Earlier this year I turned 42. It was also the thirteenth anniversary of my mum's death and a beautiful full moon. I'm sharing this information as lots of things have collided in my life this week and the overall linking thread between them all has been the power of hope.
Sometimes life can be brutally cruel and in some ways, death is the ultimate blow. But somewhere in the midst of suffering, grief and pain, hope remains. I don't say this in sanctimonious, trite Clinton Cards way, but from the heart. Hope is the oxygen that gives us all the courage to be strong and face situations that if we'd have known about before they'd happened we'd never have thought we could face.
I love that the word courage is from the Latin 'cour', heart and the French 'corage'. The original meaning was simply to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart. To choose love over fear.
Sometimes hope can seem an impossibility. But if we can find a way to focus on what we can change and surrender to the things we can't, we can find our way back to hope. I don't mean give up way, but in trust in God, the universe or simply love, whatever it is you believe in and you will find a way. Eventually. Lean into the pain, feel it, acknowledge it but then let it go and trust you will find a way.
After my mum died I started to find white feathers in strange places and at very poignant times. Times when I felt my mum would have been saying hang on in there, I love you, well done, it's going to be OK. I told my husband about this and his immediate reaction was 'that's lovely but you know it's a load of bollocks." As the words left his mouth a large white feather fell perfectly down the middle of the window where he stood. A window away from any trees. Thirteen years later I still find them, at significant times. As I began to write this, a feather floated down onto a pile of mud outside the window I'm typing this at.
Watching my mum's health decline through motor neurone disease that destroyed her body, I truly saw the meaning of courage. To live one's life from the heart. At times she felt angry and sad with the injustice of dying at a younger age than many and not meeting her grandchildren or sharing her twilight years with her beloved husband, but somehow she found the courage to let go of the feelings of anger, despair and sadness. She found her peace.
On Friday 12th March 2004 we watched the penultimate Sex In The City together. As we sat and watched the drama unfold in the beautiful backdrop of Paris, a city close to both our hearts, I remember her typing into the machine that spoke for her as her body no longer could, how does it end - will they be together? I remember saying 'but Mum the finale is only a week away'. It was her way of trying to let me know.
The last time I saw her on Saturday you could see her heart struggling to beat but she held my hand so tightly. She knew it was the last time she would physically hold it. Whatever date my mum died on would have been tragic but by finding the strength to hold on until my birthday, she ensured I would always have to be doing something lovely on that date, not feeling sad and horrible the day before or after my birthday and perhaps guilty for having some fun. That is courage. From the heart. The hope to find joy in everything.
This post is dedicated to my dear friend Sarah Belsom who died on June the 27th, 2017 after 3 years of living with a brain tumour she named Ernie. Sarah lived her life with such courage. For some reason when I think of her I think of the Spice Girls, not because she epitomised any of the individual spices, (she would have been their manager) but because she was ferocious, vibrant, independent and lived a life that to me defined girl power. She leaves a much loved young family and husband Toby and recently set up a Justgiving page for brain tumour charity https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sarah-belsom2