I know this blog is called Chapter Two, but it probably helps to know what chapter one was about.
Chapter one started on the 20th of September 1991, on a bus returning from a week in the snow fields of Perisher-Smiggins.
The protagonist – yours truly – 47year old mother of 4 Fabulous Young men, sat next to the person that would change her life! Clayton Thomas James. I knew who he was – everyone at the school we both went to did! He was handsome and charming and certainly one of the most popular people there. What I didn’t know at the time was that he had been aware of me for quite some time before this encounter, and was delighted to take the opportunity presented and run with it. We spent 8 hours sitting next to each other that day/night and the next 29 years together. It was the perfect love at first sight story. Highschool sweethearts properly in love until the very end.
We married in 1995 and had our first son that same year – and in short order (every two years) we added to our family. Four amazing boys, and the absolute apple of their fathers eye. Life was the usual crazy that you would expect… loud, messy, funny, crazy shenanigans with kids sports, family holidays and all the stuff that makes family fun.
We had the normal ups and downs that people do, but nothing that ever got in the way of who and how we were with each other. When hard words were spoken, they were smoothed over quickly and always forgiven. There was always more laughter than tears. We loved each other.
We were blissful in our bubble of normal. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary promising at least another 25years together, and joking about his old man status with his upcoming birthday a month later.
On Monday the 20th of July 2020, our world was ripped to shreds with the very sudden and unexpected death of Clayton, the love of my life. I came home from work to find that he had collapsed in the bathroom. CPR commenced, Paramedics were called, family and friends came to support us, but it was too late. A massive heart attack claimed the best person I have ever known. Devastated is not a big enough word to describe what that did to us, and the ongoing fallout that we now live with.
But in the shit show that all of this has been, we have also been lucky! Clayton had been out of work, and at home since February, and spent fabulous amounts of time with me and our boys. He and I had the trip of a lifetime just the year before – a reward for doing 5 years FIFO work in and out of Darwin. We had been to see his mum recently, and he had been spending hours talking with his sisters. His Dad and step-mum would pop in anytime and we all got to be with him right at the end. His funeral fell into a window between covid lock downs and we were able to share him with all of the important people in our world.
We were able to renovate our home, so that I can stay here forever if I want… I have a dream bathroom now (and anyone who knows me will tell you how much time I spend in the bath!) .. lucky!
It’s been a little over a year now, and we are adjusting to our new normal. Big things have happened for us in this year – both good and less good, but we’ve stuck together and are working through it. I have been amazed at my boys and their strength and resilience and love. It has been so much more than I ever thought it could have been – again, truly lucky!
Death is a funny thing. You absolutely and whole heartedly miss the person that is gone, but you also miss the future you were supposed to have. Friends change. Some leave because they don’t know how to be with the new you, and others that you though were gone, come back and are perfect. New people come into your circle, and it’s an adjustment knowing that they only know the you that now exists. They know the single you, not the you that you were.
Everyday for me is now a conscious choice to be grateful, and to find happiness. It’s a tough thing to do, but I don’t want to be unhappy for the rest of what might be a long life. I miss Clayton with every single fibre of my being, but I have his voice in my ear telling me ‘it is what it is, there is nothing you can do to change things now. You have to do what you can and get through it’ … so that’s what I am doing!
I am saying yes to things I never would have before. I have joined support groups and am meeting people that are filling my world with new happy moments. I have taken trips and had experiences that I might never have had otherwise.. and recently I have thought about what comes next.
Next is a pretty scary thought, and a huge unknown! Next means letting go of some things and starting again. Next is terrifying. Next is an adventure that I dont quite know how to feel about… but next is now.
So Chapter Two is next…. It’s new, it’s complicated and it’s kind of exciting as well…