Scarred

(Image source – Phoebe Kay – Pinterest)

NOTE:
Just to reassure my readers that I don’t self-harm anymore. Unfortunately, I have scars that will never go away, which I have to live with for the rest of my life. It’s not easy – I carry a lot of shame for them, although I appreciate that was my way of surviving the intensity of the agony at that time. My scars are sadly worse than those in the image. I get judged by strangers who stare sometimes. It makes me want the ground to open up and swallow me. I can’t say I’m never tempted to do it again at times when I’m desperate, but I know that I won’t. I owe it to myself, my children and my ever-curious grandchildren. I have a tattoo across some of my scars – it says, “THIS TOO SHALL PASS,” and I know it will in time.

I want to heal and my writing is my way of beginning that journey. Thank you for bearing with me and supporting me with my recent outpourings of grief.

Tramlines embedded

permanent reminders

in soft, yielding flesh

disguising the pain of existence

~~~

The beginning of the slippery slope

the agonising journey

following tracks

side by side by side by side

~~~

Ensuring her instruments

gleaming in the moonlight

spotless from the flame

as she attacks with ferocity

~~~

Pearls of crimson gathering

on her lily-white skin

offering relief

from the shame and guilt

~~~

Never speaking of his sin

holding it all within

brain freeze

a blade on the skin

~~~

Silenced with threats and blame

memories, flashbacks abound

cutting the evil and torture out

of the time when cries went unheard

~~~

Child of her child’s curiosity

she tells of a fall on broken glass

submerging her truths

hoping the child’s thoughts will pass

~~~

No surrender of life or sanity

She needs no permission to write

expressing her pain in words

she’s not giving up on the fight.


Birthday Celebrations – Over the Hill? – No way!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’m going to let you into a little secret. Some of my ‘older’ readers will know this already, especially given that I have young grandchildren. However, to some of my newer readers, this might come as a surprise. Having just had my birthday, I’m now officially ‘over the hill,’ according to the polls! I feel most indignant about that statement as I’m now 65, not 95 (nothing against the 95 years olds amongst us, nor people older than that). According to the polls, the age categories run like this …

18 to 24
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 and over

So … where are you supposed to go after you reach 65. Apparently, there is nowhere to go other than obviously being officially over the hill and, no doubt, going down the other side. Does this mean that the pollsters consider the only fitting thing for me, being ’65 and over’, is to shuffle off this mortal coil! I object!

Having got that little bugbear off my chest, I will continue on a happier note – my birthday, last Saturday, 3rd September. I had the most wonderful week. To begin with, last Thursday, I spent the day with nine family members, my daughter and son-in-law, my son, four young grandchildren, my sister and brother-in-law, who’d travelled up from Dorset, plus my friend, who’d been kind enough to take me to see them all. It was a perfect day, sunny and warm; not too hot like we’d had in the summer. September is nearly always a lovely month in the UK. We walked into the restaurant and big hugs were shared between us; some of my family I hadn’t seen for over two years, so I was thrilled to bits to see them all again. I felt so loved and very blessed to have such wonderful people around me.

The food arrived, which we’d pre-ordered. I’d asked for Pad Thai, one of my favourite meals. It was delicious, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We then ordered pudding, although I don’t know where I found the room after the lunch, but I did, as did everyone else. More deliciousness. After eating, we took the children to the local park to run off their energy (and dinner). It was so lovely to see the four cousins all together. It was such a special way to celebrate my birthday.

Delicious Pad Thai

Last Saturday, my actual birthday, I met my best friend in town, and we went for another meal in an Italian restaurant. My friend, Debbie, presented me with a beautiful birthday card and an even more beautiful gift. I was so touched by the thought she had put into choosing something so special. We are both vegans, and having eaten our main course, a pasta dish, we plumped for pudding (again!). The dessert was amazing – a rich chocolate cake with honeycomb pieces called Zillionaire’s Slice with vegan sorbet with chocolate ripples. I could feel my waistline expanding after all the food I’d had. My diet was nowhere to be seen, but I wasn’t in the least bit bothered – there’s always another day for that.

Zillionaire’s Slice

So … all in all, perhaps, being 65 isn’t too bad. I’ve got absolutely no intention of shuffling off anywhere, least of all, off this mortal coil. I’m having too much fun.

Love Ellie x 🦢

Exhaustion


Photo by Anna Tarazevich – Pexels

Okay … time to be honest and confess. I’m stressed. Extremely stressed. I’ve had so much on my plate lately that I’m struggling to cope with anything other than the usual routine of life. I’ve denied my own needs and am mentally exhausted. I’m hardly even going out these days. Staying cooped up all day isn’t good for my mental health either. I’ve spent so much time and energy, both mentally and physically, getting ready for my family to stay with me, and now that the rooms are finished, I find myself in a state of near collapse. This isn’t something I like to admit readily (or publicly), yet here I am doing precisely that.

I’m w-a-a-a-y behind on so many things, not least of which is keeping up with reading my blogging friends’ posts. My brain is frazzled. My concentration shot to pieces. When I do read a post, I take it in and appreciate it and show that with a ‘like,’ but making enough sense to leave even a semi-worthy comment is proving too challenging. I’ve recently been apologising a lot for my inadequacies – for not keeping up, whether it’s reading blogs or making phone calls to friends and family.

Tomorrow, my friend has suggested we go out for lunch. She’s worried about me and tells me I need a break. She’s right, of course; admitting that to her is one thing, but admitting it to myself is something else entirely. It’ll tear me away from my laptop, to which I’ve become permanently joined at the hip, and that can’t be healthy for anyone. On Tuesdays, I take part in a garden project. It’s enjoyable, social and relaxing. I took a break from it recently as I had other priorities. I think now is the time to resume that hobby. The last time I was there, we were picking gorgeously-perfumed sweet peas – one of my favourite flowers.

One of my friends presented me with a posy of sweet peas and lavender.

Some of you will know I wrote a post about the changes going on for me at home. I wasn’t at all happy with my writing standard yesterday and seriously considered deleting it. Being a self-inflicted perfectionist isn’t doing me any favours right now. I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post and hope you will understand. I will still be here, happy to read your posts as always and perhaps, writing when inspiration strikes, but I am giving myself permission to not put myself under so much pressure to say the right things, to constantly apologise for not keeping up and making myself feel so inadequate for a while, or at least, until I’ve got my mental health sorted out a little more. So, please, don’t be offended if I don’t leave my usual style of lengthy comments. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate your writing; just that I need to give my mind a break.

It wasn’t easy to write this post. It feels like giving up, like failure or admitting defeat, but needs must, and I owe it to myself to be sensible. Keep writing as beautifully as you ever do, my friends, and I’ll catch up with you as and when I can. Thank you for your understanding. I appreciate it in advance. Much love, Ellie xx 💝

Out With Old, In With The New

Junk piled into Imogen’s room (granddaughter)
More junk!
Even more junk!
More junk still!
Junk and the washing in Tom’s room (I forgot to take more photos, but believe me, it was a lot worse than this!)

Just for a change, this post contains mostly photos. It may not be of interest to anyone else, but hey, it made me happy to write it as it’s about my forthcoming family situation.

I’m finally getting there … I shared a post back in May called Family Moving In. It will make a lot more sense if you read this briefly to get an idea of what’s happening for me in my life at present. I wrote in that post about my son, Tom, and two grandchildren, Imogen (9) and Charlie (7), needing to move in with me. There’s been a slight change of plan. Tom is now moving up North (UK) to be closer to his work, but the children live not far from me with their mother (Tom’s ex-wife) This means that instead of being with me full-time, my son and the children will be here several times a month rather than permanently. I have to say, apart from the fact that it’ll be so lovely to see them all more often, it’s quite a relief that they won’t be here full-time. I’ve lived alone, quite happily, for over twenty years, so it would have been a tough change of circumstances for me. It means I’ll still have to write and study.

Since that last post, the house has been in a state of chaos. I’ve had to get two spare rooms turned from junk rooms into bedrooms. The work has been hard even though I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of help from friends and professionals to decorate, lay new carpets etc. Imogen’s room looks beautiful and fit for a princess. I’m so happy with it. Tom and Charlie’s room is now a bright new bedroom, too. Below are the photos of the finished rooms.

These are the photos of Imogen’s room …

And these are the photos of Tom and Charlie’s room …

The trio bunk (double at the bottom for Tom and single at the top for Charlie)
New furniture and other bits
Thought Charlie would like the metal bike on the wall. Underneath (but not clear) is a photo of Charlie in his karate gear and a picture of Peanut
Modern art
Family – Love
The lightshade isn’t up yet. It’ll look like the night sky when it is

Contrary to the hesitancy I felt when I wrote the first post, Family Moving In, about this situation, I’m now so looking forward to them all coming to stay with me. I’ve done my best to make their spaces as homely and comfortable as possible. It’ll surprise them all as they haven’t seen the rooms yet. I hope they are as delighted as I am with the finished result. When they come to stay for the first time (in a couple of weeks), I’ll buy a big celebration cake and have candles on it to celebrate many happy years together in the future.

Decluttering the Clutter – Stage 1

The mountains of clutter in the garage!

I’ve just been so exhausted with all the goings-on this week that I can barely think. You may have noticed that I didn’t post anything on my blog this past week. I’m usually known for my punctuality, but this week, it was impossible. On May the 2nd, I posted a piece entitled Family Moving In. I explained there that my son, Tom, and two young grandchildren, will be moving in with me for, possibly, the long term. It was meant to have happened by now, but as circumstances are, it’s more likely to be in the autumn.

Nevertheless, the junk room must be turned back into a bedroom for my son and young grandson (7). My granddaughter (9) already has her own room (my daughter’s old bedroom) as she’s previously come for sleepovers. There’s so much to do, as you can imagine. In addition, the garage needed to be cleared out so that Tom would have storage space when he moves in. I had a friend, Callie, come over on Monday morning to help with this onerous task. I’d hired a 6-yard skip which is currently sitting on the front lawn, slowly killing the grass!

Bearing in mind that I never go into the garage as I don’t own a car, I was mortified by the sight that greeted us when I opened the garage door. What a mess! Callie put her hands on her hips and rolled her sleeves up to the elbow. She meant business. “Where on Earth do we start?” she exclaimed in horror. I was physically unable to help, so she got stuck in while I gave instructions. She does house clearance as a part-time job, so was an expert on decluttering. Just as well with that lot to go through.

There were items in there that had been in the garage for decades – ancient tins of unusable paint, rusty and broken garden and DIY tools that hadn’t seen the light of day for many years, an old vacuum cleaner that I’m keeping for emergencies, big pieces of cardboard that my new kitchen came packed in about seven years ago, offcuts of chipboard shelves, rolls of old Lino and carpet … I could go on, but we’d be here all day. There were so many things I would have hung on to if it hadn’t been for Callie’s ruthless personality. Just as well as we’d have got nowhere with me in charge. As she worked through the clutter, she threw most of it into the skip. I couldn’t believe how much stuff I’d collected over the years.

After three hours, we decided that we’d done all we could do. We stood back and admired the beautifully tidy garage that I could now call my own.

Almost there

And this, ladies and gentlemen, was what the skip looked like when we’d finished!

In the last couple of days, I’ve had the decorator in to strip out the junk room. It’s been chaos here. It’s also meant having to get up very early every morning (I’m not usually an early bird, so I’m tired out). Once he’s finished, the carpet has got to go down. Then, it’ll be getting new furniture and beds. That’s a whole other story – I’ll be writing about those adventures in my next post.

Now, I need someone to come and make me a lovely hot cuppa and settle me down with a box of chocolates and a new head.

Best Foot Forward …

The only photo of me in the flesh that you’re likely to ever see! I’m shy.
Make the most of it – it’s not likely to happen again 😉!

I thought I’d give you a little background information about my disability. It’s not something I’ve previously spoken about much in my blog, so this is my story.

I started life as an able-bodied little girl who did all the usual activities that young children do. I was always small, skinny and underweight, but there were advantages to being as I was. I could shin up the gym apparatus faster than many children in my class. Considering I was sometimes thought of as a weed, I did pretty well. I grew up, married, had my two children, Tom and Clare, and then my ex left. I continued to raise the children alone and also had to work to bring some money in for us to live on. It was a tough time, but I was very content. Between school runs, the children’s football matches and netball, I was a carer and home help for ten years (I’d initially trained as a secretary and worked in the City of London for several years). I combined my work which I loved, with caring for Tom and Clare; we were a very happy little family.

When the children were about thirteen and eleven, I saved enough to take them to the funfair in town (Essex in the UK). It was there that I had my accident which was to change the course of my life.
When our carriage crashed, I felt a tremendous jolt that jarred my neck and spine. Eventually, after a lengthy spell in hospital (with my children staying with my Mum) and with many tests, x-rays, scans and examinations, the doctors decided I’d damaged the nerve endings leading from my spine. They said it was permanent. It was an awful lot to come to terms with, but over time, I grew, not so much to accept it but more to live my life despite it. I wasn’t about to give in easily. The pain was awful, though, and I was on morphine for quite a while. It wasn’t all bad – I was away with the fairies much of the time 😄!

Fast forward twenty years. It was recommended that I have a DEXA Scan as osteoporosis was suspected, given that I’d always been small-boned, had experienced a few years previously with anorexia, and being unable to exercise very often. When I got my results, I was unsure who was more shocked, the radiographer or me. My T-scores were appallingly low. A score of -2.5 indicates osteoporosis, but mine was -4.5, which meant I had severe osteoporosis.

Degrees of osteoporosis
Mine is severe, meaning there is more air space (in brown) and very little solid bone (shown in beige). It’s a wonder I haven’t entirely disintegrated!!

I was told I could die if I fractured my hip or be left even more disabled if I injured my spine. I have to admit I was scared – very scared. Every move I made seemed risky, and I lived in fear for a while. I became super-careful with everything I did, but two years ago, I tripped over Peanut (my new cat) while transferring from my wheelchair to my walking frame. There I was being rushed off to Accident & Emergency for the second time. I was in agony. I’ve never felt pain like it. After all the x-rays and scans came back, the doctors announced that I’d broken my pelvis, not once, not twice, but in six different places. I don’t do things by halves. If I’m going to have an accident, I’ve got to do it in style!

Strangely enough, contrary to what most people would think, I don’t have any regrets; I’m not angry or bitter or in the least bit dissatisfied with my life. I am who I am. Without the experiences I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be Ellie.

My next post (Part Two) will be about my journey back to good health and where I intend to go from here on in.

Okay … these aren’t my legs, but just an indication of where I go next on my journey. Look out for part two.

Family Moving In!

(Image courtesy of Pexels)

Well, that was a blow! It’s Sunday afternoon. I’ve just had a very long phone call with my son, Tom. He was married about 16 years ago and had two children, but that didn’t work out, and he split up with Karen after ten miserable years together. Since then, he’s been in a relationship with a woman called Kim, but that’s not working out either (after six years). Tom and Kim had bought a big house between them as Tom has got my two youngest grandchildren, aged nine and seven. I call them my ‘little ones’ because my daughter and son-in-law have ‘my girls’ who are older. Kim has three much older girls still living at home. As a Mum, I sensed something was wrong quite some time ago. I hadn’t said anything, but Tom just called to say they’re definitely splitting up. The house will have to be sold.

Tom had a question to ask me. In fact, it was a huge ask. He said the big house would have to be sold so that he and Kim could afford to each find somewhere smaller for themselves. Until then, he can’t stay in the house with Kim as they’re not getting on well at all.

“Can the children and I come and stay with you for a few months, please?” I wasn’t expecting that! I’ve been living alone very happily for many years, and as much as I’d love to see more of them, I need and enjoy my space and privacy. I like that it gives me plenty of time to do some studying and writing. What on Earth do I say? We talked at length; “Can I think about this for a couple of days, please, Tom”? Tom was willing to do that, naturally. I love them all very dearly, but suddenly going from living alone to having the house occupied by family will be a bit of a shock, to say the least.

There’ll be a whole heap of things that will have to happen first if I agree. They’ll have to sleep in the spare room and the junk storage room. They’ll need clearing out, decorating, carpeting and new beds and furnishings to make it habitable. They haven’t been touched for decades. The garage will have to be cleared of ‘stuff’ so that Tom has some space to store furniture etc. It’s going to be chaos. I hate having decorators in because of all the mess too.

I’ve now got a couple of days to think about all this. I really don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s come like a bolt out of the blue. Tom is an adult, so I didn’t ever expect to be playing the role of Mum again. I’m not sure I can go ahead with it, but what else do I do?

The Missing Mum Years

My childhood home

This is my dear late Mum’s house as it stands now. It was my childhood home until I married at twenty years of age and moved out. I’ve been reminiscing about this house over the last couple of days. One of my sisters had been back to visit there recently. Although she advised me against it, I asked her to share her photo with me. Big mistake! Huge mistake, in fact. It’s no longer how I remember it. Gone is the beautiful orange door (not that it’s visible in this picture) – it’s been replaced by a dull grey. The window frames have all been painted stark white over the original orange. Orange was Mum’s favourite colour. The steps outside are also not visible in this photo. The neat box hedge has completely overgrown, as has the glorious pink azalea shrub. I feel so sad. I shouldn’t have asked to see this photo. I should have known it would be different now, six years after losing my Mum. I still miss her so much. I always will.

The steps at the front of the house were a barrier for me for the last four years before Mum passed away. Being a wheelchair user now, there was no way I could climb them to get into the house. To make matters worse, Mum was severely agoraphobic, which meant she couldn’t leave there. It meant that we didn’t see each other for all that time. It broke my heart (and hers). We spoke on the phone a lot, especially towards the end. I would call two or three times a day to check she was okay. She mainly was as fit as a fiddle … until she had her stroke. Before that happened, she would vigorously mow the grass, raking it up, digging and planting flowers and tomatoes.

Those last four years were so painful. I didn’t feel sorry myself; I never did, but I felt angry and frustrated about my disability stopping me from seeing her. It was hard to come to terms with, and we missed each other terribly. The only time I got to see her in those last years was when, towards the end, she was admitted to hospital after her stroke. Hospitals are nearly always accessible. She was never the same after that happened. I wrote a post about this at the time. You can read about it at https://elliethompson.uk/2016/11/26/grief-without-death/.

I’m glad I can’t see the inside of the house; it must be so different now, and it would only upset me further. The kitchen was always my favourite room. The kitchen units were orange, as was her one-person teapot, which sat permanently on the side waiting to be filled. She loved her cups of tea and her toast and marmalade, which she’d have for breakfast every morning. After we lost Mum, there were all the usual formalities to arrange; the funeral, the interment, the house to sort out etc. My sisters came from various parts of the country to deal with all this, but I had no choice, being unable to go up those damn steps. My sisters were very kindly involving me as much as possible by taking pictures of everything, so I could decide what I’d like to have. I chose Mum’s little orange teapot. It reminded me so much of her.

Mum’s orange teapot sitting comfortably on my kitchen windowsill

I have a tradition now. Every year, on Mum’s birthday and on Mother’s Day, I take myself off to a quaint tea shop in my city. I order myself a pot of tea (I usually drink coffee) and some toast and marmalade. Sometimes, I order a slice of cake – Mum always enjoyed her cake. Having recently bought the loveliest card I could find in John Lewis, I sit for a couple of hours and write to her. I write it as a conversation between us, just as if she were there with me, drinking tea and eating toast or cake. It makes me feel closer to her at those times. I wish she were still here to join me. But, however much I write, it’ll never make up for those four years when I couldn’t see her. I missed so much of her later life. I think I’ll always miss her – the pain doesn’t lessen. Perhaps, it will in time.

Coffee and Cake

(Photo credit: Simone’s Kitchen)

I wanted to share this poem in dedication to my dear friend, Jenna, who I’ve known for over thirty years. I worked as a home help (before I became disabled) for her and her husband with their three older children when I was a single divorced parent who brought up my two young children alone. I loved being at her house – it was a grand Georgian house with a sweeping staircase and mahogany panelled walls in the hallway, and I thoroughly enjoyed my work there. Lots to clean with all the nooks and crannies. We’d sit for an hour in the middle of my morning talking about all and sundry. I always made my coffee time up working later than my allotted time there. She was always there for me, and I for her.

About four years ago, having lost her husband and two older boys tragically, she moved down to the south coast to be near her daughter and granddaughter. She’s now living in a little cottage almost on the beach. She loves it there, and I’m so pleased for her. That’s not to say I don’t miss her very much because I do. She no longer drives, and I’m unable to visit her because of the distance and lack of accessibility of transport. She’s eighty-three now and becoming frailer in her old age. It worries me greatly as just recently, she’s started to deteriorate. I dread anything happening to her.

COFFEE AND CAKE

I miss the times we sat together
Over your heavy pine table
We drank coffee and ate dainty madeleines
As I poured out my troubled heart to you

That time spent together
Strengthened and deepened our friendship
We cannot sit there any longer
But, my friend, my memories are so fond

You saw me through my best and worst
Through a close-shave house move
Through damaging relationships
You soothed me as my mental health declined

You never once judged me, never criticized
Quietly there amid your own turmoil
And coffee and cake became a sigh of relief
Time to stop and share both joys and tears

Now, so far away with miles between us
You by the sea and me still in town
We still speak for hours, not every day
Perhaps, once or twice a week

We never tire of things to speak of
Often, putting the world to rights
We talk of our children, some lost, some grown
Partners and mothers long since passed

We talk and talk endlessly
I feel that I witness your life
In its goodness and its pain
As you too, witness mine

Our extended phone calls
Prove those miles between us
Hardly matter at all
But, my dear friend, I would give my all to see you again.

© Copyright Ellie Thompson 2022

Wars – so futile – my family’s ‘blood’*

WHEN … HOW … IF ONLY …

I am almost lost for words so I’m borrowing the Jimi Hendrix quote …

“WHEN THE POWER OF LOVE OVERCOMES THE LOVE OF POWER, THE WORLD WILL KNOW PEACE”.

I’ve wanted to write about my feelings over this war. I wanted to write something worthwhile, something moving, poetic perhaps but I feel nothing I can say can do enough justice to this situation and the terrible suffering of the Ukraine people. I’ve been so lost for words that all I can do is to write what is in my heart …

This Russia – Ukraine war … any war … is futile. It’s awful, appalling and totally heartbreaking. I watch the news on television a couple of times a day; I hear the news on the radio – every hour and it just gets worse and worse; it gets more and more terrifying and horrific and I fear for the innocent and brave Ukraine people. However, I’m trying to take a break from the news today because it’s beginning to break me but I feel guilty at not keeping up with the latest developments knowing that the situation is likely to get worse. I feel helpless to do anything other than to send money which I have done. All war is brutal and barbaric.

The Second World War broke out on my birth date in September 1939. I wasn’t born then but so many of my family members were. My birth religion is Jewish; my grandparents and the generations before them lived in Poland, Lithuania, Russia and Hungary. They were caught up in the war when Adolf Hitler invaded and began to send the Jews to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. All Jews were made to wear armbands with their religious sign of The Star of David on them. This included my family. This is their story …

The Jewish people were made to wear this badge on their armbands. It’s the Star of David (their religious symbol). This was so they could be easily recognised and made targets of.

Many of my family members died in the horrific and inhumane internment camps in Auschwitz. There are chunks of my family tree that are missing. We’ll never know how our family died other than to say it would have been an atrocious and pitiless ending of their totally innocent lives. It hurts me to think about it and yet somehow, it helps to ‘talk’ here. I should say, it’s definitely not my aim to upset of offend anyone reading this.

One of my grandmothers (and my grandfather) was living in London with my mother and her sister (my aunt). My grandmother chose to remain in London, running a terminus café for the bus drivers to enable to get people around. Fortunately, their house, nearby, wasn’t bombed as so much of London was. The school over the road was hit but was, at the time, empty of children, thank the Lord. My Mother was eight-years-old and got evacuated to the country for safety. She wasn’t happy and missed being with her mother and my aunt who stayed together in London. My aunt stayed home being only a baby at the time. My Mum had been sent to stay with an elderly couple with no children. They treated her badly because they’d been forced to take a child off the trains but didn’t want to. My Mother had many miserable years there. She was forced to go to a church which practised a different religion to her own.

When my Mum was alive (up until six years ago), she talked of those times. She talked of bomb shelters in the garden; of hiding in basements, (a painful parallel with the besieged Ukrainians now). She talked of rationing when a banana was like Christmas come early. However, she never talked of our missing ‘blood.’*

When I lost my Mum in 2016, my sisters and I decided that I would take all the family photos to sort through them to share them with my sisters. These photos have been sitting up in the spare room ever since. There must be a hundred, at least – I can’t bear the thought of going through them knowing that our missing relatives will be painfully and obviously absent. My sisters are very understanding and supportive which is a blessing. I will do it one day … I owe it to them … I will … when I’m ready …

*’blood’ refers to the blood of our family, our past, our history, our ancestors.