inspiration, neighbour, work mate and many more things I'm probably not even aware of. 

When you're friends with someone you're aware of their friendship with you, you're aware of their family relationships, and to a lesser extent their other friends, who you might talk about with your friend. But you have no real grasp of that person's relationship with their co-workers, next door neighbours and all the other people in their life.

Seeing how Helen was SO loved by everyone yesterday was a beautiful thing. We did some reminiscing yesterday with Helen's partner K and with C, her best friend when she died, and amongst ourselves, but I wanted to say what Helen meant to ME.

She had such wonderfully warm eyes

FRIENDLY

Helen was so friendly. She made fast friends with everyone. It's a testament to this that I can't really remember how we actually came to be friends. I can remember who introduced us and where we met, but I can't put an exact finger on how it happened. I *think* it was because she came to stay with my friend L for a couple of days and I offered to help Helen down to the train station with her luggage, because Helen never travelled light *smiles*. I think that simple act of human kindness was enough of a spark for Helen to think I'd do as a friend *more smiles*.

Another example of Helen's warmth and friendliness was how she got to know everyone camped around us at festivals. Because K works half day Fridays, we'd have arrived at the festival on a Thursday afternoon (as generally festivals (at least the ones we went to) run Thurs-Sun or Thurs-Mon) and Helen and K would arrive on a Friday afternoon. Within an hour or two Helen knew everyone around us, who they were, what their jobs were, what their favourite bands were, who they fancied and anything else you could possibly imagine. Often, I'd wake up first thing in the morning at a festival to hear Helen's lovely sing-song Mansfield tones (she had a lovely cadence to her voice, you could tell her bubbliness from it) and pop my head out of the tent and she'd be sharing a brew with someone.


KIND

Helen was so kind, as is K. They were the perfect couple. When I had my first ectopic pregnancy, Helen took a week off work at virtually no notice to come to help look after me. 150 miles, God knows how much £££ in train fare, and all to eat junk food and sit watching tv with me for a week as I was too zombiefied to do anything else. Helen was always watching her weight too, so chowing on junk for a week was an act of solidarity and kindness for me.

Once, when we'd been to a festival in Wales and had a hideously long coach ride back, I took ill with travel nausea. I wasn't actually sick, although I'd probably have felt better if I had, as I felt so bloody wretched. I'd spent half the trip with my hoodie over my face to block out the sun, but when we pulled up at a motorway service station, Hel and K got out to buy me a 'get well' kit. They came back with a milkshake, vitamin water, a sandwich and all other kinds of stuff to make me feel better, and it worked. We offered Hel and K the money for everything, but they wouldn't take any, which is a prime example of Helen and K's generosity, which brings me onto...


GENEROSITY

Helen was amazingly generous to everyone. She was the kind of person who thought 'Leah loves make up. I know, I'll buy her a load of MAC or Urban Decay!' Her presents were legendary. Every Christmas and birthday there'd be an amazing pile of presents for me to open. I tried to match Helen in amazing gift giving but she made an art of it. Whenever she saw something she thought I'd like, she'd buy it an squirrel it away until birthday or Christmas (or sometimes, just give it as a gift at any time.) She was never showy about the presents she gave, and she never gave for the sake of giving, she just knew what everyone liked and gave the most wonderful thoughtful gifts.

At another festival we'd been to, Helen wanted to buy an Iron Maiden t-shirt as we'd just seen them. She asked me if I was getting one, and as I was having a bad month (or year, who knows!) I said no, so she asked which one I wanted and bought me one too. That was Helen all over, she just wanted people to have fun and if she could help you have a bit more fun by helping out financially, she would. If she 'lent' you money, she'd say something like 'You can pay me back, or not. I don't care!' She really meant it too. When we went to a music festival in Wales, held at a Pontins, it was very expensive by festival standards and we couldn't afford to go. Helen and Kev paid for us to go because 'We just want you to be there!'


SENSE OF FUN

Helen had a brilliant sense of fun and was great to be around. She was brilliant at freeing herself into the moment and just having the best time. She was always the one to dance or to drag the unwilling onto the dance floor, and because she'd be beaming and laughing so much you couldn't help but be drawn in and have a great time yourself. A toss of her amazing mane, a slick of red lipstick and a tight shirt to show off her God-given lady lumps and she'd be ready for an amazing night of fun.

God, I miss her.

For all the regrets I have, and there are so many, I'm so glad I had her in my life for the time that I did. Here are some quotes and music in tribute to Helen.

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love - Carl Sagan

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared - Buddha 

This next quote is long but please read it. It might be of comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one.

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got. 

And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives. 

And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen. - Aaron Freeman [Source] Copyright NPR Radio 2005.
 
This song was played at the funeral and is lovely.


This is how I will remember her - the singing, laughing, game-for-a-laugh girl I loved

Helen, as long as my days on this earth may be, I will miss you every day. I draw comfort from the moon. Like Aaron Freeman said, you are still part of this universe, and I like to think you're looking down on us.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The last week in photos

Hello all.

Sorry for the radio silence. I've been sad after the death of my old friend and battling ill health (and still am) but thought I'd share the last 7 days in photos with you. There's a mixture of Instagram and DSLR photos.

Couscous, baked apple, sweet potato, chicken and cauliflower 'mash'.

The healthy eating is going really well, as is doing yoga 3 times a week. I've lost 2 inches off my waist already and am getting more flexible by the day, it seems. It's a lifestyle change, not a diet. I'm in this for the long haul. It feels like the only positive thing I can so for myself at the moment.

Just a part of my weekly veg delivery.

My weekly fruit delivery.

Breakfast fruit salad.

Fennel and celery salad with avocado and cherry toms.

Blackwall Tunnel lights and the ubiquitous black cab.

Monuments to money in glass and steel.

The Shard at London Bridge in the distance.


On Saturday evening we went for a walk in the rain and got some photos of Tower Bridge and the Shard building. Some of them are a little blurry as it was very dark and we didn't have the tripod.

This was a paddle-powered party boat



Heavy rain...

...which was soon replaced by blinding sunshine.

I hope you've had a good week? What have you been up to?

Sunday, 17 June 2012

On putting one foot in front of the other

Hi.

In some ways I've had a great day today. It's been a lovely lazy Sunday. I had a great yoga workout, getting a good sweat on and using muscles in places I didn't know I had places. I've cooked myself two lovely clean eating meals and have done absolutely no housework.

Yesterday I changed my desktop photo to one of Helen and I. I've looked at it a lot, but mainly looked through it. Then it hit me - how can she be dead?! How. Can. She. Be. Dead? Howcanshebedead?  I found a couple of short video clips of her earlier so I could hear her voice. When you break it down, what do you have from a 10 year friendship with someone? A couple of hundred photos and a few seconds of film, plus presents, birthday cards and that kind of thing. And none of it is enough. It will never be enough.

I'm scared I'll forget her face, her voice, the shape of her teeth, her laugh. My grief is like a heavy blanket I want to pull over myself and wrap myself up in, blocking out reality. The nature of grief is to be self-pitying about it to a certain extent, to think about how we will never see the deceased person again, how it affects us. When I pull myself out of this funk for a minute I think she hadn't had kids, she hadn't got married......and whether she wanted to do those things or not she had so much left to do with her life. She was a fun loving girl but she barely had half a lifetime. There were umpteen more holidays she should have been able to enjoy, thirty or more years of life with her loyal and doting fella, and perhaps she would've been looking after her mum in her old age. It is not in the natural order of things for a parent to bury a child. It's just wrong, like the very fabric of the universe has bunched up.

Because we were estranged there's no solid line of contact between me and her partner. I sent him a text message of condolence yesterday morning when I found out Helen had died and he replied, but the poor guy will be going through hell so I'm not going to hassle him. I don't know if they're having an inquest, or when the funeral is. I know nothing, and it's horrible. I will send him a condolence card as well, not that all the kind words in the world will bring Helen back.

It's NEVER going to be easy when someone you love dies, whether you were in close contact with them when they died or if you hadn't seen them for 20 years. There are always going to be regrets.

I'm struggling a bit after this news. I have existing mental health issues and have been struggling to keep my head above the parapet for quite some time. I know I'll be OK in time, a lot more 'OK' than Helen's boyfriend and family will be, that's for sure. I don't want to fully succumb to my grief, because right now I feel like I'll drown in sadness. Doing my yoga and eating well are positive things I'm doing, and they are a well-needed addition to the balance sheet of my life at the moment.

If you've read this far, thanks for listening. If you've ever lost someone, hugs from me to you.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A fist full of regrets - R.I.P. Helen

Getting out of bed this morning was the hardest thing.

My friend Rosie called me to tell me my old friend Helen had passed away. She was 39. My heart goes out to her long-time boyfriend and her family. After I got the call I just wanted to lay in bed until the world came to an end. I couldn't even cry at first, I was too shocked.

Helen and I used to be best friends for about 10 years up until 2009. We were the best of friends despite living 150 miles apart. When we did see each other we'd have really fun weekends together. We went to gigs and festivals together and we had matching Bagpuss bags :) We were both rock chicks who liked a drink and a good night out. I was with Helen the night I met J. Helen and her fella came down from Birmingham to help us move house. Twice. J got on really well with Helen's fella K. They were like peas in a pod, so much we called them 'pea pod mates'. We were a happy little foursome.

We fell out in August of 2009 and never reconciled. It was over - surprise surprise - me shooting my mouth off without thinking about it first. Of course now I feel I should've done more to make amends. I know I should have. I re-read the emails I sent at the time by way of apology, and I can see why she no longer wanted to be friends with me.

I've come to the conclusion that despite my best efforts, I'm not a very nice person.

At the time I thought I was making a perfectly reasonable apology, but reading back on our emails I was consumed by anger, ego and pride. No wonder Helen didn't want to be friends with me any more!! What I needed to do was take some time away to think instead of typing before I engaged my brain, something which I've been reminded of as a weakness of mine again just this very weekend.

It's something I REALLY need to address.

I reached out to Helen again after my second ectopic pregnancy. Selfishly, I needed my friend. She responded a few times, but I could tell her heart wasn't in it, but who could blame her when I made such an arse of my apology? When J and I decided to get married, I told Helen and said I'd like her and her boyfriend to be there if she could find a way in her heart. We emailed a few more times after that and it just fizzled out. We last emailed in February last year. I should have bloody phoned her. I should have got over myself. I should have sent her a bloody invite to the wedding! Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

When you are hurting, it's easy to think 'Oh, it's her loss!' and other such bitter things, but really, I was angry at her for 'rejecting' me. I should have reached past that and tried to make amends instead of focussing on my own feelings. But instead, I chose to forget all the good memories to protect myself from missing her and put everything in a little box. That said, I always wanted us to be friends again. I thought we had 30+ years of life left and we'd just grow back together.

To leave all this aside and say 'Oh well, it doesn't matter now, it's too late in this case' is a waste of a precious lesson and if I gain nothing else from this horrible, awful, tragic thing it is a reminder that sometimes you just have to look past yourself and your own feelings. You have to try to put that aside and see it from the other person's side. I was caught up on feeling like I was doing 'more' to make amends with Helen than she was with me, and I gave up trying because of my stupid, pig-headed pride and fear of further rejection. Had I the chance to turn back time, I'd turn up on her doorstep in Birmingham and beg her to forgive me for being a giant arsewipe.

I can't believe I will never see Helen again or hear her voice. I don't know if I have any video footage of her, or a voice recording, and suddenly it's of the utmost importance. I will spend the next few days rooting through my enormous collection of photo albums to see if I can scan them all into the pc, clean them all up digitally and get copies printed for her boyfriend.

I have learned the hard way. Once someone has died you will never get to say the sorry you should've said from the start. You'll never get to hug that person again, or hear their laughter. All you are left with is a fistful of regrets and the memories you collected. Don't make the same mistakes as me, please.

So what was Helen like?

She had a great sense of fun. She was from oop North. She was always the last one to bed and the first one up in the morning. I didn't know how she did it! She loved long haired rock gods, particularly of the 80s variety. Her favourite band was Whitesnake. She loved band shirts and slogan t-shirts and had the biggest collection of them I've ever seen. If I asked her - as girls do - what she was planning to wear on any given night out the answer would often be 'Jeans and a shirt!' with a shrug of the shoulders, and we'd both laugh. She loved collecting DVDs of films and TV series, and she loved her vampire type shows like Buffy, and Angel. She got me into Supernatural. She loved memorabilia, she was always collecting cool stuff. She was an amazing gift-giver. She was the kind of person who would think 'Leah likes make up. I know, I'll buy her a load of MAC!' She was so generous. She had an awesome giggle. She liked a drink, as did I back then. When I had my first ectopic pregnancy, she got a week off work at zero notice and came 150 miles to look after me. That was the kind of person she was.

I'm not going to pretend being Helen's friend was always easy. It wasn't. We had our ups and downs and our moments when we drove each other barmy, but we always got over our disagreements. Until last time.

And now, to my eternal regret, my friend who I always hoped would 'come round' is dead. I hope it was quick, and painless, because I can't stand to think of her being in any pain. I hope it was over before she knew it and is in a better place, hanging out with Pete Steele and all the other rock dudes who've passed on. Please - if there's a friend you need to patch things up with, do it now. Forget who was right and who was wrong, just do it. Don't live a life of regret like I will now.

R.I.P. Helen. I forgot I loved you for a while, but I always did. Rest in peace chica and I hope to see you again one day.
This photo is my laptop screensaver











Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Holiday Post VI - Pretty St Mawes and St Just

Hiya!

Don't worry, I'm nearly at the end of this series, which I'm sure will be of great relief those of you who still read this blog! ;)

St Mawes Castle

We didn't actually go into St Mawes Castle. If you walk downhill from the castle you will arrive at the harbour, where there are a few shops, and a couple of pubs. It's a lovely picturesque quaint little place, and if you ever get the chance, do go. As we knew the main 'prize' for the day was going to be St Just in Roseland church, we didn't walk down to the harbour, but I regret that now!




 Then we drove the few miles on to St Just church, which is absolutely spectacular with its sub-tropical vegetation and waterside location. I visited the church about 10 years ago and was keen to go back. J really enjoyed it, and we stopped and had sandwiches on a bench in the tranquil graveyard. We were visited by a cute little robin. I changed the aperture setting on the camera so the background would be blurry and passed the camera to J as he was closer to the robin. We found all the wildlife we saw in Cornwall was friendlier than you'd expect. It's not just humans who benefit from the peace and quiet!





Oops, I quite obviously did NOT take this one ;)

A gravestone from 1608













It was absolutely lovely in the church - not just in the surroundings - but the silence inside. There were lots of little gifts like bookmarks you could buy in the church, and they'd even left tea-making facilities so you could sit and have a cuppa. Everything was there to be paid for in honesty boxes. I was so touched by their trust that I got a bit weepy. Hormones!

If you're ever in this neck of the woods, you must check out this beautiful place. It'll bring you real peace.
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