Dear 2016..

maria-koutala-1

Dear 2016,

You have been brutal, by far the most difficult, painful, expensive, terrifying, sad and challenging year of my life. You commenced with life-changing, emergency spinal surgery (x2); and culminated with the heart-wrenching demise of my beloved father, cruelly snatched from life, so suddenly and unexpectedly. I have gritted my teeth determinedly, bitten my tongue patiently, and cried several oceans, unreservedly. My body aches daily, my mind worries anxiously, and my heart is repeatedly smashed to smithereens as the waves of grief crash over me. Yet, I am grateful, you have been a year of my life, I have learnt many painful lessons, and I am ready for 2017.

You have been a year of struggles and loss, but loving light has pierced the darkest depths of despair. Every day, as my world fell apart, the sun still rose, and the world kept on turning, even though I had wished it would stop and let me step off, momentarily. I noticed sunlight dancing gracefully in the leaves of a tunnel of trees, as I drove from the hospice, blinded by tears I couldn’t curtail. And once as I crested the brow of a hill, overwhelmed with sorrow, strong shafts of light poured through the clouds, reaching down from the heavens to steady me. When I felt hopeless, rainbows magically appeared to comfort and encourage me, and when I was tired and defeated, sunsets gently soothed and nourished me.

Amongst all the difficulties, angels have emerged to help, support and care for me, friends and family who held me when I fell apart, and picked up the pieces of my life as they lay scattered around me. I have been enveloped by kindness, as I learned to walk after surgery, and again as I learned to walk in a world without my Daddy. Dear friends have shared their understanding that the gaping hole in my life will never be healed, but that I will come to accept its presence, and learn to live by filling it with never-ending love and happy memories. I am eternally grateful for these loving souls that have shared my journey.

My mornings greet me unfailingly with the wet nosy kisses and joyful tail wags, of unconditional love. My dogs have been my best medicine, strongest motivators, and most comforting, loyal companions, through everything. Because of them, I have found the strength to get up and embrace the day, and found myself admiring beautiful dawns, when I thought I wanted to hide in sleep. They have licked away my salty tears, snuggled lovingly into my broken body, and found smiles in my face when I didn’t think there were any. They have silently acknowledged my pain and let me bury my face in their warm furry necks to weep, sought me out for snuggles and cuddles, and accepted the changes they couldn’t understand, patiently. Leo is such a loving boy, and continues to fight valiantly against the life threatening disease you bestowed upon him. Poppy is becoming affectionate and sweet, learning to trust and settle, despite the many moves and upheaval. And Platon remains my rock, protective and patient, unswervingly loyal and devoted, even when earthquakes unnerved him.

2016, you have been horrible, the world has lost some amazingly talented souls, you enabled Brexit, and voted in a disastrously dangerous choice of American president. Many desperate refugees have drowned fleeing war torn countries, terrorists have ripped apart the lives of many and their families, and atrocities continue to be inflicted on innocents as their homes are destroyed by militants. The world is full of hostility and cruelty, it is plagued by anger and swamped in sorrow, but light still shines through the darkness, beauty blooms amidst despair and misery, courage clings on through adversity, hope remains steadfastly, and love is still stronger than anything. Please tell your successor 2017, to bring it on, I am ready!!

Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo credit: The talented, Maria Koutala, Kefalonia. Words by Hayley Darby ©2016}

In memory of Julie

Today I had lunch with my friend Andy, who really only became my friend when his sister, my schoolfriend lost her life; so today as we remembered Julie and her passing 3 years ago, we also celebrated 3 years of friendship. I wrote about Julie year ago, which we agreed over lunch I should re-post as we cherish our memories, and celebrate the influence she continues to have on our lives, as we embrace it as a privilege.

Good morning everyone! I woke early…again, my busy brain whirring into action at 6am. I really must learn to get to bed earlier, but it’s easier said than done when life is such fun. I had breakfast, before returning to bed with my book; currently Dr.Jill Bolte Taylor’s autobiographical account of surviving an aneurysm, ‘My Stroke of Insight’. The book was recommended to me after I posted a quote on this page, some time ago. I’m sorry I don’t remember who it was, because I would like to say ‘thank you’ personally; I’m enjoying it immensely.

I got up again, craving a coffee, so quickly threw on some clothes, to visit my local café for my special soy latte. It’s a cool grey morning, and as I stepped out the door, the dampness and autumnal smells hit me. I noticed a cobweb on the geraniums, clinging tenaciously to life in my window boxes. The fine dew on the web delineated the intricate pattern, held together by the fine delicate strands, so vulnerable and easily broken. The familiar metaphor of the web we weave in our lives was on my mind as I crossed the road, devoid of the usual bustle and traffic so early on a Sunday. This metaphor was discussed eternally in school English literature classes, over George Elliot’s Middlemarch, and I still have fond memories of the time spent contemplating concepts we were too young to truly appreciate then. My heart ached slightly at the fragile dry leaves littering the pavement, as the wind caught them, playfully dancing briefly. Sometimes the smallest thing can trigger a sentimental response, but today I am particularly susceptible since it is the 2nd anniversary of the loss of an old school friend.

We knew each other all through our school lives, even changing to the same primary schools when our families moved houses. She was a constantly cheeky minx right through that character forming time, hers being decidedly naughty in the nicest sense, a fun loving monkey. I can still see her impish grin, a slight roll of her eyes in mock innocence and hear her infectious laughter when I think of her. Julie died suddenly at 38 yrs when struck with a fatal aneurysm, leaving behind her soul mate husband and two adorable sons (6 years and 6 months at the time). We had lost touch for several years after she had moved to continue her nursing career and start her family in Florida. We met again on her last visit to the UK in the May before her death, a hilarious rendezvous where we discovered that none of us had changed much over lunch with another school friend Zena. We had giggled like schoolgirls again, revisiting our shared histories whilst cooing over her beautiful baby; the same dry humour and wit punctuating the air with innuendo as we drew disapproving looks from other more sedate diners.

By chance I had the opportunity to visit West Palm where she lived the following November, and it was whilst at a Dolphins game with plans to see Julie the next day, that Zena rang tearfully from the UK to tell me the devastating news. I remember the disbelief I felt whilst stuck in post match traffic jams with several guys I hardly knew (it was a corporate trip), and who certainly couldn’t relate to my grief or loss. I spent a week in a fog of bereavement, as I soaked up the Florida sunshine and took long walks along the Atlantic shore, contemplating the fragility of life and how precious our friendships formed through our developmental years really are. The keen sense of loss felt for a friend the same age, was an acute reminder of my own mortality, and I was prompted to reconnect with other school friends I had fallen out of touch with. I was fortunate to discover that the bonds we had shared were strong enough to reunite us, and have since visited another girl, Elizabeth in Australia; sharply aware we never know when we might not get the chance again. Julie’s death had a significant impact on my life perspective, I no longer take for granted the privilege I have to age and mature; and though turning 40 was at a difficult time personally (December 2010), I am embracing this new decade with the gusto and joie de vivre that she undoubtedly would have done, if given the chance.

As I sit here writing in the café, my coffee is long finished, and the clouds have disappeared to make way for the sun. So I’m wiping my eyes, as I blink back the tears and make a silent promise to Julie, that I will find the laughter in every naughty opportunity without fear or regret, because life is too short and too precious to waste our emotions on such utter nonsense. I hope I have many years to remember this date, and one day to share with her sons some of our girlhood stories and laugh again at the scrapes we famously got into. Meanwhile it’s a beautiful autumn day here in London, and I am going to enjoy every single second of it! Please do too, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for any of us. Much love & blessings, Hxx

{Photo uncredited, words by Hayley Darby 23.Oct.2011 in memory of Julie Normile}