2004 was a very sad year for us. It was the year we finally said goodbye to Andy. After a long and courageous battle against his brain tumour the struggle became too much for him and he died in May. No words can describe our loss but we try to remember him as he was before the illness took away his energy and vitality. We also admire the way in which he dealt with his illness. Throughout his slow decline he remained brave and determined to survive and make the most of life. He was generous and patient to the end.
It was a difficult and emotional time for us. The knowledge that his death was inevitable sooner rather than later did not make it easier to bear when it happened. The grief and distress that we had suppressed due to the necessity of providing care and support came flooding out and the inevitable regrets for missed opportunities and the guilt over past arguments and misunderstandings replayed in my mind time and time again. In a way we were fortunate in all the help and assistance we received and I cannot thank enough the care workers from Staffordshire Moorlands Social Services Department, the local district nurses and the staff from Douglas Macmillan Hospice and Hospice at Home. Without their emotional and practical support we would not have been able to cope and Andy would almost certainly have had to go into hospital.
Thank you also to all those friends and relatives who send kind words of condolence, attended the funeral and made donations to Douglas Macmillan Hospice and Hospice at Home.
James Albert Andrew Baker 11th July 1957 to 21st May 2004
Below are two poems that probably reflect the swings of emotion that I felt at the time and still occasionally now. I'm sure that Andy would want us to be happy and enjoy our memories of him rather than feel sorry for either ourselves or for him.
Funeral Blues by Wystan Hugh Auden
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Remember by Christina Rossetti
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Please support the Douglas Macmillan Hospice or Hospice at Home
During Andy's final months his care was planned and co-ordinated by specialist nurses from the Douglas Macmillan Hospice. They also organised respite care for us and ensured that we received the necessary assistance from the other organisations. In his final week the staff from Hospice at Home provided us with virtually 24 hour a day services, sitting with Andy at night while we slept and sitting with us during the day helping us to care for Andy and understand what was happening to him.
After Andy's death we decided we wanted to make him a memorial. We couldn't do it straight away as the immediate impact of bereavement made it too difficult and we couldn't decide what to do - nothing would have been good enough for him. However, with the passage of a little time our ability to think more clearly and consider what he may have liked returned and we finally decided that he would like a gravel garden. He had always liked the idea of gravel gardens and we had once tried to make one - but it had become overgrown and untended as he had become ill. We also thought he would like a natural memorial made from something obtained from our own land. He was very keen on environmental protection and natural energy - a windmill and generator would have been nice - or solar panels fitted to the roof- but we didn't think we could do that straight away - so we settled for a gravel garden and a large boulder with a brass plaque. Read the story of the garden and see it under construction.
internet for inspiration and we hope it reflects
Even a simple memorial such as the one we planned turned out to be a bigger project than we had initially imagined and it took us quite a lot of effort and dedication. More than once we thought we had bitten off more than we could chew - moving large boulders is no easy matter. However, we persevered and eventually were rewarded with a garden that bloomed through from shortly before what would have been our 19th wedding anniversary (2nd April) to the first anniversary of Andy's death (21st May).On 2nd April Andy's parents Peggy and Jim came to see the new memorial garden and to join us in the ceremony of burying Andy's ashes - something we now felt we could do. It was a lovely spring day and we were able to have lunch in the fresh air and lay Andy to rest under a horse chestnut tree that he himself had planted. The warmth and sunlight helped make it a celebration of Andy and it added to the bitter sweet feeling of the joy of having loved someone so much mixed with the sadness of losing them.
Louise did the honours with a perfect mixture of seriousness, respect, dignity and cheerfulness. She managed to carry off something that none of the rest of us could have done. She looks so like Andy that she is almost a little replica, albeit in female form, and he would surely have been proud of her liveliness and warm heartedness. Louise undertook what would have been a very difficult task for us with a sense of pride and honour and her absolute belief that Andy would not want us to be sad and that he is better off at rest after suffering such a debilitating illness helps us to maintain a positive outlook. We know it isn't an original idea, but it gives us some comfort to imagine Andy living again in the glorious form of a horse chestnut tree that will surely stand and thrive for many years to come, overlooking the house and home he helped to make.
The only disappointment of the day was that Katie would not join us and we felt that she missed out on something important and unique.