Family of Five

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It has certainly been a while since I’ve been on here or felt the draw to write but to be honest it’s been for wonderful reasons.

Meeting Nic in 2016 changed so much beyond my wildest dreams after what’s happened these last few years.

As a quick synopsis we got engaged when I went out to get her in KL last April and quickly it was evident that this new family unit of 4 was going to become 5.

Flynn Joseph entered the world on March 6 2018 to our utter delight and I cannot begin to describe the onrush of emotion that it set off. Just incredible.

His arrival coinciding with Mairs birthday was just uncanny but felt right and so special in many ways to us all. A circle completed in a way.

Ill write on here again in the coming months as I contribute to International Mental Health Day in June but for now I just wanted to share that it’s a happy place.

 

 

 

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Peace or Pain?

martha-and-merlin_115Whats that all about then?

Tattoos, that’s what!

Folk seem to either love having them done or hate them but grin and bear it. I’m a lover. Thankfully I don’t find them painful. I actually enjoy the sensation, the scratching. Maybe I’m just weird.

The reference to tattoos though is a real-time analogy of sorts. An analogy in reference to today. Mair’s anniversary! (and as my sister will tell you, I love a good analogy. I’m full of them to the point I’ve just used the word three times in quick succession),

No I don’t love Mair’s anniversary. Of course I don’t! But my focus on the day itself is perhaps unusual….just as is my take of getting a tattoo done.

It’s about those dates. Those key ones in the calendar. The spiky ones that you can see a mile off and they roll round each year bringing with them new-found surprises. How are they going the bite us in the arse this year.

On the 19 November I had a wobble. A right bloody wobble too!

I had spent the day with my fab sister, watching the rugby (autumn internationals), Martha pottering around with her Lego and Merlin being especially cuddly as he had come down with something. We were all relaxed though.

In the midst of one conversation it became apparent that this was the time! We had entered the period of time that was the beginning of the end 4 years ago. The three weeks spanning 19 November to 6 December which saw Mair go from seemingly recovering from her chemotherapy session in the usual manner, to the realisation that something else was happening and her health was actually declining rapidly before our eyes. A period of time that would ultimately end with Mair tragically being taken from us by a rare, vicious, rapid secondary cancer, the likes of which left her medical team bereft, stunned and heartbroken in equal measure.

I went home leaving the children at Verna’s as i had a race the next day and as the evening wore on I realised the similarities to today.

Back then in 2012 Merlin had been very sick with broncholitis. I was looking after him downstairs, propped up on my lap trying to console him and keep him settled. I had the rugby on. Again the autumn internationals. Wales were losing to Fiji. A game Mair should have been watching next to me, screaming at the ineptitude of her players….but instead she was upstairs, bed ridden.

I cried a lot on Saturday evening at the similarity of the circumstances to this day compared to 4 years prior. How do these things come together. Just bizarre.

And this isn’t the first time that a date in this period has caused understandable pain at the recollection of events.

Bizarrely though it’s never actually today!! Never the 6 December! Never the day she actually died! Why?

Well I guess a day such as an anniversary can be seen as one of a person, in our case Mair, either being taken, robbed…..etc from us. Or as I see it, the day they ceased being in pain. The day they were at peace finally. No one ever wants to see the person they love suffer, least of all over a long period of time, so in my eyes she wasn’t suffering any longer.

Anniversaries can be filled with pain, with a feeling of injustice, with an overwhelming sense of loss. I think I find these emotions in the build up. The points where the bad news came, or where a little hope crept in only to then be dashed and the reality of her decline came smashing back in.

Today though is a day I am thankful that she suffered no longer. In her words as she said when she knew she would die “If it was my purpose in life to have two wonderful children then so be it and I will die happy”.

Today was Mair’s ‘so be it’ and I over the 4 years I think have slipped into that focus

So back to where I started. That peace or pain again – I’ll be spending today, her fourth anniversary, being tattooed! Continuing work on two sleeves symbolising  places that bring me peace and balance – The Isles of Arran and Skye. Skye on the left where Martha’s bumblebee is and Arran on the right, beneath Merlin’s dragon!

Today is peace for me, for Mair but I recognise too that today won’t be for everyone else. It will represent pain just like the tattoo would to others.

The 6th December!!!

That Happy Day :)

11323594105_4f13bf21a5_bToday marks Mair and my 9th wedding anniversary, and I am once again in the beautiful Lake District surrounded by the fells, the water, the inevitable cloud and everything that makes this place so special.

I say marks rather than marked because ever since she died I have always found myself in the habit speaking in the present rather than past tense and despite her tragically no longer being here on this earth, the 27 October will still always be that day of ours. It will never cease to be.

Understandably I know many people, my fellow widowers included struggle with wedding anniversaries and the loss it reminds people of. The days that should have continued, the further memories that would have been created.

That my way is different is not a criticism. Its just my way with this date.

I struggle to see that day in 2007 and each anniversary since, even those without Mair as anything other than that it was awesome. A casual feel to a special day surrounded by friends, scattered around the lawn of Briery Wood Hotel as we made our vows, the eerie yet beautiful sound of ‘She Moves Through The Fair’ on the garden speakers. In the midst of that still autumnal day, a solitary gust of wind brought golden leaves down on us which was Mairs Daddy silently blessing us with a whisper 🙂 No pomp and ceremony. no stress or worry in planning the day. Just our day 🙂

Yesterday as I stood on the pier in Bowness with Martha and Merlin we looked across the water and out of nowhere  a sudden gust of wind brought a scattering of little golden yellow and brown leaves onto the water surface and my mind was instantly taken back to that moment 9 years before. I smiled so much I had tears in my eyes and I then explained to them as they watched it, that just the same happened to us. They both looked out at the water in wonderment and it was yet another magical moment shared.

A year ago, as much as I again focused on the memories of a fabulous day, I otherwise was not in a very good place at all. I was beginning to feel very lost, unfocused and really just unsure about a lot of things. Amongst other things, the Lakes had become a place I couldn’t bear to step foot in because it was simply too painful. It held too much time spent there for it to be shaken off and become bearable again.

Here I am though in my hotel room in Newby Bridge, the children fast asleep in the bed behind me and we’re looking forward to a lovely day. I just booked it without much thought and maybe there in lies the secret. To not think too long or hard but just do what my gut says.

A year has made a huge difference. It has brought clarity of mind, a realisation that living in the here and now doesn’t mean forgetting. I have the most incredible love in my life who has made anything feel possible again where once things were ruled out. Overall an outlook of positivity and excitement in regards to everything. A perfect balance between remembering and treasuring what Mair and I had, and at the same time looking forward to what the future holds in store 🙂

Maybe it was just that small steps were needed in order to for me to feel able to venture back here, maybe it was an open mind, maybe an amount of hurt was actually needed in order to aid the healing. Who knows.

What I do know is that even though I don’t spend an awful lot of time here anymore, the Lakes will always hold a very very special place in my heart ❤

Today we will go to the Manjushri Buddist Centre at Coniston Priory, a place that brings so much peace and balance during the difficult times but also where in happy moments of relfection it brings a closeness.

Afterwards we’ll have a day of exploring museums and maybe seeek out a stone circle or semething. Whatever we do, we’re enjoying the day today

Happy 9th Anniversary Mair.

Pottery for 9 🙂 xx

A Key Unlocks!

IMAG4265Its Summer time and I’ve just returned from yet another wonderful visit to Scotland with my two children. Not the islands this time but the coast still in Dumfries and Galloway.

I remember a time, after Mair passed away where the mere thought of a whole weekend on my own with the kids filled me with dread as I found it all so tiring from the emotional onslaught that had been recently experienced. Now though I treasure that time. The exploring we do, the places we find, the almost spiritual connection we make with places. That fine balance of having Mair in mind and in reflection but at the same time focussing on the moment that this is us, our little team and we’re doing pretty well in the grand scheme of things. It was wonderful to be joined by my sister Verna for the latter couple of days and for her too to share in the joy that is the kids on holiday and them wanting to show her places such as the

The build up to the holiday, the weeks prior, had seen a number of very significant changes in our life which, while some had been coming for a while, had a real impact when they did.

The house that Mair and I had was on the market for some time. The children and I had moved in October 2014 to a new place as I needed to be away from the constant reminders of the decline in Mair’s health. I felt it important that the children and I started a fresh, without forgetting. We were a little team of three and we needeed new roots. The positive memories came with us in droves because it was after all the wonderful home we had made out near the peaks and begun making so many fabulous friendships.

So we moved……and I promptly began a complete delayed meltdown. Grief came rushing forward, which I wrote about in the The Lead Cloak . It was relentless and what then became a saga of a house sale lent to exacerbating this feeling. I felt trapped in a past that I wanted gone. My memories of Mair of a happy, caring and truly amazing person, full of life, zest, giving and compassion. I didn’t want my memories to be those of illness and ultimately her death in respect of that house.

Life generally was full of ups and downs, stops and starts, it’s on, its off, happy, sad. enthusiastic, bored, understood, insulted. The ups bizarrely seemed to coincide an offer on the house being made and accepted, the downs with that offer or sale falling through. The Autumn/Winter period last year especially I was up and down like a yo-yo, sparked by a sale falling through weeks before completion. It impacted me so much to the point I stopped looking after my own mental health. When something fell through I felt I was fish hooked back into that place again that I wanted to get away from. The bright point in amongst this time was a trip to Arran with the children which just melted my heart and reminded me of what was really important. Happy doesn’t always hide the sad tough moments through.

Thankfully a bit of a reality check and some harsh words helped snap me out of it and I began the year with a new zest, having started getting some professional support again. I started running again, having completely lost my enjoyment of it 9 months earlier, and this gave me back my clarity of mind that I had missed so much.

The advent of Merlin beginning nursery earlier this year could have signalled another meltdown, but as I stood there in tears watching him walking off, wishing Mair was there to see him, a friend covered me in a hug, took me for coffee and then shared some words with me that would ultimately put so much unexpected spring in my step.

052Another offer came in, it all looked good, the price was good, they wanted it to happen quickly and then bang. Fallen through again. Arrrgggghhhh. As if it wasn’t bad enough already some fucking genius then decided to put Mothers Day on Mair’s birthday. Both of those days tough enough as it is without combining them both. So there it was. Dragged back again just as I was able to see light and a new chapter beckoning.

Thankfully the running continued and I had a good outlet, achieving plenty, feeling healthy, eating healthily and above all relishing the time with the kids.

Finally it happened. The offer came in. It was good. Then another offer came in. They were competing and finally I accepted. This was it. The house was going to go.

The chapter was coming to an end, mirroring some other events too.

And there it was! The children finished school and nursery for the summer, the inevitable happened and the house sale was finally complete. The house was gone! It was no longer ours.

I expected to hand the keys in, walk out of the estate agents and go buy some prosecco and feel huge relief.

Instead I felt sombre, reflective, even slightly cross with myself for willing the house away so much when it had at one point been so filled with joy.

This though quickly turned to happy thoughts as I remembered that all those memories have come with us and I spent the afternoon looking through images of that time, of Martha so young, of Mair happy and healthy and not to forget Angus the cat who joined us in that home and was glued to Mair.

As the house sale completed on the 17/18 July I felt a sea change in me. I had built up so IMAG4289many walls,barriers, doors around me since Mair’s death, albeit subtly. Created places where I would hide away  and shield myself from the world almost saying “NO. You can’t come in here. I’m not sharing this with you. My safe place”

But a key had been found in the midst of this event. A key which will become more clear in the fulness of time. In an instant those walls and barriers crumbled around me and those doors that seemed locked forevermore suddenly swung open again. I feel freer, more open and safe than I have felt in longer than I can remember and I find myself smiling to myself on reflection of this on a daily basis. Life feels balanced again

A Chapter has closed but just like a book, you don’t forget what you’ve read before when you begin the next one; That new chapter which a key has unlocked 🙂 xxx

 

Normality…even when cancer arrives!

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Recent blog I wrote for Mummy’s Star #CancerandPregnancy Awareness Week which was featured in Huffington Post:

The 18th June! A day which is forever embedded in my memory.

 

The day I dropped my wife off for a routine antenatal appointment, thinking she’d only be a couple of hours. The day I went to the park with our daughter Martha while Mair was in hospital only for the world to stop at 10:28am. Mair rang and said she’d just been told she had cancer!!

 

“What??” was my response at the time and I still find myself astounded now thinking back to what became a blur of a day.

 

Four years on this week and I have found myself reflecting a lot. I always do this time of year for obvious reasons but this week I guess more so than previous at it sees the annual awareness week take place of the charity Mummy’s Star which I founded in Mair’s memory, to support pregnant women with cancer.

 

We’ve focused this year on how to maintain normality for women and I think its vitally important to highlight the huge amount of positives in our journey, despite the tragic outcome that was to come in the following months.

 

When Mair was diagnosed our world fell apart because of the uncertainty that this threw up. Having never heard of anyone being diagnosed with cancer in pregnancy before, let alone be treated for it, we were worried. Would it affect the baby? Could we even continue with the pregnancy?

 

Despite these worries the team were quick to provide the reassurances and the plan for treatment proceeded.

 

The bigger impact at this stage however was that Mair suddenly felt robbed of her pregnancy, her experience that suddenly wasn’t going to be as it had been with Martha 3 years earlier. She didn’t think she could enjoy the pregnancy as she has previously. Ongoing chemo was to interupt this on a regular cycle, the prospect of not being able to have a home birth and of course the hammer blow to her of not being able to breast feed again.

 

Step forward, our midwife Helen Howard!

We sat in a nice cool room, were given sandwiches and a cup of tea and were asked the simple question…”So, what would you like?”

 

Cue the reaction…”What? There’s Choices? She’s Got Cancer!!” In one simple question the world seemed to tip back in our favour. We suddenly had choices again that a week before felt like they’d been ripped away.

 

As I type this there are tears rolling down my face because I remember that meeting so clearly. I remember seeing Mair for the first time1 hour before birth since her diagnosis with a smile on her face. This lady had just handed control back. Something that is deeply underestimated in this situation but is absolutely priceless.

 

We actually could have had a homebirth however in the end we decided to have a hospital birth due to early induction to be able to recommence treatment, but the point is that it was on the table as an option. That is so important. Don’t make decisions for people. Make the decisions with them, inform them and the best solution will prevail.

The next thing was breast feeding. Having breastfed Martha for over a year, the possibility of Mair not being able to breastfeed again was almost as devastating as the cancer diagnosis itself. Nothing could replace that for her however suddenly a magic alternative was available.

Helen talked to us and explained about donor breast milk and that we might be able to get it for our baby. We’d never heard of this before, knew nothing of milk banks and all the rest but by the end of that conversation it was the best thing ever. Our little baby was going to be able to get the same start in life as his big sister and that meant the world to us both. Again, it was that bit more control coming back our way.

 

The final piece, but I would say the most significant was the regular monitoring of Merlin!

Every third Thursday was going to be chemo day, beginning on Thursday 28 June and that first trip to the hospital I remember stopping countless time on the drive there because she was so sick from fear, but we went in, had her treatment and were done. In advance of the next session though, the Helen and the team at Tameside Hospital arranged for us to come in earlier. There they had Mair lie on a bed, hooked her up to the baby monitor and there we stayed for an hour if not more to listen to his heartbeat. I cannot put into words fully how big an impact this had on Mair. It was like she was given her whole pregnancy back in an instant. There we were listening to our baby boy, his heart beating away happily. We knew he was doing well.

 

On the way out of the hospital then on each of the remaining sessions, after listening to our baby first, we ‘popped in to have chemo’! Those Thursdays were no longer about cancer, drugs, side effects….they were now about our baby! We were once again excited expectant parents and we were looking forward to the arrival of our baby boy and Martha’s little brother.

 

The remainder of the pregnancy went very smoothly, Mair’s induction all went to plan and she delivered to the minute, at 8pm exactly on Monday 24 September 2012, just as Helen had predicted only a few hours before.

 

In the upcoming months after this, our world would once again be turned upside down, never to be the same again following the sudden loss of Mair from a rare secondary cancer spread, but I would ask that the positives be remembered here;

Of how a simple meeting and a simple question from a truly wonderful midwife gave Mair her pregnancy and her enjoyment and focus on it back and firmly placed cancer in the background.

 

The charity was originally launched in 2013, a year to the day she was diagnosed in because I wanted the day to eventually figure for a positive reason rather than that day that began to take away.

 

It’s slowly becoming a good day.

Letter to…..

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On 6 December 2013, Mairs first anniversary, I wrote this rather defiant letter.

A lovely friend reminded me about it last night so I read it again to see whether it still rang true and largely it does.

There have been many ups and downs in the last two years, I’ve wavered several times from my positive, glass half full perspective on things and have dwelt a bit more than I would have liked but it’s all part of the complexity of grief.

So as we arrive at her third anniversary today I say again:

“Dear 6th December,

Today you took our beautiful Mair from us, my wife, best friend, soul mate and wonderful mummy to our children.

You may be expecting hatred and anger from me/us or that you broke and crushed us but sadly for you, you are mistaken and I will tell you why!

You took Mair from us but you forgot in your naivity that you can never take away our memories or the wonderful traits that she instilled in us, in me and most importantly in our children.

You made us stronger and more determined than ever. You made medical staff, colleagues and strangers become friends, you turned friends into practically family. This saw us wrapped up in a blanket of warmth, care and love, the like of which I have never known

We are forever scarred by what you did, but in time we will heal!
We will cry at the loss, but we will smile and be happy thinking about her and the wonderful time we all had with her!
Our lives will have to move on but we will never ever forget her especially that glinting, mischievous smile.
We have changed forever

She is everywhere we look!
In the sands of Dinas Dinlle,
soaring high above the Cuillin of Skye, drifting in a snow flurry in Edale,
floating at the feet of the Buddhas on Holy Isle in Arran,
in the grounds of Briery Wood,
sitting look out over the beautiful Longdendale Valley,
and always always in our hearts.

I have nothing but compassion for you. Compassion because you cannot change who you are no matter how hard you try. You will always be known as this day, the day you took her away.

We on the other hand, have changed because we somehow summoned an inner strength to cope with the tragic devastation you inflicted on us last year. An inner strength that Mair gave us by being the person she was; compassionate, selfless and determined and positive amongst much much more.

Sorry if all comes as a bitter disappointment to you but its the truth and I felt like you needed to know now more than ever.

You are but one day! Memories last a lifetime 

Thanks for reading

“Rise and Rise Again, Until Lambs Become Lions”

Back Amongst The Buddhas

1654054_10153372828668992_5810583865479891078_nThis last week, Martha, Merlin and I took a trip up to one of our more treasured places; The Isle of Arran.

The stunning little “Gem of the Clyde” as Billy Connoly refers or “Scotland in miniature” by many many others.

It holds many memories for us and this was actually my sixth visit. First with Mum and Dad as a teenager, then with Mair as one of our first weekends away together and then once Martha had arrived we returned as a little family in 2011 and 2012, when Mair was pregnant with Merlin and undergoing treatment

Tragically, despite having booked the same cottage again for the following summer as we left in 2012, little did we know that Mair would be taken from us 4 months later.

We did return in 2013, this time with Auntie Lou and an 11 month old Merlin, Martha and I. That visit was a time of deep reflection for all of us. Merlins first visit, Martha returning to a place she spent two wonderful summers with Mair and for Lou, the chance to see and feel the magic of this little place that had so touched Mair’s soul.

This visit came about at quite short notice as Martha simply asked one morning as we drove over Snake Pass “Daddy can we go back to the place with the Buddhas? I want to see Green Tara again” A reference to Holy Isle which sits just off the coast at Lamlash on the main Island

For some reason I had never been away with just the kids and me. I don’t really know why. Maybe the length of the journey with Merlin so young or something else I don’t know, but needless to say I said yes immediately and promptly booked our holiday.

Arriving at Ardrossan last Wednesday to get the ferry over, its hard to describe the feeling I experienced when I once again saw the skyline of Arran. Its misty peaks trying to hide from view, almost like a place you are not allowed to see fully until you are on water and away from the mainland. The rolling lowland and forest covered south of the island, the almost volcano like peak of Goatfell rising up from the coast flanked by the rest of the Arran Cuillin. A simply stunning place and one I couldn’t wait for Martha to see again and for Merlin to be able to run around on now he was older.

It is difficult to fully explain my connection to the Islands of Scotland, the feeling of overwhelming peace I feel when I am there, whether it be Skye, Mull or Arran, there is simply something there that I seldom feel anywhere else I have been.

Of course there are the reams of wonderful memories that these places hold for the children and me, but its more than that.

Its a sense of belonging and spiritual connection to the land, its stark wildness, its line sculpted by fire and ice. Its just incredible. I feel re-energised when I come to these places. Refuelled! I just feel home!

This visit though reminded me of something more and that was how wonderful the people of the island are, whether they have grown up there or whether they have moved there in later life.

Everywhere we went, we were remembered, whether it was making soap at Arran 12191956_10153372793163992_5145375815196043368_nAromatics, painting porcelain at Pots N Pieces or the Ferry Man to Holy Isle. And I don’t mean tourist swarm. I mean genuinely remembered. They remembered Merlin being on my back in the little life last time we were there, they remembered Martha and Mair going pottery painting while I took a walk up to Castail Abhail on the Cuillin, they remembered specific parts of conversations with Mair and yes, they remembered her passing from conversations with Lou and I on our return in 2013. That is special to feel from strangers, very special and only reinforces that feeling of home.

We went swimming, we spent a lovely morning on the beach at Blackwaterfoot, we had a stunning evening drive around the coast to Catacol, Pirnmill and Lochranza (where I nipped into the Arran distillery 😉 ) and of course, we went back to see the Buddhas.

12187795_10153372825403992_1752516613852887987_nHoly Isle, as I said earlier, sits just off the coast at Lamlash. It it home to the World Centre for Peace and Health, a Buddist residence which welcomes visitors to stay for a day, a week, a month or much longer. One Finnish lady we spoke to had been there 17 years. On the north of the Island there is a closed womens retreat (4 years) and on the main isle of Arran there is a mens retreat (7 years).

Now we are not buddists in the truest sense by any means but it is fair to say that we hold a lot of what it shows us very closely. Mair had attended classes for nearly three years and thus I gained interest in it as she became unwell. It helped her hugely to deal with her diagnosis and even her death, and it has helped me in no small part in the last three years to learn to cope with life without her. We don’t neccesarily talk about it very openly but it influences us in a very un-pious way.

Martha was aware of Mairs interest in Buddism, in fact to the point where she would readily take the mickey of how sometimes when she went to meditate, Mair would fall asleep, but joking aside, it clearly touched her.

My mum, when talking about Martha, has often said “that little girl has lived before” and there have been several little things that have happened over the six young years that have displayed an almost sixth sense emotionally.

She was once talking loudly at the beach at the Manjushri Centre in Ulverston about how “you must not knock my Daddy’s stack over, its precious and so are the stones”. A Buddist nun nearby, Gen La Dekyong responded and smiled saying “oh don’t worry, we’ll sit and look at it” Martha responded with (and not in a rude way) “Oh I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to the wind”

This same nun, at a later private meeting following Mairs passing, had picked out the card of the green tara 12189000_10153372828908992_4940458818208532269_n as a gift for Martha and explained its connection to weather and natural force. She remembered what Martha had said to her on the beach that day. I don’t believe in coincidence!

Going back to Arran, when we first visited Holy Isle, Martha wanted to leave an offering for Green Tara, a green jellybean. This was quite a selfless act for a 26 month old but so a connection with Green Tara was there.

Returning to the Isle in 2013, she chose to leave a headband, that Lou had just bought her, on the offering stone for Green Tara…and I left a bracelet I had got there the previous year. We also scattered Mair’s fairy dust off the coast. A kind of pilgimage some might say.

On our visit this year, we were not supposed to go over. Visiting to the island purely for walking tends to stop at the end of the season i.e. October but this year it had ended early due to poor weather.

But again, this is where the kindness of local people showed its true heart. Talking to the ferryman, I explained the reason for our visit and he took no time at all to come up with a solution. He needed to take supplies to the isle so would take us over too.

12065937_10153372826783992_522860426747071670_nStepping off the boat, I could just feel it all over again. That surge of tranquility to be there once again. I don’t think I have ever felt so much overwhelming love for my children as I did at that moment, seeing them tottering off, Martha explaining to Merlin that they were off to see the Buddhas. The bond between them is incredible, again spiritual.

We took a lovely walk down the coast, first coming to St Molaises Cave, then to the healing spring which they both took great pleasure in drinking from and feeling the various precious stones in its water bed through their hands, before we came to the first of the 8 buddha paintings.

Photos cannot do justice to the beauty of these rock paintings, their detail, their vibrant colour, sitting against the autumnal heather. They feel like friends. White Tara, Green Tara, Marpa, Milerapa, Gampopo, Karmapa and others. We found all of them along with the rock on which has the Tibetan symbols for Om Mane Pame Hun, the mantra Mair used when meditating and more, and which I subsequently had tattoed across my shoulders after coming in 2013.

We sat and had lunch beneath this rock, we scattered some more of Mair’s fairy dust and then returned to Green Tara.

Martha not only found the headband that she had left 2 years previous, but my bracelet was also there 🙂 The joy on her face when she found it made me well up

We all held each other tightly, closed our eyes and had a quiet moment together. In reality it was about 2 minutes but it felt like hours. Stillness around us and no sound but that of waves softly lapping against the stones beneath us. We opened our eyes again and felt free in this place.

Out came the jellybabies again and Green Tara was given a green one for each of us before we headed off again back to the boathouse.

We played on the beach, making pretend fires, stacking stones and awaited our boat back home

We had been able to do what we had travelled north for. We played, we remembered, we created memories and we bonded like never before.

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What this visit to Arran has reminded me of it that we have these places. We have a wonderful, loving group of friends, family and more around us at home, and we also have these memory locked places to come to, to re-energise, to remember. The memories are here forever and again Martha coined in perfectly when she said as we left Arran, “I think I’ll be coming here when I’m a grown up Daddy” and I have no doubt she will 🙂

We don’t ever forget, we always remember. These places are in our hearts and minds for all time. Going back to our daily lives does not mean we leave anything behind, but I think there is something about a visit like this that reminds us that despite the tragedy we have been through, we are also incredible fortunate. We have a good life, we are surrounded by love.

Martha asked me a question the other night randomly. She asked whether we were rich, poor or somewhere in the middle. I just responded with instinct and said “We are rich in everything that you cannot but with money” She looked at me puzzled, but then smiled and placed her head on her pillow 🙂

As we left on the ferry on Saturday to journey home, the cloak of mist once again descended around the island, its mysterious looking peaks, its rolling landscape locked away once again 🙂 A secret Isle 🙂

Om Mane Pame Hun – Avalokiteshvara please bestow upon me the attainment of complete purity, Enlightenment