wings and things

Imagined conversation 4

Me: Hi Ants.

Anthony: Hi Jules.

Me: I’m so much better. I can’t believe it – it’s such a relief!

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: Is there any way you can put a bit more animation into your voice? I’m beginning to forget your voice, you know, the one you used to have before Parkinson’s disease.


Me: I think so but you sound really fake.

Anthony: I’ll try harder, okay?

Me: That would be great because I didn’t realise until today that I had forgotten how you used to speak. I know it was always loud and booming with enthusiasm but I can’t remember what you actually said before you got sick.

Anthony: Probably a lot of bullshit.

Me: No way! You could sometimes be quite profound actually, even after you got sick.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: You’ve already said that.

[Anthony sighs]

Me: Sorry.

Anthony: You have absolutely nothing to be sorry about. How is the …?

Me: The son? Ming?

Anthony: That’s the one. Yes.

Me: He is amazing – a rock! He has this extraordinary ability to do empathy without getting down in the dumps himself. We are so lucky to have this incredible son, aren’t we!

[Anthony nods]

Me: Sometimes I hear his loud laugh on the phone with someone and it sounds exactly like you – exactly! It’s a bit disconcerting.

Anthony: That’s good, Jules.

Me: Oh, okay, you sound tired.

Anthony: That’s you, not me.

Me: I couldn’t wait to get home so I could talk to you like this, Ants! My psychologist will either be relieved or have me committed.

Anthony: You’ll be right, Jules.

Me: Okay, good night, Ants. I love you.

Anthony: ‘Night, Jules. Give me a kiss on my heavenly brow.

Me: OMG, it IS you!

Note to readers: I am not going mad – this is great fun, sort of.




You know how something just clicks into place? That sensation of the absolute ‘rightness’ of a situation? A snap of clarity? Noticing something really tiny and recognising it as huge?

Well, having clambered up and out my pit of absolute despair (with the help of a new medication and a compassionate doctor), I have gone back to volunteering with a newfound energy. For a couple of years now I have volunteered for various organisations but, even as I was facilitating – or helping to facilitate – meetings to support families of people with Dementia, visiting nursing home residents with and without Dementia, and doing some public speaking, there was something that didn’t quite click.

My usually buoyant personality was being slowly squashed by my anxiety about Anthony, the fear of him maybe dying slowly and painfully and then, of course, the still-resonating shock of his sudden death.

As a volunteer, I was so positive to begin with; I had so much wonderful, funny, innovative stuff to say about how to relate, enjoyably, with a person who has Dementia. But, as Anthony’s health declined and he became more and more incapacitated, my energy flew away, terrified, I guess, that I was going to lose him.

One of the strangest things about bereavement is knowing how your own grief is a tiny thing compared to others – people who have lost children especially. I only know a few of these people but I do know that their grief is on a different planet from mine; mine is miniscule and I think it’s important to emphasise this. I feel guilty to be so grief-stricken when there are others who have much greater grief.

After all, Anthony was old and infirm and, as Ming so unintentionally and callously put it not long ago, “a dribbling wreck.” Obviously he and I had a heated exchange until he explained that he had suddenly been struck by memories of being a child with a dad who was well.

Anyway, back to the topic of volunteering, the one thing that has given me the most pleasure, sense of purpose, and fortitude, is visiting people with Dementia in one of the local nursing homes.

Imagined conversation 3

Me: I met this guy yesterday who reminded me of you so much, Ants! He had the same look in his eyes. You know, that staring, bug-eyed look because of the Parkinson’s.

Anthony: What’s his name? I’ll punch him.

Me: No – it’s not like that. He is really old and is in a nursing home.

Anthony: Poor bastard.

I’m not quite sure where this scripting thing is going but what I would really love to do is to write a screenplay of sorts, maybe even a movie script. It’s great to have the blog as a place where I can write whatever.

In the meantime, visiting people with Dementia is just the click I needed to restart myself!




Imagined conversation 2

Anthony has always been extremely fond of our doctor who, for the sake of privacy, I will call ‘Sandy’.

Anthony: So did you see Sandy?

Me: I can’t believe you remembered!

Anthony: Why wouldn’t I?

Me: Well, usually you forget when I tell you something.

Anthony: You need to give me more credit.

Me: Sandy was amazing and has prescribed me with something to help me sleep because every now and then I get insomnia and go a couple of days without sleep.

Anthony: You never told me that.

Me: It’s only since you died.

Anthony: Well I don’t feel particularly dead.

Me: That’s good – as long as you’re okay.

Anthony: I’m as fit as a fiddle.

Me: That’s what you always say. How do you do it?

Anthony: Do what?

Me: How do you always remain so cheerful?

Anthony: Because I’m perfect.

Me: I don’t know what I’d do without you, Ants.

Anthony: You’d do what you are doing, Jules. Anyway, I’m still around somewhere.

Me: But where?

Anthony: Here?

Me: Okay, that’s enough for today – this is too weird.

Anthony: Wait, Jules!

Me: What?

Anthony: Tell Sandy to drop in for a beer some time.

Me: Are you kidding?

Anthony: Come on, Jules, have a laugh!

I think I’m starting to get the hang of these imagined conversations!


Imagined conversation 1

At the health retreat I went to not long after Anthony died, I was encouraged to write to him and I did that. But I didn’t do it again until today. I just couldn’t. Tomorrow it will be six months since he died – my husband and best friend, Anthony.

Me: I decided to go back on Facebook and write on my blog again. Do you think that’s a good idea?

Anthony: Everything you do is a good idea, Jules.

Me: Yeah, but I wrote about the whole depression thing and I’m worried I will embarrass myself, or my family ….

Anthony: You worry too much, Jules!

Me: How do you manage to be so positive, so happy, so hopeful, when you have this rotten Parkinson’s disease?

Anthony: Because I have you, and we have Ming … and the dogs.

Me: I love you more than life; I love you more than I’ve ever loved you before.

Anthony: Don’t cry, Jules, please….

Me: I didn’t know you were going to die so fast!

Anthony: Neither did I. Oh well.

Me: What do you mean, ‘oh well’? How can you be so nonchalant about your own death? I want you back, Ants! I want you back! I have to see the doctor tomorrow about the depression!

Anthony: Good idea, Jules.

Isn’t imagination the most wonderful thing!



Major depression

Since New Year’s Day, I have been hit with two major depressive episodes. The first one lasted about two weeks, and I am now in the midst of a second one but this time I think I know how to deal with it better.

The only reason that I know what a major depressive episode is, is because I already have a diagnosis of major depression and have been on a brilliant medication ever since. It was only when I overheard my doctor uttering the words “major depression” on the phone, in order to get permission to write me the prescription, that I realised what had been wonky about me for so many years.

The relief of the medication was almost immediate. There was no high, or anything like that but, over the ensuing days, I began to feel more normal, capable, less panicky – more Julie-ish again.

I have been writing on this blog about Dementia for years but I haven’t really focussed on Depression, as an equally dire health condition, until now. Both diseases are diseases of the brain; both diseases are often disparaged or else dismissed as unimportant by onlookers.

On New Year’s day I was overwhelmed by the desire to claw myself back to 2017 when Ants was still alive. I didn’t decide to be sad, newly grief-stricken, helplessly teary, unbearably nostalgic, angrily in love with my dead husband; it just swamped me, unbidden, organic, unavoidable.

I have absolutely no self-pity, I recognise and am grateful for having had such a fantastic marriage, and our son, Ming, is a source of such hilarious comfort. And I continue to be grateful to the friends and family who’ve supported us, especially my mother and brothers.

Depression is a disease. I have it. That’s embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be. A major depressive episode, on top of already having major depression, is almost unbearable. And there is no Anthony to talk about this stuff with anymore.



Getting wise to grief

I know that this is going to sound weird but grief is actually quite interesting.

I have been trying so hard to outwise/ outwit? the effect that this terrible grief is having on me. Okay, so the grief itself is a given and it’s understandable that I would be grieving for Anthony; that’s not pleasant, but it’s okay.

It’s how this grief translates into everyday life that is the real challenge. For example it is so tiring to be so tired of grieving, to be so tired of my own tiredness, tired of myself, tired of crying, tired of not being able to cry, tired of trying so hard not to be tired.

Grief is exhausting! I can just imagine telling Anthony about this and it makes me laugh because he would have rolled his eyes and sighed at my ridiculousness in trying to figure grief out. He wouldn’t have offered clichés like ‘move on’ or ‘you need to get out and about more’ and I don’t even think he would have said, ‘I wouldn’t want you to be so sad, Jules’. Instead, he would have said ‘do what you want, Jules’ and I know for sure that he would be secretly chuffed that I miss him so much. His heavenly ego will be getting a rush.

Anthony adored me. Even though it took him over a decade to realise it, he made up for lost time very quickly and I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have had such a fantastic marriage. I wasn’t this long-suffering carer of a sick husband (which is probably the perception – you know, the dutiful wife); I was cared for by him. Every time I saw him in the nursing home, the joy in his face was the joy I took home with me, no matter how poignant.

Grief is often seen as the loss of someone you love and of course this is true but isn’t it also true that you miss being loved? I do. It’s not that I want to be adored per se (despite being a blogger – paradox alert); I just want Anthony’s adoration.

And, like a kid outside a closed candy shop, that’s my face pressed against the reflection of the impossible.

Grief is interesting. And so is getting wise to it.




Facing forever

In amongst what I thought was old paperwork, I found a recently purchased ‘Reflections Journal’ in which I had written the following:

Monday 21st August, 2017: The gift of breath is a beautiful thing.

I don’t know why I wrote that now. I was probably deciding to go on a new diet, planning an exercise program for myself, or else thinking about thinking about the benefits of meditation.

People like me (with elderly loved ones in nursing homes with diseases like Parkinson’s and Dementia) should be more prepared for Death.

I wasn’t.

Wednesday, 23rd August, 2017: Anthony died. I didn’t write this in the Reflections Journal; I just wrote it in my day-to-day diary because I couldn’t find anywhere else to write/think/say it. I listed ‘Anthony died’ with a shopping list of milk, bread, apples and bananas.

After so many years of nearly dying, my beautiful husband did actually die and, even after nearly six months, I can’t quite fathom this.

I am not in denial and I know Anthony is dead. I miss him to the point of debilitating depression but, at the same time, I can feel some sort of weird, encouraging, wave; he was so resilient, and lackadaisical, and a master of calmness, easy-goingness, acceptance. Ming and I are so lucky to have this legendary husband and father to teach us about fortitude.

Ming and I have this new tradition of having breakfast together and, this morning, we talked about Anthony. It’s my birthday and for years Ants bought me a silver bangle (which I would choose!) It didn’t seem necessary this year; there didn’t seem any point.

So I didn’t buy myself a pretend gift from Anthony; it just didn’t sit well with me because he was so ill for so many years (even before the many years in the nursing home) that I just thought enough was enough. I did, however, buy myself an on-sale Oroton handbag that Anthony would have approved of.

The idea of forever (without Ants) is bleak, yes, but it is also an inevitable challenge that I am willing to meet. As a small child, I wanted wisdom so I guess this is it!


Thank you

The supportive comments I have received over the last several years have been wonderful and I am very grateful. Now that Anthony has died, I am a bit lost; there is no amazingly indestructible person to write about. As I flounder through this grief I’ve decided to stop blogging for the time being. Thank you to all of you who have supported me.

Ps. I will still receive notifications via email of my favourite bloggers’ posts but I am in too much of a fug to comment atm. I am off Facebook too now (phew!) Happy new year to all x


Terribly happy

About a week ago, I suddenly experienced an oxymoronic sensation of intense happiness and intense sadness in the same exact moment. At the time, I thought it was a fleeting thing but I was wrong; it has continued to be a constant sensation, ebbing and flowing in its intensity somewhat, but always there, here (in my throat, in my chest, or in my stomach).

This terrible happiness is mostly a kind of flutter – a mixture of dread and excitement that pushes, from inside, against my ribcage, like a moth caught in the dark light, wanting, but not wanting, to fly free.

At first, I thought this sensation was impossible, so I googled the question “is it possible to feel happy and sad at the same time?” I was surprised to find that many others had also wondered about this paradoxical sensation. Most people, however, expressed the opinion that it was impossible.

I felt smug, knowing by then that it was absolutely possible because I had it – this terrible happiness – and I had had it for several days. It’s there, quietly, underneath my day-to-day doings, but I can also conjure it into a louder refrain and every time I do this, Anthony appears in the rear vision mirror of my heart and he is young and vibrant and laughing his approval.

The grief component of this terrible happiness is tear-drenched, but the happy component of this terrible happiness is buoyant, curious, unafraid and very, very surprised!


Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas and new year, especially those who are going through difficult times. I hope to get back to reading others’ blog posts soon, and I am very grateful for all of the support Ming and I have received since Anthony died. Thank you.



New beginnings

Every day, I smile back at my favourite photo of Anthony which was taken many years ago when he was well. This is the photo we chose for the bookmark distributed to those who came to his funeral, the one I often put into the back pocket of my jeans when I go out. Luckily I have a few spares because I accidentally washed one of them with my jeans the other day and Pip has dog-eared another one with her sharp teeth. FullSizeRender

Another new beginning: today I got to meet my newest great nephew, Archer, beautiful second son of my niece Ashtyn and her husband Gordon. He is such a winner! His big brother, Spencer, is equally adorable.

Archer with Julie


I love them.

But something else new seems to be happening to me; I have regained that curiosity about the future that I experienced fleetingly not long after Anthony died. It’s a very simple curiosity and consists of doing deliberate but simple, rather mindless things that are somehow meditative and calming, like the jigsaw I have begun, and cooking new, interesting recipes. The curiosity comes in the form of the question: “Will I be able to do this?” And because these activities are so simple and enjoyable, the answer is, of course, “yes”.

Small steps I guess – a kind of hop-skip-and-jump into each new tomorrow of Anthonylessness, his smile of encouragement somehow more real now that I have lost the real thing. He was always so proud of me.

Standing on a slippery rock, with imagined wings preventing me from falling, on the brink of a new beginning, almost smiling again.

Beginning again