Saturday, 25 January 2014

Advice and support from beyond the grave

What seems like an age ago Mum and Dad and I talked about what happened when people die. Dad said he would try to contact me from wherever he had gone during a thunderstorm because he so loved them. In January 2013 on the third anniversary of his and Mum's death what happened? We had a short sharp thunderstorm at breakfast time! Thunderstorms in January don't happen often so it was really spooky that one should happen on such a special day. As soon as I heard the thunder I just knew that Dad had kept his word and was letting me know that he will be watching over me until the time comes for me to join him and Mum again. The tears just poured out of me but not sad tears, happy tears because I knew that the two of them were with me in the kitchen. 

The rest of the day was a bit of an anti-climax after that. I was really busy with my university course that day so I didn't have much time for thinking about what might have been and I suspect that my Mum and Dad would have preferred it that way. Dad's brother and Mum's sister phoned me in the evening so I was able to tell them what had happened and they both became quite emotional.

Mum had always said that she would come to me as a white feather and that it exactly what she did when I had a very difficult decision to make.
Each year a maximum of 4 students on my degree course are given the opportunity to do a paid work experience sandwich year in the USA. I knew it would be a great opportunity to see more of the world and to learn new skills and that it would look good on my CV and improve my chances of getting a good job in my chosen area when I come back to the UK. But I also knew it would mean saying goodbye to my boyfriend and my two closest friends and I wasn’t sure I felt strong enough to cope with that. I also knew that when I did return after the year away all three of them would have graduated and I would have to do my final year of my course with people I didn't know.
Just before the deadline for applying I was sitting upstairs (I had just made the bed) wondering what to do when I saw a white feather blowing against the window! And then straight away I knew that I just wasn't ready to go off on that type of adventure. It so felt like mum was telling me this. So I didn't mention anything about having a year away to my friends and never filled in the application form. I slept so much better that night knowing I had made the right decision.
Was the thunderstorm and the feather just a co-incidence? There is no way of knowing for certain but it gave me a degree of inner peace and that was a big plus in my life.


Saturday, 11 January 2014

Did Mum and Dad dying make me a better athlete?

I have always been one of the tallest girls in my year at school and I have been in the school athletics team every year. Most of the events took place after school and because Mum and Dad were both teachers they were able to come to almost all of the regular competitions.

I was always the school’s representative in the high jump and I was usually also in whatever was the longest race in the competition. I didn’t have a particularly impressive top speed but I seemed to have a lot of stamina so I usually came in the top 3 out of 8. I enjoyed doing sport and having Mum or Dad there to cheer me on made it even better. Weekend events were fun. Quite often we were a bit late setting off so I used to get changed in the back seat as we drove along with Dad under strict instructions not to look in the rear-view mirror!

When Mum and Dad were killed I didn’t feel like doing anything but the Head of Girls Physical Education persuaded me to keep competing – mainly because she knew, being sensible, that it would be good for me to try to have some normality in my life. It wasn’t the same as before because neither Gran nor Granddad ever bothered to come to watch me and sometimes they used to complain because if there was an event I would be later home from school and that would upset their very rigid routine.

As the weeks went by and my relationship with Nan and Granddad spiralled down into emotional and physically abuse I used to escape from the house by using athletics training as an excuse. I used to go running every single day and I trained with an intensity far greater than I had ever done before. In a strange way doing sport kept Mum and Dad’s memory alive inside me: it felt that I wasn’t forgetting the special things we had used to do together.

The combination of far more exercise plus less eating had the predictable effect. My weight started to drop. I was just over 5ft 10 inches tall the last time I was measured a few months before the accident and I weighed 148lbs. After a few months of living with Gran and Granddad my weight was down to 122lbs. So I had gone from being in the middle of the healthy weight band to being into the underweight band.

But losing weight plus getting fitter made me a better runner and jumper. People that were about equal to me in sporting performance before Mum and Dad were killed were suddenly getting left behind. My personal best in the high jump went up by several inches and my personal best in the 1500 metres improved by the length of the finishing straight! As part of the support I get from the university as a vulnerable student the doctors monitor my health and they say provided I eat a balanced diet and provided I don't lose anymore weight everything is fine!

For ages nobody noticed that the weight was dropping off me. Truthfully I don’t think Nan and Granddad ever did notice. Eventually the sports staff did notice my changing shape – they tend to keep an eye on girls rather more than boys because of girls being more likely to have eating disorders – and we had a rather difficult conversation. It was that conversation that finally made me realise that I couldn’t stay with Nan and Granddad much longer and so I started plotting my escape back to the house I had inherited.

Now, coming up to 4 years later, I still haven’t put that weight back on. Sometimes I wish I had more girlie curves than I have but I guess it isn’t ever going to happen while I run or train every day.