Sunday 5th November
I have no idea where this piece of writing is heading I only know I felt compelled to write, isn’t that what blogging is about ~ a journal in an informal style, made available for others to read. I have had so many thoughts in my head over the last few days that I needed to put them down, outside of my head.
A calf died today, I had named him Theo, born on a Friday, took ill the following Friday and died on a Sunday. Does that really matter? To me, for some reason it does. The day we are born and the day we die are both recorded; likewise with calves a record is kept of their birth and of their movements and death. Theo’s death will be logged and his body will be collected.
My grandad died on a Sunday, his death was my first real experience of human death, of someone very close to me anyway. I loved him deeply because he was the nearest person I had had to a father. He was funny, generous, interesting, intelligent, hardworking, talented and a very tactile and loving grandfather. Grandad was completely blind so touch was necessary to see, he looked with his hands. He felt the quality of my shoes, the strength in my arms, the condition of his animals and the food on his plate. His death caused me immeasurable pain, hurt beyond what I could ever have imagined. He had a heart attack one morning and collapsed then came round. He asked my brother to remove his leather clogs, “If I am going to die get my boots off” he said. My brother removed them and Grandad sighed “Peace at Last.” I have pondered that phrase many times … had he been in pain? Had his life been tormented? But there is no way I could ever know now.
My Nanna rang an ambulance and he was taken straight to hospital, my brother rang me and I followed down to see him. All the way there I was worrying about how he was going to cope in hospital because he was completely blind and he had never stayed a night out of his own bed in his whole married life of 42 years.
When I arrived at the hospital a nurse took me into a side room and inside the room my mum, her husband and Nanna were already there. They looked like they were waiting, they looked upset and I wondered what was happening. In a split second, what now seems like longer I remember looking at the table in front of them and I saw my grandad’s penknife lying there. When I looked at my Nanna she looked straight back at me and said, “He’s dead!”
My grandad had had a second heart attack in the ambulance they had worked on him but they couldn’t save him. I remember feeling like it wasn’t happening, as if I was on the outside looking in at someone else’s life, a feeling of being disconnected to the events taking place. I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breathe, my chest felt crushed and I ran outside for fresh air. I was overcome with sorrow so much so I started wailing and sank to the floor.
When I entered the hospital again I went to see my grandad, the dead body of my grandad lying on a metal surgical trolley. I held his hand, cold, lifeless and he looked like he was made of wax. But seeing him dead helped me realise it was real. One thing I could see was that all that remained of grandad now was a shell; somewhere, somehow my grandad was gone, his spirit had left his body and with it, it took a little piece of me. My mind struggled to accept death as being final, I was repeatedly hit with it every morning on waking for weeks – he’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead, everyday, and at first every hour telling myself I was never going to see him again and that part of my life was over.
The last thing Grandad had asked was who would look after his goats. There was no question for me I wanted to do that for him. I looked after them, Rosie, Tansy and Billy: milked them, fed them, mucked them out, straw bedded them, let them out and brought them inside if it rained before bedtime. I cared for them for the next two years, keeping grandad alive until I decided to go to University and I rehomed them.
This morning I talked to Theo in his calf pen, he was hardly strong enough to react so I got close to him and told him that if the pain he was in was too much then he was free to go. I also said if he wanted to stay and live and he had the energy to fight then I would care for him and help him for as long as it would take. I said a prayer and asked God to take him in his hands and help him pass or help him live. That’s the truth. When someone or something is sick we have absolutely no idea of their level of discomfort, in humans we rely on communication but it is difficult to gauge one person’s pain threshold over another because everyone is different. But if someone is immobilised with pain, vocalising the pain or they are woken or can’t sleep because of the pain, those things are generally an indicator of it being very intense. With an animal there are external indicators from the outside to look for, not eating or drinking, ears low, heavy breathing, unable to stand and also vocalising the pain. On Saturday Theo was showing all of those signs and it was dreadful to watch.
This afternoon Keith came to the back door and shouted through it, “Dead.” He didn’t choose his words, he knew I’d know what he meant it was on all our minds. I said he could have said it kinder than that because he was so blunt but he just shrugged, asked how he could have flowered it up and went back to work.
Monday 6th November
I called the collection centre today, they don’t pick up on a Sunday and it was dreadful going in the calf shed this morning seeing his body lying there. I still find it difficult to comprehend death, my mind plays tricks and I thought I could see him breathing. But perhaps that was just me because I felt responsible and I didn’t want it to have happened. But that’s the thing about death it’s final it’s the end and there’s no return. The wagon collected him at lunchtime and he’s gone now but I like to think that Theo’s spirit, like grandad’s left his body at death and what they took is just a shell.
In February 2005 I was pregnant with our third child and I was going for a 12 week scan. I was 13 weeks pregnant and I went to the hospital alone. Unfortunately the scan showed my baby had died there was no heartbeat and I had to come back into hospital to have the baby removed (evacuation of products of conception it was called) I worried how the baby’s spirit would leave its body if they disposed of it but I read that in some religions they open a window. So I asked that they do that during the operation and I had to hope that is what would happen. Do I sound mad? I don’t know I just tell the truth of what I thought at the time and what I did. I honestly think death and watching someone approaching death makes you grasp onto the tiniest bit of hope that there might be more for that person or animal after life. The night of the scan the evening before the evacuation I could hear the song Angel Eyes by Roxy Music playing on loop in my head. I looked up the words and they actually made sense.
Angel eyes, am I deceived or did you sigh? …
Angel eyes, seems to me you fill the skies. I’m far below so let your love light shine on me.
Angel eyes … no matter how high the moon, shine down on me.
To me the first line described that feeling of the mind not comprehending the death and the last line makes me think of the spirits in the stars watching over us. On the outside looking in at us all still racing around, worrying about the unimportance of life. But for them, they smile freely up above.
It doesn’t matter what you believe in: heaven, hell or nothing while we are here on Earth we don’t know what happens after life. I would imagine the closest people can get to that is an out of body experience.
Monday 13th November
1984, at 13 years old, during a Religious Education lesson I had an out of body experience.
Mr Bell was the teacher, he was new and being an R.E. teacher he wasn’t really taken that seriously. The pupils called him ‘Bellend’ behind his back but I thought he was alright really. ‘Ding A Ling’ Bell was teaching us about religious practices that day, he led a guided meditation where we gradually reduced our breathing from a nine second count inhale, and a nine second exhale, down to one second breath in and one second breath out. As my breathing reduced to a limited amount of oxygen, I would imagine my heart rate slowed down too because I was in such a relaxed state. Suddenly I became aware of being present outside of my body. My eyes weren’t closed, I wasn’t asleep, they were half shut and I could see myself down on the classroom floor, I was looking down at my body below from above. It was so unexpected and unconventional that I didn’t tell anybody. When the guided meditation brought our breathing back to normal I rejoined my body. But I never forgot it because at the time it was so … WEIRD! It wasn’t until years later that I read an article about other people having out of body experiences that I knew that that was what I had experienced too.
Thursday 16th November
Death, dying and the undead.
This is where I found myself considering these three words. I need more time to process and think about how I will discuss the differences between death, dying and the undead in relationship to living and working here on the farm because they are all very different.
Today I read an article about blogging by Mark Manson Author and Blogger. I looked for help because of this blog. I wasn’t looking for advice on how to write or even what to write about; but I was looking for a reason why people write because I was questioning whether or not it was a complete waste of time!
What is the point?
I have a need in me, an urge to write. Things happen all the time and I want to write. I see things and that makes me want to write, especially the combination of words and pictures together almost like an Instagram extension. That is enough reason to write isn’t it. If I was still a teacher in a Primary School and I had heard one of my pupils say that they wanted to write and they needed to write, I’d have been overjoyed and especially excited to be part of that process.
Why is that not the same case with myself? Low self esteem? … Lack of love for myself? … The habit of talking negatively to myself? … even though I find it easy to compliment and support others I find it difficult to do that for myself.
I have thought that my writing is somehow self indulgent. I have deleted some good pieces of writing because of that warped thinking. This blog has got me thinking again, in particular because this page didn’t have any direction or a theme when all my other blogs seemed to have a purpose, a reason for writing and they seemed to make sense. This blog seems to just be a public outpouring of feelings, words and half stories.
But after reading the article I felt much more positive about writing. It gave me some insight into blogging experiences for others and it contained some interesting advice. I have quoted some of Mark’s guidance (highlighted) and I have also written some of that advice in my own words below.
Until you’ve written 100 pages about a topic, you really don’t know how much you enjoy writing about it. And until you’ve published 100 pages about a topic, you have no idea how much people will enjoy reading what you have to say about it.
It takes a lot of writing and experimentation for each person to find their own individual style and voice, what they care about, what others care about, and so on. This is a natural process. But it just so happens that when you blog, you need to go through this process in a very public way. Which is awkward. And kind of embarrassing (invisible people on the outside looking in)
But you need to be able to stomach this. Most people, when they want to start blogging don’t realize how much embarrassment and “I can’t believe I actually published that,” goes into it.
- You want quality readers first, quantity second (I agree with that) Traffic is nice, but you’re looking for engagement, for subscribers, for followers, for people who care.
- Set a writing goal each week and then attempt to keep it for a year. Keep it up for three years.
- Sure, a lot of those posts will be crap, but it will pay off. You will improve a lot. You will get much closer to finding your voice.
What happens next?
I keep on writing