I once travelled happily alone. Then the most beautiful thing happened and suddenly I was half of two; two became one. But before I could start to document our life together, his life was tragically gone. My darling Ems is now in the bright lights of Heaven and I remain. This is the story of my journey from here. Gratefully a journey that One whose ways are above all of ours takes with me. One day I'll reach those bright lights for myself but until I do, join me on my journey, keeping memories close.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

And this little piggy cried all the way home


I remember Ems telling me that he'd gone home the evening after he'd asked me out and couldn't stop crying in his room because he was so happy. I remember his tears during our first argument, bewildered at 'what had gone wrong' and so desperate for us not to break up (the very existence of this blog shows that the desperation was mutual). I remember us driving along and realising it would be 4 days before we were next able to see each other and simultaneously looking at one another with tears in our eyes (that will sound desperately silly to those of you who've mastered long distance love). I remember saying my vows in our wedding rehearsal and struggling to get the words out through my tears; I mistakenly thought that getting the tears 'over with' in the rehearsal would mean I was ready to say them in the actual ceremony tears free. I was wrong!

Love it seemed had released something in the two of us which was difficult to contain. Neither of us were the sort to spontaneously burst into tears regularly before. Something about the love we shared moved us, equally so the fear of losing it. I poignantly remember us both sobbing in my parents living room while watching 'The Notebook', unable to imagine what it would be like to lose the other with age, age we were never to reach, to dementia in front of our very eyes. I remember us sat on our sofa, talking about how it would be impossible to live without one another, tears rolling down our faces.


It seems rather peculiar to remember particular instances of emotion now. If falling in love with one another had opened the flood gates to some extent, losing sweet Ems has burst the reservoir wall and I have no control with each bend and bump in the road how much water will come my way. There have been tears too many and too often to remember particular instances like those when he was here.

Before Ems died I didn't realise that a broken heart actually physically hurt at times. I also didn't know that the sting of tears was more than a temporary burning sensation while the tears were still flowing, and was in fact a lingering ache that pounded even after the tears had long since soaked into my clothes or pillow.


Tonight I was at one of our monthly leadership meetings and found myself in tears after the meeting. I wasn't moved by the matters we were discussing. I simply couldn't control the emotion that burst up as I tried to speak up about something I felt passionate about and failed to make my voice heard (literally - I was like a mouse). I get annoyed at myself; at the underlying confidence which is so fragile now. I get frustrated at how different things are, how I can't do my job like I used to, how I can't stand before the crowd like I used to, how I can't speak up about things I feel passionately about in conversations because of the flood that can inevitably follow.

And so lately I've been finding myself staying silent, answering 'yeah I'm ok' to people who genuinely want to know how I am. I put on the mask and I smile politely, even go overboard with the day to day chit-chat. I'm not even trying to prove that I am ok. I even detest my falseness at times. I've just struggled to be any other way.

So do I stay silent when I want to talk about things that I'm passionate about? Do I not say how I am when someone really wants to know how I really am? What gain is there in giving the appearance of being stone-like when underneath the love and passions rage?

I sobbed all the way home tonight. I remember braving my first leadership meeting after Ems died and getting emotional about being welcomed, getting emotional at the end of the meeting as people said "I'd better get back to my wife / husband". I missed knowing that Ems was at home waiting for me, whether it be his open arms to celebrate with me, his shoulder to lean on if the meeting had been tough, or to catch up on the Ray Mears programme he'd been watching on iPlayer while I was out (he always conveyed the adventure so excitedly!).

I missed Ems tonight. I drove home asking him in my head why he wasn't here. If he was here I would have been more confident. If he was here I wouldn't have lost control of my emotions even if I hadn't been heard. If he was here he would have comforted me on my return, even if I had got emotional. If he was here...

And so, I can't do anything about the tears. I can act as though there's nothing going on underneath, but that won't mean that there isn't.

The tears come unexpectedly now.

As I sat on the plane back from New York last week (I'll write about that trip soon), I put the earphones of his iPod touch in, clicked play and looked through the beautiful photos of us that are stored on it. I have done so several times without emotion but as I sat on that night flight, the interior lights off, I started to sob. With 2 seats to myself and the lights off I could easily hide visibly but had to put all my efforts into avoiding making any noise as the sobbing got stronger. As my body convulsed with the sobs and the noise sought to burst out, I bottled up the noise so instead the emotion poured out in rivers. The Virgin Atlantic pillow was saturated as I thought about my Ems and the fact that going 'home' is never that without him. Even up so high in the sky I am still no closer to him. It wasn't 'home' anymore that I was headed towards. One beautiful day it will be.

I have memories that spring up on me in the most 'normal' of times, as though there to remind me that all is not 'normal'. Sat in church singing and suddenly reminded of the 600+ who gathered for Ems' funeral: 600! At first I am touched at the amount of love people had / have for Ems and then I'm reminded of why those people gathered. It's a 'funny' kind of reminder, to go from 'normality' to 'reality' within seconds of my thought patterns. The mask is shattered with them but I'd never be without those reminders. To be reminded that all is not 'normal' reminds me that one day all will be well; this is not 'home' forever.

Many ask if the photos placed around my pc screen (in above photo), on my car's dashboard, kept as numerous bookmarks, upset me; but these photos are reminders of blessings I still count as mine. And if there's a tear or two to pay for them, then they're a small price to pay.

One day there'll be no more tears.

Monday, 14 February 2011

And then there was you

In memory of my valentine.

I wrote and gave this poem to my beautiful Ems a couple of months after our relationship began. The words got truer with every new day. 

'And then there was you'
A poem (written for Ems by Ruthie, February 2008)

I was always told I had a good imagination…
I used to imagine what it would be like to be in love.
I used to imagine holding someone’s hand like you didn’t want to ever let it go.
I used to imagine caring for someone so much that their needs became yours.
I used to imagine what it might be like to feel so at ease with someone, they felt like home.
I used to imagine what it would be like to feel safe even though your whole life was in their arms.
I used to imagine staring silently, deeply, searchingly, knowingly, into someone’s eyes and for a moment forget the rest of the world existed.
I used to imagine what it might be like to let go and have someone else let go of themselves back.
I used to imagine what it might be like to find a human love that added something to me and drew new things out of me.
I used to imagine what it might be like to be with someone and know there was nowhere else in the whole universe I’d rather be.
I used to imagine…
And then there was you,
And suddenly all my wildest dreams and deepest imaginations couldn’t come close to the overwhelming wonder of being in love with you, of being loved by you.
I used to imagine but it didn’t come close.
“Are you sure you’re not dreaming?” you asked me,
Only because this is way beyond anything I could have imagined in my dreams. 

He really did ask me if I was sure I wasn't dreaming, telling me he could hardly believe the beauty of our love was real himself. 

He's still, and what we had is still, way beyond anything I could ever have imagined. 

Love eternally x

For valentine memories, see my blog entry from a year ago - 'More than a day'

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Travel Alert

I just thought I'd let regular readers know that I'm in New York for 6 days.

I have every intention of blogging about the experience when I return but wanted to let you know that if any of you want to follow my story in the meantime I'm going to attempt to 'tweet' each evening and hopefully at other times intermittently so you can follow my tales at www.twitter.com/the7journey

Being away has reminded me afresh that even in territories entirely new to the both of us, memories of Ems are absolutely everywhere because they're a part of me. That is a good thing.

Wishing you all a safe and blessed week,

Ruthie x

Saturday, 5 February 2011

When numbness slows my typing hands

So I've just got in from my shift at our church's community coffee bar, The Loft. It's almost 1am. It's silent. And I know I just have to write.

My attempt to break the ice in my last post didn't really work. I have a great desire to write, a great sense of purpose in my writing, I thank God that I have the ability to write, but despite all these things I've been struggling to sit down and do just that; to write. Really really struggling. I've been frustrated with myself. I've let others waiting on me down. And still, nothing. Why don’t the words come out?

It's not just blog entries that have decreased. Diary entries, notebook musings, emails to friends - they've all been in short supply. My writing has consisted of 140 character tweets and Facebook status updates. Snippets can be thought provoking but there is great need too for the bigger picture; quotes can easily be twisted when isolated from their context. My life sometimes feels like those short quotes, those tweets - made up of lone moments where all appears to be 'fine', only for the cracks to show when I'm away from the public eye. It took me a long time to let those moments come, to write little quotes, to face people with a smile, for fear of people thinking that I'm ok, that I'm normal, equipped to face life on my own, all the time.

The inability to get my words out on screen doesn't come alone. Numbness, a state of being I cannot stand, has plagued me of late. And as I feel that numbness wallow over me, it seems natural that a writing inspired by such intensity of grief and emotion, should suffer. The numbness doesn't kill the love. The love still bursts inside; it just kills its expression and influence for good.

Tonight though, as I soon as I closed the car door after my shift, the tears began to flow. He wasn't there in the passenger seat beside me. He hasn't been for over 14 months now but still at times it hits me. It did tonight. I wanted him there, his company, his conversation, his companionship, his taking me home. With numbness you don't feel the hits. But you miss them. You need them. They bring such release. Suddenly in all the grief and tears is all the love and beauty that you miss so much.

I've always been aware of the isolation, the separation that comes with widowhood. If we were only friends with people at the same 'life stage' as us then I'd have none right now. Fortunately it doesn't work like that and I have some amazing friends who I am eternally grateful for (that sentence doesn't give justice to just how grateful I am - there just aren't words my dear friends). But there's an isolation which is far stronger than simply not having friends; even surrounded by people, you cannot escape it. You are isolated from your other half, a part of your very being, and that void becomes all too clear at times.

Looking for advice or opinions on big decisions or simply sharing the mundane details of the day. I wonder if people think it's strange that I've shared certain things with them, like it's not their place to know. But the person whose place it is to 'know' is too far away to share these things with, & in his absence, I share things with others that I wouldn't normally, just like I share this blog with you all. I want to be able to talk through decisions with Ems, to tell him about the silly mundane things of the day, but I can't. And the silence, his silence, is deafening, made louder by still, by naturally non-committal responses from others to questions they should never have been asked, to mundane details that only the most intimate of lovers takes interest in; the way he takes interest in everything that you are. Some things are now solely my decision to make and others can't possibly enter in to that loneliness.

Ems and I bought a 'project' of a house. A beautiful old house with character, light and space; we both loved it immediately. You could walk around and see the 1970s wallpaper and crumbling plaster in places, or you could see what the house would become. We knew it would take ten, maybe twenty years to get the house how we knew it could be, yet we didn't mind. It was to be a labour of love, and it was already full of love; already 'home'. In many ways, despite what other eyes might see, Ems and I lived in the finished article despite having only owned the house for 6 months. With every morning's wake and every walk through the door we saw what it was going to be, not what it was. Our mattress on the floor might as well have been a four poster bed, the ageing paint work the most luxurious wallpaper, as far as we saw it.

In the last few weeks the builders have started work on the house which I haven't lived in since Ems passed. It was time, and as they commence what will be months of work, I continue the build up to living there again, this time alone. This isn't the way I wanted it to be but it's the way I want it to be. It currently stands with its guts taken out, walls knocked down, floors churned up (two words - damp proofing!). Yet as it stands as a shell it still feels every bit our home. It always will.

Massive decisions need to be made on what to do with the layout of the house and again I find myself lost. I am presented with options and ideas and I shelve them to discuss later, yet the person I am shelving them to discuss with is not around to discuss anything. These decisions are now mine to make yet with every one of them, I still think of we. This is not my house but our house. I am suddenly carrying out our plans.

Many have and will be asked for their opinion but the resounding cry of 'it's whatever you want to do' will remain. Yet what I want to do is by the by now. None of this is what I want to do and I long for my sweet darling boy to come and decide with me.

Yet, even as I write I know that the focus was never and will never be the bricks and mortar of the house. The focus was our love which made it home. And I am aptly reminded not to worry about big decisions I have to make or little details I cannot share, because all this we see is temporary. Everything we see is in a state of decay, yet the things beyond vision continue forever. There is nothing and no one visible who won't one day not be here. But the faith despite the circumstance, the hope in the despair, the love in the darkness; those things will continue to grow. The numbness must fade, and the release of it will bring pain, yet forever I know it will be worth it for the purpose and love which has brought me this far and which will ever lead me home. Oh God I hope I write as this journey goes on.

[Memory #25: The ‘would you like your order now’ episode
It was my first birthday since we’d started going out and Ems took me to really nice local restaurant, Y Polyn. I’d been starving myself all day to fully appreciate the tasty delights we were anticipating that evening. We’d both wanted to go to the restaurant for ages and he’d decided to treat me for my birthday as a surprise (having already tried to on Valentines day too – not that I knew at the time – but without success due to it being booked out). We arrived and were asked if we wanted to sit down with a drink or go straight through, I didn’t mind, and Ems took the decision to go straight through. The waiter then came to ask if we were ready to place our order and Ems decisively asked if we could wait a while before placing it. I can clearly remember him being so decisive on both counts (very unlike him at times!) and thinking it was because he hadn’t yet decided on his choice of food. After the waiter had left though he confessed to having eaten a pasty when he’d got in from work and ‘wasn’t really hungry’! He’d done too good a job of starving himself through the day and couldn’t wait any longer. He regretted that decision, particularly in realising I’d been successful in holding out and was resultantly famished. Fortunately, another of Ems strengths was his hearty appetite and as soon as the delicious goodies appeared in front of us, the pasty was quickly forgotten and a hearty helping was much enjoyed by my boy who loved his food.]