Tuesday, 1 October 2013

The rear-view mirror

House completion date - 18th October - is slowing approaching…at least, it seems very slow to me!

I will be finishing my job (by choice) on the same day….Whilst we clearly won't be able to manage financially forever without me working…for this next phase, having a month or two (hopefully) out of work in order to settle the children and ourselves into our new home feels like the right thing to do.  It's not about money…..fortunately we have enough to tide us over for the time being.

These last few days, I have been pondering something….. The photos shown here are on my desk at work.  I realise that most people probably don't have a photo of two different wives on their desk….but like most other people, the photos on my desk tell a story of people that I love and treasure.  In the collage-type frame above, the top strip are consecutive yearly photos of me and my 3 biological children taken in December each year from 2003 onwards with us all crammed into a passport photo booth once a year; the last one was taken with us all smiling in Dec 2009; at the time Karena was in the hospice but I wanted her to have an up-to-date photo of us all by her side for the hours when we weren't there; she had it by her bedside (such a hard memory!).  The other photos also tell a story - the big one in the middle was taken on our last proper family holiday together in Ireland in 2008 a few months before Karena was diagnosed.  In addition to that I have photos of Ellie and I and our 5 children on our wedding day also on my desk.  

These photos all stare out at me as I work at my desk….and each time I glance at them I react - sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a wince, sometimes with a feeling of deepest anguish, sometimes with a feeling of deepest appreciation. 

The photos tell my story, my pain and my joy. 

Fairly often, people ask me about my family as I clearly have a lot of children!  Sometimes I tell edited highlights of our story, sometimes I just can't be bothered if I'm honest….reactions to the more detailed story are quite varied - apologetic, uncomfortable, sympathetic, sometimes quickly changing the subject etc etc.  I don't mind really but in truth I don't really have the energy to keep sharing the story time and time again anyway, but at the same time, I don't want to deny it either, as it's all been so life-changing.

Of course, it's not just at my desk that these mixed up feelings jump out at me…it's just about everywhere else too….which anybody who has experienced this particular journey, would also relate to, no doubt.
What I've been pondering is what to do with the photos on my desk - do I just have photos of the "current life" or do I keep the photos of the "previous life"…those photos which so often make me sad and remind me of painful things that I would really rather forget.  Tricky.  I want to honour and be true to the past, and to love lost.  I also must live in the present and must continue to move into the future. 

Recently we've been trying to pack up some bits and pieces at home ready for the move again…we have a lot of photos and sad 'memorabilia' (for want of a better word) in various places, many of which are wrought with pain and anguish…some of our things need to be packed up into a strongbox with a lock and key, and posted with a health warning - 

"Beware, Memories may seriously damage your sanity."  

For example, we were packing some things up in the attic a few days ago, and, amongst other things, we came across first-time-around wedding photos and a memorial order of service…..  Anyway, we both ended up fairly quickly putting everything down again not really knowing what to do with it all, and then decided the best thing was to go and do something else completely different…  so it's all still waiting to be packed.

But pack we must, because we are moving forward.  Recently I read a something  which I found quite provocative : "Live with only the odd glance in your rear-view mirror (Phil 3:13-14)"

So I guess we'll keep working at it, then perhaps we will crash less often ! 


  1. Thinking of you all as you prepare for the next big step.
    Packing up photos and memories, so tricky, I don't envy you, but one day I know I will have to face my own! Just take small steps when you can manage it.
    I hope and pray all goes smoothly for the move and you are all settled very soon.

  2. You will find a way of holding on to the memories which is best for all of you, without feeling guilty about how you deal with the things which contain them.
    Yes, we all have to move forward, but recognising the legacy that our loved ones have given to us.
    Some things we discard, but others, in our case, are stored in the kind of boxes you described, but not locked.Matt's first baby shoes, and the last pair of walking sandals being amongst them. His brother will then have the choice, when the time comes, what he would like to keep and what to discard. It is hard isn't it?
    Thinking of you all.

  3. Craig. So good to hear your continuing journey. Its still hideous what you've been through and your heavenly father is so so proud of all 7 of you!

    In starting to pack to go to Sweden I have cried a great deal and experienced a lot of pain as I discover Hannah stuff all around the house. I have then had the same dilemmas, "what do I do with it all?" and "it all hurts but I don't want to get rid of it all". I actually boxed a lot of stuff up and my parents are storing it in their loft, whereas only a few Hannah related items will journey with us. But we have the digital photos and the kids have memory books and we will release stuff as they inquire about mum as they get older. Its been a relief to do another big sort even though desperately painful and I thank God for his intimate help even in that process. I miss chatting to you about this stuff!!