Where do we get the strength to carry on when life delivers one of her body blows? The news has been overloaded with stories of human suffering. Families who have lost loved members, and violence perpetrated by those who believe they have a right to take life.
At the time I lost my husband in 1989, I thought I wanted to die. I could not understand why people kept on about “…that’s life…” when I was trying to come to terms with not having my soul-mate next to me in bed or sitting in the car. He was no longer sitting at the table telling me about the food we’d eaten, or that I was proposing to cook. One of our favourite bedtime routines was all about what we proposed having to eat the next day. For years we’d gone to bed with a favourite cookbook on my bedside table while Paul sipped his tipple – cognac poured from a decanter I’d had specially engraved with ‘Paul’s favourite tipple’ on one face – as I trawled through dishes old or new while waiting for ‘Mmmm that sounds good…or Mmmm interesting…or Mmmm that sounds worth a try. As a result of this unexpected cataclysm my weight plummeted as my appetite dwindled to nothing and even a glass of water often had dire consequences.
But the will to survive is stronger than we imagine. Somehow we do survive and life does assume some sort of normality. It does take time. I think I was in limbo for about two and a half years. I only know that I kept my daily journal and recorded all my thoughts, (even the murderous ones about those who had caused my husband’s death) and my feelings. Now, twenty-six years later, I am ready to publish the book that records all the angst and humour of that cataclysmic year in Cyprus from August 1988 to August 1989.
We went to Cyprus on 10th August 1988, ostensibly to retire and take life a little easier, but we embarked upon a nightmare journey we were ill-prepared to take. A year later, on 2nd August 1989 Paul died as a result of near criminal negligence and greed on the part of Cypriot doctors while we were attempting to wrestle with being aliens in a foreign land at the mercy of developers and their agents whom we had foolishly believed we could trust.
And the ultimate finale? Well, that has played out in several ways. I completed the house we’d started. I even lived there for nine and a half years. Our grandchildren learned to swim in the pool designed for their grandfather, but in which he never swam and I did what everyone advised – ‘…stayed put…gave it a chance…tested the water…’ But it didn’t work. I was angry. I was evil-angry. I could see no good in Cyprus or its people. I had to return to my own country. So, I ended up in Wales, and here I have come to terms with all that happened. I have found a strength I never would have believed I possessed. Gradually the weight lifted and I learned that through helping others, I helped myself.
Among my therapies was refurbishing a house that needed lots of TLC and a garden to create out of a field. Perhaps the best thing was becoming a student of the Open University and climbing that steep learning curve that I thought I’d left behind fifty and more years ago as a student of London University. It has been tough and exhilarating. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Next year Deo volente, I will celebrate my eightieth birthday and my OU degree, and who knows, perhaps the publishing of that book that has been so long in gestation.