In sickness and in health

Yesterday was my parent’s Ruby Wedding Anniversary, 40 years of togetherness, in sickness and in health, till death do us part….and therein lies the rub, I guess technically it wasn’t their 40th anniversary because my Dad died last November. Do you stop being married when one of you dies, obviously legally you do, but do the vows no longer apply? Is the anniversary no longer yours? What’s the protocol for acknowledging the day, it’s not really something I’d thought about much before this date approached.

So, it was with great relief a few months ago I read that the Rowcroft Meadow of Memories event was taking place on July 21st 2013, my parent’s anniversary. The Meadow of Memories is a brilliantly simple idea, relatives and friends are invited to make a donation towards the Meadow, pick a flower in memory of someone, the seeds are sown and a memory service held in the summer when the meadow is at it’s best. The meadow looked beautiful (despite the extreme heat and the badgers best attempts to trample it), the service was poignant yet simple, not religious or formal. In fact the relaxed atmosphere was one of the highlights, there were families and small groups, picnic rugs and chairs, refreshments, words, music and the highlight for me, the first public viewing of the Rowcroft Choir.

Last week I blogged Hope sings eternal about the choir, which is made up of staff, volunteers and a couple of people who have been bereaved, all of whom are connected to Rowcroft. In that post I expressed how positive it was to see my Mum as part of something, surrounded by people who really genuinely cared, who all in one way or another supported Dad and our family through his illness and death.

The Meadow of Memories event enabled me, and many others, to take a moment to remember who we’ve lost, what they brought to our lives and continue to bring. I’ve blogged before about how hard it is for some people to discuss death and dying, I don’t want to turn into ‘someone who lost their Dad’ but I do want to keep Dad’s memory alive and I do miss him tremendously and don’t want to hide that, but I also don’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable with that reality. Yesterday provided an opportunity to be with other people who’d experienced similar, everyone there had received the support of Rowcroft and everyone had lost someone. At the end of the service people were invited to share photos of the family and friends they were remembering on a memory board, as I looked at those photos I didn’t know the individual stories, but I did know our family isn’t taking this journey alone. It felt good to know that even eight months after the Hospice at Home team walked out of our home, Rowcroft continues to provide a safe space where you can be with others who get it; you don’t need to exchange words or details, but it’s acceptable to remember, to cry, to smile, no judgement, just memories.

The service ended with the choir performing Lean on Me, possibly the most apt lyrics imaginable, Lean on me when you’re not strong, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. Obviously in an ideal world my parent’s would have got to celebrate their anniversary together yesterday but I really can’t think of a better alternative to what we had. I’m so proud of my Mum, how dignified she is, how important it was to put on a good show yesterday, how she has embraced the opportunity to give something back with Rowcroft. Forty years ago there was a thunderclap as Mum and Dad exchanged their wedding vows, yesterday evening it felt very apt that one almighty thunder storm broke over South Devon. I feel confident that Dad would have been equally proud of Mum and how she spent her day.

Now, enough of my waffle, have a listen to the choir’s first public performance. They only formed a couple months ago and with the help of Fran and their hard work, I think they sound fairly impressive. Have a listen and if you agree then why not let them know by adding a comment. If you realllly like what you hear why not make a small donation to the fantastic care and support that Rowcroft provide – 79p is what it would cost you to purchase the original on itunes, why not round it up to a quid 😉

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