She sails on …..

Life has been incredibly hectic and a continuing roller coaster this last few weeks. We have enjoyed a longish spell of mostly hot and sunny weather, children have now finished school for the summer break and everywhere in the world at the moment there seems to be nothing but war and sadness.

I have been battling my own health issues but am pleased to say they now seem to have resolved, much to my delight and I am feeling much better. As a family we are still adjusting to the loss of our beloved Amy and we are all creating new routines and grieving each in our own ways. My sister, Amy’s mum, has been truly inspirational at times and has written some beautiful yet painstakingly honest posts on Facebook.

The village we live in has continued to show so much love and compassion and without that it would have been a lonelier road. Amy’s gorgeous boys are dealing with life day to day and are loved and supported by their close family to maintain the routines they knew before. Everyone does a little bit to help in whatever way is needed.

The most tremendous honour that could have been paid to Amy has been the wonderful gesture by our newly formed pilot gig rowing club. Searching for a name for their boat they decided that it would be called “Amy Shaw”. All of us were so touched by this and look forward to a special ceremony later in the year.

For the meantime the boat is being launched regularly as the crew practice hard. Amy’s name is out there for all to see and remember. Her memory lives on and she sails on always in our hearts and minds. Boats were made to be out on the water, to face the might of the ocean and to test our endurance. We have faced the worst thing that could happen and our endurance is still being tested but we know that together we are stronger and, just as the boat crew pull together to steer the boat, so we pull together to keep going and support each other.

With love and thanks to everyone

Alice

 

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Everything in the garden… Part 2

Yesterday was another very special day for us as we held a Remembrance Day for Amy. It was held in the garden I wrote about in my last post, my sister’s garden, the one Amy had grown up in and where the next generation are growing too.

Amy’s dad Phil had created a  beautiful rose bed, at the boys request as they wanted rose bushes of all colours for their mum. Phil’s mum is commemorated there as well and there are luscious blooms with names like Ingrid Bergman, Happy Smiles, Moody blue, Sweet Child of Mine and the one that makes us all laugh – Hanky Panky, a delightfully cheeky apricot and coral number that shines out of it’s dark green foliage.

 

My sister Kate has been planning this day for some time and over recent weeks all of us have been going over to paint pebbles large and small in bright and luminous colours. Every pebble has a special meaning to us and is something we shared with Amy or something that reminds us of her.

In the end there are so many stones and seeing them all together is quite breathtaking. The whole process has been incredibly therapeutic and the garden provided a soothing backdrop to the intense concentration as we all poured out our love into the stones.

So the day dawns misty at first but soon it is hot and sunny with a crystal clear sky, a blue that almost hurts to look at it. Gradually we all gather together knowing that our sad and solemn moment must come as the earth receives our darling girl. There she lies at peace alongside  a beloved grandmother  and near the pets she knew and loved, under the sky, the heat of the sun and the light of the moon and stars.

As the sun climbs the sky we all relax and I close my eyes and listen to life going on around me. Children playing in the paddling pool, Grown ups laughing, birds singing in the hedge. All held here by love. The love we have for Amy and the love we have for each other as her family and friends. Something indefinably precious and powerful that hovers in the air.

The roses fling their blowsy blooms of brilliant scented colour against the fence that keeps us all gathered in. Vibrant life -filled space where the loved ones lie. And the stones come out and are gently placed, each one in exactly the right spot. The rose bed adorned with glowing colours, carefully crafted from the days of our lives we shared with Amy and the memories she leaves with us.

Attention turns to food, friendship and family fun, all the things that make the day even more special. Pasties, Pimms, cream tea and cakes. Tears and laughter mingled with sunshine and fresh air. Folk come and stand to look at the beautiful stones, feeling their sadness and their joy.

A friend’s baby is expected soon, a wedding is being planned and the circle of life continues. Birth, life and death are all mixed up together in the garden, in the beautiful garden with the beautiful stones with our beautiful girl at rest. Everything and everyone in the garden is lovely………

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With all my love

Alice

 

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Everything in the garden ……

There are places in our lives that seem to have a special meaning or purpose and its there that some things happen quite spontaneously or there that we go to do things because that place makes it easier somehow.

My sister’s back garden is one of those places for me. Some of you reading this across the pond call it the yard. Whatever you call that place my sister’s  back garden is a very special place. I only realised how special it was today. My sister and her husband have lived in that house for twenty eight years and the garden has always been an extension of the house.

It is a sheltered spot and gets plenty of sunshine most of the day round. It has changed shape and evolved over the years. My brother in law has re-invented it many times with much love and patience. Beloved family pets lie buried under shrubs. Trees have grown taller along with the children who have grown up here. My sister and I have sat long into the evening talking about our lives, our family, our children, our hopes and dreams, heartaches and sorrows.

A man's gotta do ...

Something about the space invites intimacy, gives a feeling of safety, security, of relaxed conversation. We have shared major news of dramatic life events and the ordinary everyday things that permeate every life. We have lived, laughed, loved and cried here, shared barbecues, parties in the sun and the rain, spring and summer, paddling pools and sandpits, playhouses and bicycles.

Most recently as many readers know we have lost our lovely Amy, my sister’s only daughter who died so suddenly. But today as we sat in the late afternoon sunshine with her two gorgeous boys, playing happily with their grandad and their aunty, I really sensed continuity, those continuing bonds that death can never change.

I vividly remember a difficult time in my life when I hadn’t been  able to share a deep heartbreak with anyone. Amy saw me sitting alone on the swing and just sat  beside me and asked me what was wrong. Suddenly in the safe space we shared I was able to open up to her and begin the lifting of my burden. I will always be grateful for her gentle support then, giving me the courage to bring to the light the troubles I was hiding. That was a gift she had. The evening birdsong and sunshine and her warmth and empathy was a lifesaver.

So I love this garden, its not mine but I feel it is a focal point of all our lives. The children and the dog wander in and out, we sit and drink tea, put the world to rights and just enjoy each other’s company. Everything in the garden isn’t  always lovely but the garden is a place of sanctuary, a place of healing, a place of peace and it is precious.

We continue to support each other in this time and have the incredibly generous support of our village community and the online community that is such a feature of twenty first century living. There is a saying that one is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth. It was in a garden that God’s own heart was broken as He watched His only Son struggle with what lay ahead. It was also in the garden that the glory of Easter shone through the dawn and gave mankind hope for the first time that death was not the end of everything.

Our lives have been changed forever and somehow we will keep on living and loving and yes laughing. When we’re in the garden we hear the echoes of our loved ones with us still so vividly in heart and mind and memory, lost only from sight, only for a season. This garden will continue to hold all our special memories and is set for its greatest transformation yet, meanwhile the dog runs in an out, the children carry on playing, everything in the garden ….

With love

Alice

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Our Darling Amy

Amy and her lovely boysThis is different than my usual blog posts but I wanted to share this tribute to my gorgeous, funny, intelligent and beautiful niece. Sadly gone too soon but forever in our hearts, minds and memories. All the wonderful words people have written just told us what we already knew, that you were able to love and be loved always

A tribute to Amy Shaw – loved and missed by us all

A very warm welcome to you all here this afternoon.  We are here to celebrate Amy’s life, to share our memories and acknowledge our sadness that she is no longer with us, but she lives on in our hearts and minds and in her two beautiful boys Jago and Madok.

Amy was born a little earlier than expected in February 1978 during a snowstorm, an unusual occurrence in Cornwall. She was the much loved first grandchild for John and Hilary Martin. Her arrival had been so eagerly awaited and I was privileged to see her draw her first breath and hear her first cry. From day one she did not disappoint. Amy grew into an inquisitive, cute little girl with a zest for life and a curiosity to match. An early talker she soon developed an extensive vocabulary.  I vividly remember hearing a recording of her talking around the age of two, reciting nursery rhymes and changing the endings, having us all laughing.

By the time Amy was 18 months old she had moved to Leicester with Kate and Phil and spent very happy years with Phil’s mum Mary and her adored great grandparents Kit and Wag. As a teacher Kit, in particular, helped develop further Amy’s love of language and learning and the trips to her imaginary worlds which amused us all.

At a check up with the health visitor for her three year check, Amy was asked if she could hold a pen. Not only did she hold it but she wrote down everything the health visitor had written. She proudly announced that her mummy was going to make her a Plasticine tortoise and her daddy was going to teach her to drive.

As a small child Phil read her all the Mr Men books and eventually she retold the whole story and at the end of every page she finished with the line “ and so it did”

Amy eventually became a “Big Sister” to Chris who was born in 1982. She saved Chris’s university course by rescuing his dissertation, it took two whole days and nights but thanks to Amy he successfully completed his course.  

Other cousins joined the family and Laura, Rebecca and Emma shared the early years once the family moved back to Cornwall in 1984. Amy and Chris attended Portreath School and here Amy found friendships with so many children in the village. Life was always full of family fun as treasured memories from family members convey.

New cousins were born and Ben, Sam and Beth became part of the family gatherings too. Amy enjoyed a variety of activities over the years as she grew up, ballet, horse riding, Brownies and singing in the Carnoryan Yowynk Choir in Redruth. The beach was always a favourite place and remained so throughout Amy’s life. There were long afternoons on the beach with cousins and friends, and tea-treats in St Ives and walks in Illogan Woods

Moving to Redruth School in 1989 Amy’s circle of friends grew wider and here more life- long friendships began with girls and boys in her year including Cath Bray. Amy joined her friend Jo Austin in the village youth club, the Fish Club, and went on weekend camps to Constantine.  Here she first acknowledged her faith beliefs which were important to her at that time. Romances came and went and Amy was always very popular amongst her peers.

As a member of Portreath Surf Life Saving Club Amy was one of the successful women’s team who won the March Past at the Senior Champs in Newquay 2001.Following in her Uncle’s footsteps for a while. ….

Family pets were always an important part of Amy’s life. Taylor, Alfie and Carla were much loved amongst them.  Amy loved riding, competing and winning a competition with her horse High Noon. In recent years Amy’s dog Che has welcomed visitors with his noisy bark.  When she went to fetch Che home as a puppy she was so busy looking at him in the back seat she didn’t notice the Porsche in front and just went into the back of it slightly. There was more damage to her car than the Porsche and the driver was more worried about her car than his own. Phil only found this out last week!

Growing up Amy could always rely on her parents Kate and Phil as her rock of stability. Phil helped her love of gardening grow and she often turned to him for advice, not just about gardening but other things too. Amy supported her mum Kate when she developed breast cancer and became her rock all through the treatment and recovery. Kate was always there for her too. Their bond was incredibly close.

In her early twenties Amy embarked on her biggest adventure when she went travelling with brother Chris and her cousin Rebecca. Australia beckoned, as it has for so many young people keen to explore the world and find their place in it. The trip was very eventful and old friendships were rekindled as new ones were formed, again some lasting to this very day. Amy’s untimely passing has sent ripples throughout the world as the sad news spread to friends in Canada and Australia.  Kate and I have fond memories of e-mails and letters home and how precious those communications were in the days before Facebook and Instagram.

I will never forget the day we all went to Heathrow to meet the girls coming home from their five months away. Striding through the arrivals lounge were these very beautiful, very grown up young women, tanned and tired but glad to be home. Amy’s ability to garner friends and keep them continued into her working life and friends she made at Stralfors have remained so to this day.

Amy embraced motherhood wholeheartedly when she found herself expecting her first child Jago and we welcomed Mark into the family. Amy managed to complete her training as a hairdresser while she was pregnant. She, Mark and Jago settled into the village amongst helpful family and friends. Amy frequently entertained us all with tasty meals in their flat, sharing long evenings with Jo and Rebecca and other friends. There were nights out in fancy dress with her friends and evenings at the Portreath Arms. As a helpful critic on fashion and style Amy could be relied upon to tell you what looked good and certainly what didn’t.

Mark and Amy became parents again when Madok arrived four years after Jago. They enjoyed travelling both before and after the boys were born. Nice and Venice, Morzine and then Camp Bestival in 2012.  Amy has been a devoted mother to Jago and Madok who were the light of her life and she intuitively knew what was best for them, displaying great patience and a deep protective love for her precious boys. Amy threw herself wholeheartedly into supporting both the Portreath Pre School and Portreath School, becoming the chairwoman of the Pre School Committee.

Mark and Amy moved to Forth An Nance in 2011 and Mark worked hard to bring the house up to date whilst Amy created a cosy family home.  As the family hairdresser, many evenings were spent in Amy’s kitchen as she listened intently to your troubles, or gave wise advice, or just made you feel better about yourself. Friends found here, a shoulder to cry on or something funny or witty to cheer them up.

Eventually Amy went back into the workplace at the end of 2013 gaining a position with Coastline Housing in Redruth. She loved the job and the people she worked with and quickly became a very popular colleague.

Amy had so many wonderful sayings or words that she used every day, reflecting her sense of fun and unique sense of humour.  Looking at photographs during the last ten days we all have so many memories that have made us laugh and cry. You too will have your memories, you all knew the many facets of her character differently. My brief tribute cannot do justice to the witty, creative, intelligent, lively and loving person that Amy was.

The one sentiment that has shone throughout all the tributes and reminiscences is that of her love. The book of condolence that so many have signed contains so much love for her and the family; it has been overwhelming to discover the depth to which she was loved.

Amy knew how to love and be loved. She gave that freely to all who needed it. She knew how to be a friend and that is why she has so many. This quote from Mother Theresa sums this up “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action” 

So today I am asking that you take that love, that gift that Amy gave you as a granddaughter, daughter, partner, mother, sister, cousin, niece, aunty and friend and share it with those you love and those you have yet to meet. Make the world a little better, hold and hug the ones you love a little tighter and tell them you love them. Remember this beautiful young woman the way you knew her best, hold her forever in your heart and mind – and as she would say “See you on another time”

Amy we love you

 

 

 

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Finding the way….

Its been a very busy few weeks and I have celebrated an important milestone birthday with family, friends and have been thoroughly spoiled. It was all very enjoyable and I am settling into the new decade gracefully.

There are many people around me who are going through very difficult times at the moment. I am doing all I can to support them and it keeps me busy in prayer. I have had my own struggles and am still working my way through my own stuff.

One of my greatest blessings is music. I have been singing since I was three years old and play the piano. I adore music and I cannot imagine life without it. I have used music to relax with, to rejoice with and to cry to. It lifts my heart and fills me with all kinds of emotions, it soothes my soul and comforts me. I remember spending hours in  my bedroom as a teenager nursing my broken heart to the strains of Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and also Bach organ music (which I happen to love)! As I’ve grown older my tastes have grown ever more eclectic. If I like it I like it

I am very fortunate to sing with a large mixed choir and it is thrilling to hear the sound when we are all singing full throat in some of the powerful songs we perform. Today we learned a modern anthemic piece called “For as long as I have music”. The words are beautiful and it extols the power of music to shape us and to keep us going in the darkest of times.  There is the wonderful phrase “If music be the food of love play on…”. Lovers have their own special tunes that mean the world to them.

My most memorable musical experience was going to the Royal Albert Hall with my beloved friend David, no longer with us. An avid “prommer” he would queue for hours to stand and listen to some of the most sublime music written. We went the more traditional route and had seats near the front of the auditorium. The rich choral work that is Bach’s B Minor mass was a divine feast for our ears. Music had brought us together again and kept us royally entertained over the years of our friendship. I plan to go again this year, albeit on my own, but I will go to honour his memory and hope he would have approved of my choice of concert. 

I hope you enjoy listening to this beautiful song and that you too find the comfort of music and the presence of the Divine Comforter in whatever life might be throwing at you right now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENCCC411FKc

With love

Alice

 

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Then….and now

Its been a busy month so far and here we are almost at the end of March. Life continues with its ups and downs and people close to me have been going through hard times. I could be praying twenty four hours a day for the needs around me and never come to the end.

The weather is trying to catch up with the season as Spring is evident everywhere but it remains cold and showery, too soon for turning the heating down. I’ve been taking some trips down memory lane the last few days, as a box of old letters and various documents came back into my possession.

Pictures of me with very long hair ( much thicker then than my thinning thatch is now) and  others of me standing proudly in my student nurse uniform wake memories long forgotten. Some events I can’t recall despite the evidence that they happened. I am rapidly approaching a large milestone birthday next weekend and celebrate with friends and family a week later. All of us as we get older remember the “good old days”. We didn’t have mobile phones or computers and we wrote letters alot. Now we text, or face-book or e-mail messages like confetti in the ether, then letters were important.

My first visit home at 18 with Mum and my brother and sister

My first visit home at 18 with Mum and my brother and sister

Letters conveyed something of the writer in the handwriting and the language. An inveterate letter writer my Mum wrote to me so regularly and I lived for letters from home as I was incredibly homesick. My wonderful sister wrote chatty letters about life without me there, making me chuckle over the things she said and the way she wrote.

There were letters from boyfriends. I’d forgotten some of them as well! Even though my first serious boyfriend only lived four miles away he wrote every week, those letters were very eagerly awaited and I still have some things he wrote. These are all the more precious because he is no longer with us and our friendship was rekindled only during the last three years of his life.

My best friend, now of fifty three years standing, wrote often from her teacher training college in London. Her neat and distinctive handwriting covered several pages documenting college life, what was happening to whom, with whom and where things were going next.

Life as a student nurse in those days was exciting in amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford. There was a great deal of the routine and mundane and we quickly found ourselves confronted with the sharp end of life and death, but mostly rose to the challenges we faced. I found letters that I had written home, often at night to try and keep awake between bedpans and back rounds. The world seemed huge and there was an excitement about the future, all the optimism of youth came flooding back as I re-read my epistles home to Cornwall.

The touch of nostalgia has been helpful in some ways, I can see how much I’ve changed and yet how much of that “me” is still here, ever optimistic, despite what the intervening years have thrown at me. Some wistfulness in my thinking, which is common to most of us, “if only I’d known then what I know now”, has given me some regrets.

I realise how precious friendships are and how important it is to treat people properly. That’s not to say that we don’t lose some friends, we do for all sorts of reasons and some are just for a season, but I am happy to say some friends I have had for many decades and they will hopefully be with me at my birthday celebration.

In a sense blogging can be a bit like writing an open letter to anyone who reads it. The apostle Paul was one of the most prolific letter writers and left a world changing legacy through what he wrote. His words have been read and studied by millions over the centuries and quoted and misquoted to suit the occasion. But the essence of his messages is timeless and helps us better understand what is really important.

For me over the years the three things that have kept me going are my faith, my family and my friends and I have been blessed with all of them. Paul says it best when he says There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1, Corinthians 13, 13).

These are the three pillars I cling to and all that I can offer anyone, I would be nowhere without them. As I reflect on six decades of life I am truly grateful for all that I have now, for all the trials I have gone through for they have shaped me and taught me what is really precious and of value. I have struggled with disappointment and heartache and yet learned to be thankful for the small things. I have known loneliness and fear but life is still very precious and there is a sacredness in the ordinary everyday things we take so forgranted.

As I am today

As I am today

I have no idea what lies up ahead for me or those I love, I see reflections of some of my life in my children and grandchildren and know that they have the right foundations.  I can only pray that my faith, hope and love continue to sustain us all across the years to come.

With Love

Alice

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Memories …..

I came across the beautiful small poem the other day and it expressed just how I felt about my dear friend no longer with me. I know many people reading this who have lost someone very precious and special. This little verse is for you

Softly the leaves of memory fall                         

Gently I gather and treasure them all

Unseen, unheard you are always near,

So missed, so loved, so very dear

No longer in our lives to share

But in our hearts you’re always there

http://www.smallbirdstudios.com

With love

Alice 

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