Life After Poppy
A guest blog from Mos Pracdel who launched a book on Valentine’s Day and wrote a poem about his wife, Poppy, after she died at the hospice.
It has been almost 3 years and a half that my beautiful wife left us. After a long and painful battle with cancer for over many years, her battered body could no longer keep going and her flame was extinguished.
People say that things will get better with time and that time is the best healer. Some may find that this is true but, for me, I’m not sure that things get ‘better’, they are just different, not as raw, sad and painful perhaps. We just have to do our best every day and adapt the best we can to our new circumstances in life. Easier said than done though.
I still miss my wife every day and I continue to talk to her. She was the clever and sensible one and I still ask for her advice. It is my belief that our loved ones, truly loved ones, never leave us. My mum left us 36 years ago and I still miss her. My dad, it was 19 years ago, and I also miss him. A lot. And I still talk to them every so often! My grandparents passed away a long time ago as well, but I still have great memories of my childhood with them. No, our loved ones never leave us because the wonderful memories of our times with them will forever be imprinted in our hearts and our minds. Our loved ones, who have departed, live through us!
Why am I writing this? And why post it today?
I have never written anything, in any forum, neither have I looked before into them. It is the first time I write something like this and perhaps it might be the last. However, something prompted me to write this, as for many years I have seen in people the devastating effect that the passing of our loved one has on our lives and the difficulty we have in coming to terms with it.
That’s why I am writing this today, St Valentine’s Day, as it was always a special day for us. Poppy and I were very clear that every day with your loved one is special, but some days are a bit more, and we would just do that little bit extra. Those are the days that I miss her even more: birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas festivities and today, Valentine’s Day.
Poppy was everything to me and for 23 wonderful years I was blessed with her company. She was not only my wife, but my best friend, my confidant and my lover. She was my life, she was my world, and when she passed away that world collapsed. I have no family here, all my family are in Spain, and neither did we have children. She left a void in my life that cannot be explained with words: I felt so empty, utterly sad and totally lost. I was offered counselling at the time but I graciously declined; we all deal with grief in different ways. For me the best counselling was to have a coffee and a chat and a laugh with my friends. Fortunately, I have wonderful friends that were invaluable at the time and kept me sane. They still do. However, I am sure that for many people counselling has been of great help.
However, I have always struggled with finding my peace again. I have no authority or credentials to proffer any advice to anyone, I just want to share my experience and what I have done that has worked for me. That is the purpose of this article and, perhaps, it may be of help to someone.
Although it was not supposed to be like that, my wife passed away in a hospice, with me by her side until her last breath. She was looked after by a very dedicated team of doctors, nurses and volunteers. They were absolutely amazing, and the experience made me realise how extraordinary people at the hospice are. Furthermore, these organisations are almost always underfunded. Because of this, I decided that I would organise donations in memory of my wife and all contributions would go to the hospice. When I started to organise the collecting of the donations, I contacted anyone I could think of at the time. This gave me great comfort as I did it in her memory and we raised thousands of pounds. That felt really good and gave me some solace, as someone will benefit from it. My wife was the kindest and more generous person I ever met, and she would have certainly have approved of what I was doing in her memory.
Later, I run a marathon (first and last, I must say!) to raise funds again for the hospice and, again, I was truly humbled by everybody’s generosity which resulted in raising an even greater amount than the first fund-raising event.
From day one, I also tried to keep busy and to make an effort to look after myself, as it is very easy to ‘let yourself go’ if you are on your own and without family. I tried to keep active, eat healthily (although it is hard to cook for oneself every day), go out, see friends, do things. It was difficult though when the pandemic hit us. Yet, I tried to keep busy so my mind didn’t go to darker places, which is very easy in my case. We had so many plans for the future, Poppy and I. Still so much to do together: so many places to visit, so many things to see, so many experiences to share. Now I mostly do it on my own…, but I do it!
As time went by, I was thinking of ways to raise more funds for the hospice and other cancer-related organisations. At the same time, I wanted to do something in memory of my wife again, and as a kind of legacy, because we didn’t have children. I was thinking, “Once I go that will be it”. That’s how the idea of writing a book came about. It is, sadly, based on her story, written in her memory and will be her legacy.
What I’m saying here is not that you need to organise donations in the obsessive manner in which I approached it, neither do you need to run a marathon or write a book. However, I have found that to participate in an event to raise funds for a chosen charity is very satisfying. Everybody is so welcoming and supportive. You might also meet likeminded people, and people that go through the same experiences as you. The thing is just to get involved in something that is meaningful to you and makes you feel good.
Also, the writing of the book, as painful as it was at the time, was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life. I found it very therapeutic, cathartic even, to put pen to paper and write a few words. Perhaps you can try as well, whatever thoughts may come to mind and whichever words you would be saying to your loved one. I feel that if I write something down and then I read it out loud it feels much more powerful.
But ultimately, we must find a way to live in the world that is left behind after the passing of our loved one. We are all different and have different circumstances, and the things that may be beneficial to one person may not be helpful to another. Anything that connects us with them, and gives us a bit of internal satisfaction, is a way to take a step forward, as tiny as it may be, towards finding that internal peace that was completely shattered went they went. I for one, still have not regained that internal peace that nowadays seems so elusive. However, I endeavour every day to do my best to keep going.
Furthermore, something I know very well is that my wife wouldn’t want me to waste my life. Soon before she passed away, she said to me, with all the love in the world, as if knowing how much it would hurt to hear those words: “Now my love, go and live your life as we always did, with true love and to the full. I don’t want you to be sad, I don’t want you to be unhappy, and, most of all, I don’t want you to be on your own”. I continue with my life the best I can. I have met a few ladies, with one I even thought I may have a future, but it was not to be. I did my best but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t tick the boxes for her I guess. No regrets, I tried my best.
As sad, desolate, and lonely as one may feel sometimes, we must make the most of our life. For me, personally, as difficult as it was on some days to even get up, in not doing so I feel it would have been disrespectful to my beautiful wife Poppy, and I would have been doing her a disservice. Wasting my life is the worst thing I could do. I can never repay her now for the unconditional love, kindness and support she gave me over 23 years. She gave me so much love that it could last me 10 lifetimes! I hope that all that love can go to someone else, perhaps someone that hasn’t been that fortunate. At least that way it wouldn’t be wasted.
I was recently in Spain, in the area around Cordoba visiting family. I went to see the Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs, a wonderful medieval Palace in the historic centre of Cordoba. The gardens are grand and impressive, truly magnificent, with avenues bordered by trees, water features and statues. Utterly beautiful. I was there visiting on my own and I truly missed my wife that day, she would have loved it. But as I sat at one of the benches, with the canal water at my feet and the trees surrounding me, it felt kind of surreal. So peaceful, so calm, so quiet, despite the people around. My senses were heightened and it was like my wife was there with me, enveloping me with her everlasting love, like she was everywhere. And as I was sitting there thinking of happier times, I put pen to paper to let my thoughts flow freely, as well as a few tears that I could not contain. This is what came out and I dedicate it to my wife today, on Valentine’s day.
I would like to share it with you because no matter how hard it may sometimes be, I know very well my beautiful wife could no longer be here. So much pain, so much suffering, for so many years… She had to go and now rests in peace in a much better place. True, my wife is no longer physically here but she is now everywhere beside me. As it is the case, most probably, with your loved one.
50% of the proceeds from Mos’ book will go to St Luke’s and to other cancer charities. It is available to buy on Amazon.
Dedicated to my beautiful wife on Valentine’s Day.
YOU ARE EVERYWHERE
You’re in the water, you’re in the air.
I may not see you, but I know you are there.
In the movement of the water, in the sound of the air,
in every breath I take, I know you are there.
In the rays of the sun, in the reflection of the moon,
in the singing of the bird, I know you are there.
You went but you never left,
‘cos you’re my guardian angel, and I know you are there.
I may not see you, and neither hear you,
but I can certainly feel you, as YOU are EVERYWHERE.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my love!