Fitness: Light in the Darkness – find the positive

Next week is the first anniversary of my Dad’s death. It still feels very surreal to be writing that as in some small part of my brain, I still think he’s going to walk through the door tomorrow. That doesn’t make any sense but I think my survival mechanism is to just think that he’s on holiday or it’s just been too long between visits. Despite the fact that the family home has been sold and things have moved on, I can still picture stepping in the door and spying him asleep on the couch.

At the time of his death, I remember thinking that the sympathy cards had it wrong when they said ‘sorry for your loss’. I was so lucky to have him as my Dad that I couldn’t really feel like I had ‘lost’ anything. Even though he left far too early, I could only think I had gained by having him in my life.

It’s been hard at times to hold on to that thought over the past year. There have been so many times that I just really wanted him to be there, most of them odd little things rather than monumental moments. I would always call him if I had negotiated a good price for car insurance, or if I was really tired and wanted a sympathetic ear.

Of course, this year has also seen the arrival of my son, Thomas and my nephew, Joseph. It goes without saying that I would’ve wanted him there to meet them in general but my moment of overwhelming sadness was realising that he’ll never waggle his eyebrows at them whilst bouncing enthusiastically.

Wine opening in high windsOpening, pouring and serving wine at picnic – all whilst retaining cool hat in high wind. Miss these skills!

It’s accurate to say that I miss my Dad as he was before being so sick. After seeing him slowly decline I truly would have not wished one more day of suffering upon him. The hospital he spent his last few weeks was truly grim. He had little privacy, no window and the overstretched staff were far too busy to get to know him. The only positive thing to hold on to about the whole thing was he managed to get transferred to St. Wilfred’s hospice for his last couple of days, which finally leads me to the fitness aspect of this post!

Today, I thought I’d introduce you to my Mum who is currently undertaking a sponsored walk that is a bit different from the usual ‘one off’ event:

What are you doing?

My walk spans 50 days, and I plan to cover a total distance of 250 kilometres. I started my walk on the day when the clocks went back; I always feel as if I am being plunged into darkness when that happens.

Why are you doing it?

The main reasons for undertaking this project are to raise money for my local Hospice and to have a positive focus over the weeks around the anniversary of Tom’s death. The Hospice was a point of light during some very dark days, and I want to give something so that other people can have the same good experience.

On a less emotive level, I find it hard to keep active at this time of year. The days are short and the weather is often wet, windy or at best dull. I know from experience that I feel happier when I get outside every day (even in bad weather), and that exercise is my best antidote to melancholy.

How have you prepared for the event?

I chose a daily average that I know to be well within my ability, but which is slightly more than I would normally walk.

I have also prepared for the challenge by making sure that I have good wet weather clothes. There is no such thing as wrong weather, just wrong clothes. I have waterproof boots, rain trousers and a Gortex parka with room for layers of warm clothes underneath if necessary. If there is a long spell of dreadful weather I can resort to walking around the shopping mall early in the morning.

As I write I am 15 days into my challenge, and am ahead on distance. I have walked more than 5km when the weather has been good, and when I have not had other time pressures. The daily weather forecasts that give an hour by hour prediction have helped me plan walks during dry spells.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about ways to keep motivated – what is keeping you going?

The sponsorship aspect has been a source of motivation, also the wish to give something back to the hospice has kept me going. I think that if I had simply decided to walk every day for 50 days I would have great difficulty in getting out of bed early to try to beat rain predicted to start at 9am.

When I announced that I was going to do this sponsored walk, I undertook to post a daily photo and update on my Facebook page. Such a public platform has made me feel that I really must do something every day, and that it should be more meaningful than just a stroll round the supermarket.

walking in autumn leaves

It has also helped that some of my friends have asked if they can walk with me. This is very touching, and has brought the added benefit of some new-to-me walking routes.

The majority of the distance thus far I have walked alone. Sometimes it has been a bit tedious, especially the day when I could not remember exactly where I had parked my car and had to walk much further than I intended. On the plus side, this has given me time to reflect on how brave Tom was during his long illness and many treatments: he never complained. I have also thought about how much it costs to run the Hospice – £11,000 per day, of which only 15% is funded by the NHS. (These figures may vary for other hospices). I try to guess how much money I might raise through this walk, and try to think of other ideas to raise money. Best of all, I feel useful.

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10 Comments

  1. nikkifrankhamilton
    November 17, 2015 / 1:41 am

    Laura, this is such a lovely post. First, I am sorry that you no longer have your dad with you and that your mother does not have your father’s presence. My mother was a Hospice nurse for years, she helped so many and it’s so nice to see how much you and your family valued that time. And what your mom is doing is incredible. It’s so hard to push on at times, but to do it for others helps you to do it for yourself. What a wonderful way to heal and give at the same time.

    • November 17, 2015 / 8:45 am

      Thanks, Nikki. I think hospice nursing must be an incredibly difficult job so your mother must’ve had a massive capacity to do that. My Mum has reached her fundraising target of £500 but I’m sure will get some more sponsors as well – she’s doing so well and we’re immensely proud of her!

  2. nikkifrankhamilton
    November 17, 2015 / 1:41 am

    Laura, this is such a lovely post. First, I am sorry that you no longer have your dad with you and that your mother does not have your father’s presence. My mother was a Hospice nurse for years, she helped so many and it’s so nice to see how much you and your family valued that time. And what your mom is doing is incredible. It’s so hard to push on at times, but to do it for others helps you to do it for yourself. What a wonderful way to heal and give at the same time.

    • November 17, 2015 / 8:45 am

      Thanks, Nikki. I think hospice nursing must be an incredibly difficult job so your mother must’ve had a massive capacity to do that. My Mum has reached her fundraising target of £500 but I’m sure will get some more sponsors as well – she’s doing so well and we’re immensely proud of her!

  3. November 20, 2015 / 9:14 am

    I think people say “sorry for your loss” because of the days that follow, the fact that he didn’t meet your son is a loss and there will be days where you might feel a lack because he is not there. I think it is great that you still stay on the positive side of things, grief affects everyone so differently and there is no right or wrong way. I think what your Mum is doing is great and I hope she raises lots of money for the hospice. We support our local hospice in our town they do such amazing work. Love Lizzie xi

    • November 20, 2015 / 9:59 am

      Oh absolutely – I understand why people say ‘sorry for your loss’ – I just found it an odd sentiment at the time because that’s not how I was feeling. I’ve definitely felt it over the last year, but still over all feel that I have gained. Mum is doing amazingly well with her walking and her fundraising. I’m immensely proud of her! Thanks for commenting xx

  4. November 20, 2015 / 9:14 am

    I think people say “sorry for your loss” because of the days that follow, the fact that he didn’t meet your son is a loss and there will be days where you might feel a lack because he is not there. I think it is great that you still stay on the positive side of things, grief affects everyone so differently and there is no right or wrong way. I think what your Mum is doing is great and I hope she raises lots of money for the hospice. We support our local hospice in our town they do such amazing work. Love Lizzie xi

    • November 20, 2015 / 9:59 am

      Oh absolutely – I understand why people say ‘sorry for your loss’ – I just found it an odd sentiment at the time because that’s not how I was feeling. I’ve definitely felt it over the last year, but still over all feel that I have gained. Mum is doing amazingly well with her walking and her fundraising. I’m immensely proud of her! Thanks for commenting xx

  5. March 2, 2016 / 9:32 am

    Goodness me, what a touching post to read, and what an absolutely fantastic pair of ladies you both are!
    It seems to me that Tom was as lucky to have you both, as you were to have him.
    … Oh, and I am loving his wind coping/wine pouring skills – my kind of fella!

    Anna x

    • March 2, 2016 / 6:06 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting on this. Think we’ve bee missing Dad a lot recently and it’s nice when someone else appreciates little things like wine pouring skills! The clocks are soon to change again so I’ll be starting my own walking.

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