Gareth David Kingdon

Gareth and camera

The final blog post. I wish to leave you remembering the man who lived well. The video you’ll watch was compiled by another talented photographer, who didn’t know Ga well, but appreciated his talent behind a lens. The photos you will see are Gareth’s. The words at the end of the video were those his nephew, Iwan decided depicted Ga’s character best, based on the numerous comments people left on mine or Gareth’s facebook page in March 2013. Those words, which unbeknown to him, Ga had emblazoned on a satchel he’d used regularly over the previous year. Words that Ga himself was passionate about. I’ll leave you with one last blog post.

A post which sums up Mr Gareth David Kingdon.

The whole reason we have all spent the last two years writing and reading this blog.

Well done Ga. You ran your race well, all the way to the finishing line.

The photo above was taken in Bordeaux, France, on our honeymoon. Many thanks to David Rees for creating this video and Tim Hughes, for giving permission for his song ‘God of Justice’ to accompany it.

Final thoughts; What would Ga think of who I am now?

GNS 2015Here I am, sitting down for the last time to write this blog. Over the last 23 months I’ve posted just over 100 blog posts, written 102, 983 words and gained 33 official followers (plus the many more who informally read via search engines, or my Facebook page). To those of you who have been with me since the beginning; to those who have taken time out of your busy life to listen to me thank you. I mean it. THANK YOU. I guarantee that I consider you some of my most committed and precious supporters over the last two years. If you’d like to, I’d love you to get in contact and let me know what touched you most in this blog; the stories you’ll remember and what’s made you smile as you’ve read, despite the sad context to it. It’s been such a blessing being able to engage with you throughout my storytelling… and I’d love to engage with you further now my writing has come to an end. Especially if you haven’t already told me you’ve been reading these blogs… for I’d love to know if you have been.

So, here it is. My last blog post. And the natural question that comes to mind is what would Ga think of the woman I’ve become? Would he recognise this current version of Clare Kingdon if we were somehow able to catch up over a coffee today? Some people have said that they are never the same person after being widowed. I suppose that is true, as how can you be after surviving something so catastrophic? But on the other hand I still feel like me (most of the time). What resonates more is that I’d say I’m not the same person as I was pre-2006, when Ga and cystic fibrosis came into my life.

So if Ga were to walk through the front door this evening, in many ways I think he’d find me just the way he left me. I’m still hopeful, optimistic in all circumstances just like we were together.  I’d still somehow find a way to laugh and joke with him about the last two years apart, whilst not brushing aside the agony it’s been. I couldn’t hide my deep love and affection for him. How long and tender would be the embrace I’d give him. He wouldn’t be surprised to hear I haven’t become green-fingered in his absence, and the only reason the garden isn’t looking like a jungle is because of kind, insightful friends and family who continue to mow lawns, dig-up weeds and plant pretty flowers in it. In fact only tonight my next-door neighbour has knocked to remind me to pick the strawberries, gooseberries and redcurrents planted by Ga, that are in danger of going rotten otherwise! He’d be pleased I’m still finding an outlet for my creative side through knitting and I hope impressed I’d matched his skill by finishing sewing together his complicated patchwork quilt. He’d be happy I’m still living in ‘our’ house and the evidence of his ambitious DIY interior design projects are still evident and being enjoyed. He’d be glad I was still walking my life with Jesus, and settled in the church we’d planned on joining together. Happy that I’m still considered, and consider myself to be part of the Kingdon family (and am due to spend a week with his cousin in Sweden in July). In so many ways he’d find I was the same as his widow as I was his wife.

But I think he’d be in for a few surprises too. I’m no longer an Acute Pain Specialist nurse (a job he told me he thought was so, so important in light of his negative experiences with inadequate analgesia). I now work as a specialist nurse with a specific group of patients with a rare condition that often sees them developing severe chest infections that require intravenous antibiotics. I am now that nurse who sorts out IV supplies and carries then down to patient’s cars to spare them several journeys. I hope he’d be pleased and proud that I’ve chosen to be the type of nurse to my patients that the CF nurses were to both of us. I hope he’d see why it’s so important for me to be able to make their chronic ill-health issues just that little bit marginally better by seeing a friendly, knowledgeable face they know and trust each time they have to spend more hours in a hospital setting.

I’d jump on the scales and show him I’ve lost 5kg (just before he went to Liberia he’d gently encouraged me to lose some of the weight that had been gradually creeping on over the years). I’m sure he wouldn’t have any complaints over my newly defined waist and toned muscles! I reckon if I explained I got them because over the last year I’ve developed a love of physical activity he’d have a good laugh before realizing I was serious. The Clare who regularly chooses to run 5k at her local Park Run, or midweek before work is a new one. The Clare who ran 10k in 59 minutes last year and is excited about training commencing again soon for this year is not the Clare Ga would remember. I’d need to explain to him the buzz I now get from setting myself a physical challenge and meeting it. How I’d much rather enjoy the endorphin rush of physical exercise surrounded by nature than more sedate activities such as baking cakes, watching movies, or academic study. I’d tell him how the Masters in Pain Management I was working towards when he flew to Liberia was the first thing I ever quit midway through. And it was a liberating experience! This evening I’d proudly show him my newly acquired ‘Great North Swim 2015 Finisher’ medal; obtained on Saturday after six months of swimming lessons and disciplined training in rivers and lakes with a new friend. We easily swam the mile across Lake Windermere in less than 44 minutes. He’d wonder where all that energy came from.

I think we were always pretty good at making the best of the moments we had, and opportunities that came our way, but I think I’ve honed that skill even more since Ga’s gone. I know how to live in the moment! He’d be so pleased I finally was taking his advice and prioritizing rest and relaxing activities over my ‘to do’ lists but absolutely gutted he wasn’t able to enjoy this more relaxed and less anxious Clare. For seriously, compared to the life and death issues I’ve dealt with over the last nine years, not much gets me anxious these days. I’m relearning to enjoy living in ‘my’ home. Currently it’s just me living here, Nellie moved out in May and I’m still in the process of finding a new housemate. But this time I’ve not nose-dived like I did in January. I hope Ga would be gracious regarding the safe, neutral guest room I’ve transformed his messy study into, and pleased that in the last couple of months I’ve begun to fall in love with living in ‘my home that was once ours’ again. He’d be pleased I now look forward to leaving work, and treat myself to a luxurious half hour reading a novel in the garden before eating tea in front of The One Show again and happily pottering on my own in this comforting and familiar space once more. He wouldn’t want me on antidepressants but I hope he’d see they’ve had their place in my road to recovery in losing him (I plan to stop these in July) Since getting past the second anniversary of his death, he’d find that whilst I still think of him so much of the time, mostly I feel warm and happy when I do; the heartache and tears erupt less frequently now. My life has been becoming my own again, rather than being the tattered remains of something that once was beautiful. For example, the other day I looked at the overgrown grass and thought ‘The grass needs cutting. I should plan a time to do that.’ How many of you can hear the silent ending that’s been playing less and less in my head? ‘Because Gareth’s not here to do it.’ Silent, subtle, but oh so significant changes. Ga need not worry. I’d reassure him that thinking those thoughts less and having more elongated, happy days amongst the agonising moments doesn’t mean my love for him is decreasing as time goes by. It means my glass jar is getting bigger.

I don’t know if Ga gets to keep tabs on his loved ones whilst he’s in heaven with his saviour and best friend Jesus. I kind of hope he’s not, for it can’t have been that fun watching me in so much distress over the past two years, and I’m sure heaven is such an unimaginably awesome, fulfilling and satisfying place to be that even I couldn’t distract him from the joy he’s experiencing there right now. But if he is somehow able to hear my words, this is what I’d want him to know. ‘Ga, your dying wish came true. Our God has looked after me, just like you asked him to. You don’t need to worry about me for I shall be okay. I will aways carry with me a wound that will never fully heal this side of heaven. A wound that throughout my life will send shoots of pain to my heart and soul, reminding me of what I have lost, both in 2013 and the life we could have shared afterwards. But Ga, I’ve worked hard at grief. That wound may never heal but I’ve done all I can to make sure it isn’t infected. It isn’t poisonous; it will not kill me. And like you my lovely, kind, inspirational Ga, I choose to allow my adversity be a stepping stone into a future of great, crazy, inspirational and adventourous things. Like you, I’ll do what I can, where I can, without making a big fuss about it. Till we meet again.’

So there you have it. My final thoughts. But I’m not quite finished yet. Ga was passionate about 360-degree photography because he said you couldn’t hide anything in a photo that covers all angles. In a similar vein I have attempted to give a 360-degree account of my life with Ga, and life without him. I’ve shared flattering and not-so flattering aspects of both experiences, for that is reality. I hope Ga would be pleased about that. But I can’t end this blog here. For the last 103,000 words have been mine alone, telling ‘our’ story from my point of view. I’m sure Ga would have encouraged me to write if it helped me in the intense grieving process, and could help others, but I know if he had been this blog’s author there would be way more about Africa, townships, slums and photography with very little about Cystic Fibrosis! Yet I’ve needed to share my story, so CF remains. But I really, really don’t want you to go away predominantly remembering Ga as a wonderful man who lived with and ultimately died from cystic fibrosis. I know that is NOT how he would want to be remembered. And so in the next few days I will be posting THE final blog post. But this one will not be my creation, but Ga’s. I communicate in words; Ga with imagery. I wish to leave you remembering the man who lived well. The video you’ll watch was compiled by another talented photographer, who didn’t know Ga well, but appreciated his talent behind a lens. The words at the end of the video were those his nephew decided depicted Ga’s character best, based on the numerous comments people left on mine or Gareth’s facebook page on 21st March 2013. Those words, which unbeknown to him, Ga had emblazoned on a satchel he’d used regularly over the previous year. Words that Ga himself was passionate about. I’ll leave you with one last blog post.

A post which sums up Mr Gareth David Kingdon.

The whole reason we have all spent the last two years writing and reading this blog.

Well done Ga. You ran your race well, all the way to the finishing line.

Chronic widowhood and the evolution of friendships

As I wind this blog up there are two posts I want to write, evaluating how my life looks compared to 27 months ago. Tonight I want to focus on the changing of friendships; ones that have stood the test of time and tragedy, ones that have grown like green, spring shoots out of desolate ground, and those that have withered a natural, timely death. I have been blessed with so many friends that have in their own, individual and unique ways been soothing balm and nourishing connections that have helped me create my current life. A life that despite it’s pain, sadness, loss and grief is matched with joy, happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction. A life where a wife has learnt how to live without her husband by her side, but not without friends.

There are the friends where nothing between us has ultimately changed. From day one, talk of dead husbands, the nuances of day-to-day young widowhood and the crappiness of the grief experience have been peppered into our regular conversations just as naturally as I used to talk about the joys and irritations of marriage. Gareth may not be part of our meals together, or new memories being made but he remains part of us. His absence is felt by all and acknowledged, whilst past memories are easily dropped into current conversions. These are the friends who have said ‘I’m here anytime’ and proved it. Friends where I’ve been able to turn up with only five minutes notice and sob in their arms, friends who respond to texts telling them about the mundane parts of my day, because Gareth isn’t there to tell. Friends that pamper me with small, thoughtful gifts and cards for no other reason than to let me know they still get that it’s heartbreakingly hard at times, and that they love me. These friends I couldn’t do without. They are a precious link to my married past and an unbreakable rope that I’ve held onto as I stepped into this new world. Ruth, John-Mark, Deb, Pete, Rachel P, Rachel B, Mary R, Claire C, Lisa S, Edwina and Neil, Gay & Nigel – I love you guys xx

There are the friends that when I was busily married and working, and due to our own life choices and business, we didn’t see that much of each other. But in the last 27 months, some long standing but peripheral friendships have become central and invaluably precious to me. Friendships that make me so glad that we stayed in irregular contact for years. Friends I’ve spent more time with, and talked for longer with and more intimately in the past  two years than in the last decade. Friends that I now hang out with often on a weekly basis, or arrange regular weekend visits just to hang out in each other’s company. Cat, Hannah and Rob – I’m so glad we’re in each other’s lives.

There are the friends I’ve made who are walking this same unwanted journey of widowhood. A unique group of wonderful people who have been thrust together by tragedy and in our most terrible hours find solace and comfort, laughter and hope through sharing our experience. The friendships where everyone can contribute to discussions such as ‘When is the right time to take your wedding ring off?’ and ‘Do you ever feel happy again?’ Friendships where we allow ourselves to laugh in the black humour of widowhood. Competitions such as ‘What the most insensitive thing someone has said to you after your partner died?’, or sharing hopes and dreams of finding love again. Friends from ‘Widowed and Young’ – who just get me, no explanations needed. In a world where living life as a young widow is a rare thing, the isolation would be unbearable without my fellow widowed comrades. And these friendships where our common ground is widowhood, as time passes, friendships deepen in their own right and become greater than that shared experience alone. Amy, Rose, Abi, Lisa, Matt, Sian, Emma, Chris, Darren, Tania – I so wish none of us had to meet each other, but in our present circumstances I’m so, so glad we did, and still do. xx

Then there are those friends that never knew me as Gareth’s wife; only as his widow. Friends I’ve made and kept in the last 27 months that learnt about Ga secondhand through me. Friendships that have already evolved and had different seasons over the past 27 months. A friendship developed so quickly and closely that I have the honour of celebrating her wedding as her bridesmaid next month. Another energetic and motivational friendship where six months discipline and time spent splashing in swimming pools and rivers has culminated in us swimming one mile in Lake Windermere this weekend. Golnaz and Sarah – thanks for all the chats, fun times, laughs both then, now and in the times to come!

There are Ga’s friends. Obviously they were my friends too when Ga was around but our point of connection will always be him. These friends who have categorically informed me I will always be their friends and we will miss Ga and remember him together for the rest of our lives. Friends who share with me little moments when they are missing him, and we share some poignant bittersweet memories. Friends that have welcomed me into their world in my own right now, and they too are excited and hopeful I will find love again. And I know if I do, will welcome that person into our friendship group, showing me the physical approval and pleasure I know Ga would do if he were here too. Jenny & Dave, Mechron & Lucy (and my godson Daniel Gareth), Gareth & Rachel – I love you guys xxx

Finally, other friends- Online Facebook friends that I don’t really see but you engage with me through commenting on my posts (especially my blog posts) and facebook messages. My CF friends that  still count me as part of the CF community.  Old and new work colleagues that allow and embrace who I am now because of who I was then, and who I will become professionally and personally in the future. I value you all.

On the flip side, there are some ‘friends’ no longer part of my life. A year after Ga died I had a Facebook cull of anyone who hadn’t got in contact with me in the previous 12 months (no matter how small that contact may have been). I could see no excuse for that from a so called friend.

I have also been disappointed by the those that suggested we meet up for coffee/a walk/______ (fill in the blank as you wish) and then never followed that vague invite up. (NB whilst acknowledging my gratitude and appreciation for those that did) I mention this here now, as talking to other widows, it seems this is a common experience. In the first few months I met up with so many people for coffee that I no longer was tempted by cake! In fact I had to decline many kind offers as I was getting too caked and talked out… and had other important grief work to process. It is actually months later, even after the first anniversary has past that I found intense loneliness began to set in and I wanted those invites from people. In 27 months I have had roughly 810 evenings to fill and 116 weekends to pass time where I otherwise would have spent it with Ga. I think I’m a pretty pro-active person, and am pretty competent at arranging and organizing nice things to do with people. But after the first year I was getting quite tired and weary at having to routinely be the person who initiated organising meet ups and events with people and activities to fill all my now spare time. It sometimes is burdensome for a widow to have to be proactive in her grief survival strategies all the time. There were times when I’d mention this to someone, or they’d catch me having a low, teary moment and would suggest meeting up for coffee soon (usually after telling me how amazing they thought I was). And I’d feel a lovely sense of connection to another human being and wait expectantly for that to be followed up with a specific date, time and venue. When they didn’t come I was left feeling confused, disconnected, more isolated and lonely and if I’m honest paranoid that people were really were losing patience with my open grief. But I was alright. I had all the friends I’ve mentioned above to turn to. But if you have grieving friends or acquaintances please bear this in mind. It  is not only in the initial few months of bereavement they need support and company. Even more so when widows are not only grieving their spouse but figuring out how to now single-handedly bring up their children. They have less opportunity than I to be proactive and get out of the house and develop new interests for they are tucking children into bed and spending another night alone in front of the telly. If you know of someone who is grieving please remember this in the months and years that follow the actual moment of death. My advice would be not to be afraid of asking that individual what they need from you… widow’s are usually pretty good at embracing new friendships when offered, and even if the initial response may be ‘not now but thanks‘ keep offering. And when you get an affirmative, please follow that through with a definite, specific plan.

A widow’s initiation; The first three months.

As I walked down that hospital corridor I also thought ‘I’m in for a crap couple of years.’ In the recesses of my mind I remembered a nugget of information learnt in my nursing training about grief – that on average that initial deep grieving for a broken relationship lasts 24 months. Not that I thought grieving your spouse was that simplified, or that I’d ever fully ‘get over’ losing him but I had no doubt that my life could be good again… one day. And dare I say it, would have good moments inter-dispersed within the crappiness of the days that were awaiting me. I’d never given much thought to what I’d do after Ga died; the prospect of being his closest support as he phsyically died always being the most frightening and scary aspect of the whole thing. For seven years it had been the scariest part of my future and I didn’t know how I’d cope with it. And now, today it was my past, for it was over. I’d supported Ga as best I could as his physical life slipped away. It was horrific and terrible but it was over. What was coming next could in no way be as bad as that I thought, for it was just my distress to worry about, not his.  And therefore I don’t think I was in much shock. In fact everybody else seemed more shocked than me; maybe as up until three weeks earlier we’d never made a big fuss about Ga’s CF, preferring to deal with it privately together and not let it interfere any more than it needed to with the rest of our lives. It meant in those first few weeks I sometimes found myself in the surreal position of comforting others in their shocked and grieving states.

And so began my initiation into widowhood. In a matter of hours conversations about antibiotics and physio regimes were replaced with discussions on burial sites and funeral plans (was this really happening)?! Family and friends went into emergency mode and I found it ironic that whilst my life had become significantly more empty, my home was bursting to its seams with concerned relatives and friends. I only cried in front of a close friend Ruth, as she drove me to the GP, then her sofa and then later on Ga’s death day back to my house. The thought of him never, ever being here with me again was overwhelmingly heartbreaking. But with everyone else around, I couldn’t cry. And there came a point a few days later where I asked everyone to go home for I knew I couldn’t begin to grieve the way I needed to until I was alone.

Easter fell in late March so it was three weeks until we buried Ga. Reality so different to the plans we’d made to be in South Africa with his two best friends. I watched the anticipated wedding via Skype, so immensely happy for the life Jenny and Dave were starting together but in physical pain that mine and Ga’s was now over, and that he wasn’t experiencing being their usher. Instead of excited flights to Cape Town, romantic walks in vineyards and enlightening nights staying in a township B & B, I was on first name terms with an undertaker, choosing which clothes Ga should wear (sorry Ga, I kept all my favourite ones!), and picking coffins from the Argus-type catalogue I was presented with. The organiser in me shone through, I was cancelling his direct debits and arranging to return his Motability car within the first week. Not as callus as it may first appear – each phone call and verbal acknowledgment they were no longer needed was the beginning of accepting that he wasn’t coming back.

His funeral was a positive affair, with large displays of his Africa and India photos, and family photos on slideshow. Mothers of Africa also had a table, highlighting the work they (and Gareth) were passionate about. I didn’t want people wearing black. I didn’t want people remembering Ga for his early death over his vibrant, fulfilling and inspirational life. In fact when the undertakers said they had to wear their black suits I asked them not to attend, and had close friends handing out order of services instead. This was allowed as we’d actually had a private family burial before the main service, so in effect their work was done. People arrived to Ga’s favourite African singer, Miriam Makabe playing, and the service ended with American jazz music whilst guests mingled and ate a multitude of home made cakes. This was a day for celebrating life as well as mourning the loss of one. We had postcards printed of one of our favourite photos of his – an african mother tenderly holding her baby and asked guests to put it up on their fridges to remember him with. Ga’s nephew , Tei, the Mothers of Africa Liberia team leader and myself all spoke, sharing our personal experience of life with him… and there was laughter, just as he’d wanted.

And then the day was over, my husband’s body in a place of natural beauty, ready for me to visit whenever I felt the need to. I didn’t go religiously. Maybe once a month to begin with but if I’m honest apart from the odd occasion when I feel compelled to be physically close to him once more, I don’t go there often, for one-way conversations are not that satisfying. But I’m glad he’s there, in a place of beauty and natural life going on all around him, without me having a formal plot to have to keep tidy!

This isn’t to everyone’s cup of tea but just because my husband physically died, doesn’t stop me being interested in what’s happened to him. In the first few months I devoured books on death and biblical heaven (having investigated years ago the truth of Jesus’s life, death and coming back to life afterwards, and being satisfied logically, scientifically, and historically in his claims I didn’t feel the need to explore elsewhere). I missed Ga terribly but was excited reading about what he potentially could be experiencing right now with Jesus. I also wanted to know what was happening to him physically, so did look up human decomposition on Google. The scientist in me could cope with the written descriptions, although I had no desire to look at any images! It must sound so wierd but I even found that comforting; that I had better insight into what was happening to him, even now.

The week after the funeral I had a self-imposed week in my pjs watching movies. I’d already been charity shopping and bought numerous DVDs to watch, each one bought another mini acceptance and embracement of my new ‘single girl status’ as I expected I was to have many nights in at home alone in the coming months, and films would be a welcome companion. I was so mentally exhausted I was longing for a chance to just stop. I ate olives and kettle chips watching movies and cried buckets but got bored and restless after 3.5 days so got dressed and turned the TV off. I never was one for sitting still for too long.

I couldn’t get enough of other widow’s experiences of this grief journey I was now on. I needed to connect with people who ‘got’ where I was at without any explanations needed. Within two weeks I was a member of Widowed and Young – the only U.K. charity for people under 50 whose partner’s have died. Being proactive I sought out others in Cardiff my predicament and within weeks had two new ‘widow’ friends, who were 6 months and a year ahead of me respectively. I also read other widow’s autobiographies. Autobiographies where circumstances and individuals may have been different but the core of the grieving experience was the same. It helped knowing I wasn’t unique in this horrible situation…that there were many who’d gone before me and survived it. Someone sent me a book; probably the best book on grief I’ve read. It was by a guy who lost his wife, young daughter and mother in a car crash in one night. That’s a man who knows about grief. He wrote honestly, from the heart… not sugar coating the vileness of his loss but also acknowledging positive things that had come out of that life shattering experience. He spoke of how when it gets dark and you want to experience the light again, the quickest way is not to run towards the ebbing sunlight (West is it)? It is to hurtle full pelt through the pitch blackness of night, until you emerge Eastwards into the bright light of dawn. So I decided that is what I would do. I wouldn’t be frightened of the darkness surrounding me. As with all things in life I made a decision to embrace it, cherish the experience in some way and learn from it. Allow my soul to grow in grief just as much as in joy. All the while keeping my eyes fixed on that dawn sunrise that inevitable would come in some shape or form. I also chose to go public and share my nighttime marathon with family and friends, in the hope they too  could embrace my darkness, cheer me on when I got weary and grow from it also. The plan had always been to write a blog at somepoint. Me and Ga had thought it would be about our adoption journey together. As it turned out, it would be about just us.

I was off work for 4 months in total. I needed it. Not just to begin recovering from him dying, but also as a chance to stop and rest after years of wrestling with massive life changing issues such as cystic fibrosis and infertility, and caring for sick patients in my day-to-day job as well as the children’s work I was involved with in church. It was  a sweet relief to go from having so many things to have responsibility for, to just thinking about myself. Our dog, Ben went to live with my parents and has remained their permanently. I gladly stepped out of all my responsible roles and relished the freedom of days ahead of me to relax and recouperate in whatever way I needed to. I was so incredible thankful to work in the NHS, which gave me this much needed sick leave on full pay.

I spent a week alone in a friend’s holiday apartment on the Gower. There I slept-in and then swam each morning, before writing down every memory and thought I’d had from March 1st. Over that week I wrote 75 pages, whilst looking at Ga’s picture in a photoframe. At each point I had the chance to actually spend time crying and grieving for each horrible thing he/we’d been through. For at the actual time there was no opportunity to do so. In the afternoons I went to the beach (and was blessed with gorgeous sunshine for my whole trip). I read my grief books and spent time reading God’s word in the bible and talked to Him. He talked back, and incredibly amongst the anguish, filled me with overwhelming joy for the gift I’d had that was my darling Ga. It was during this week that plans began takign shape for the best survival strategy I had – writing a blog that chronologically told mine and Ga’s story, whilst simultaneously sharing my new experience of young widowhood. The title came to me one day on the beach; ‘Under the Influence of Six.’ For as I sat there reflecting on the past seven years I knew I was a more fuller person for those influences. For Ga’s love for me, for the curse and blessings of Cystic Fibrosis in our life,  for grace – God’s and our own undeserved favour towards each other, being united in our pain of infertility and sharing in Ga’s daily creativeness. And now, well time would tell how widowhood would influence me.

So. Here I am. At the point where my parallel blog posts join up and 9 years of my life can be told in linear form. The absolute bestest seven years followed by the two most painful and agonizing ones. Boy, what a story I’ve had to tell! What a rollercoaster of a ride I’ve been on! Were the first joyful seven years worth the pain of the last two?

ABSOLUTELY!

ABSOLUTELY!!

ABSOLUTELY!!!

I’d do it all again in an instant with my incredible Ga. xx

NB: Going forward to the past – this widows journey can continue to be read in chronological order from the beginning of my blog posts from June 2013, entitled ‘Fast Forward to Now.’

https://undertheinfluenceofsix.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/fast-forward-to-now/

But it isn’t the end of my current 2015 blog posts just yet. I still have some final words I’d like to say. Two more posts left. And then this blog is complete.

NNB: That great book I read on grief is called ‘A Grace Disguised‘ by Jerry Sittser. Another book I found incredibly helpful to work through was ‘Grieving the loss of a loved one; a devotional of hope.’  by Kathe Wunnenberg.

The end of us (and the beginning of just me again).

It’s funny how things you’ve been frightened of happening end up not being as you imagine they will be. Since a young child, when a policeman woke my parents up in the middle of the night to inform them my elderly neighbour’s wife had died, I’d been frightened of getting a similar nocturnal phone call or door knock with such news about someone I loved. But when it actually happened, at 1am on Thursday 21st March 2013, my overwhelming emotion was relief. I desperately didn’t want Ga to die. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye; for this to be the end. Six and three quarter years just wasn’t enough time with him. But I desperately didn’t want him to physically suffer any more than he already had, nor needed to unnecessarily. So when the nurse advised I come in as he’d deteriorated, in a very real way I was glad his suffering was coming to an end. I kissed the air and said goodbye to him there in my friend’s room, certain he’d have died before me and his sister could get there. But he hadn’t. He was slipping away but he was still alive.

I know I’ve shared so much of our journey together, and actually this post marks the end of that journey ‘Clare and Gareth -the dynamic duo’. The last three weeks of his life were so public, with daily Facebook updates and many people praying for us, and wanting to know how he was. But when the end came it was a relatively private affair, only myself, the two friends I was staying with and Ga’s sister and brother-in-law were aware. The busy hospital where I worked and was recognised by so many ITU and hospital staff as I sat by Ga’s bedside was at it’s quietest and emptiest. I was glad of this privacy at this point. Glad for the intimacy of these bitter-sweetest of moments. And therefore I’ve decided to keep the early hours of that morning private too.

As I walked down the familiar University Hospital of Wales, Heath Hospital main corridor (one I’d walked down thousands of times before, and would do so hundred’s of times afterwards) I acknowledged the day had come when I had to walk out of hospital without him. As I walked out into the starry, black night I walked out alone, no longer Ga’s wife but his widow. The last time I felt married was 30 minutes previously, when I’d tenderly kissed his lips one last, loving time. At this point in my life, and in this blog ‘our’ journey together ends, and from now on it returned to being ‘my’ journey, deeply influenced and shaped by ‘our’ incredible journey of the previous seven years.

I’d like to end our journey together with the Facebook update I posted later that morning.

‘I’m very sad, but relieved to say that the man I had the privilege to call my husband, Gareth David Kingdon died last night. Me and his sister were called to the hospital and were able to be with him as he died, and it was very peaceful. I KNOW he is more alive now with Jesus than I have ever known him, but my heart aches that we’re now separated for some time. There are so many things I wish to share with you about this inspirational, kindhearted, fearless and selfless man, which I will do in time. But for now I’ll sign off with a popular CF quote – ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’ And Gareth had many of these. And I’m so glad I got to share so many with him.’

March 2013: The beginning of the end of my marriage – The Groundhog Days on Intensive Care

Monday March 11th

People seem very concerned about me eating breakfast. I do, and have a great sense of achievement in being able to do this, and function somewhat today. I visited Ga, who looked pretty much like he had last night. I sat holding his hand, talking quietly into his ear. I read a magazine for something to do; knitting  no longer felt appropriate. I went out when the physios reviewed him. Now he has the tubes going straight into his lungs they are able to suction directly into them. It wasn’t nice to watch though, as although sedated, Ga’s natural gag reflex would kick in, and it was distressing to see. I only stayed a couple of hours, friends persuading me to go home and sleep. Later that evening we heard Ga had been transferred from Llandough to Heath hospital, where the bigger ITU department was a safer place to try and wake him up and remove the tubes (extubate him). So from about 10pm my Ga was in being settled into the hospital where I’d worked for the previous 8 years. In the same room where 5 months previously my friend had sat and waited as her husband (and my friend also) had fought for his life too. I slept with my mobile phone on, in case they rang me, and by now was taking Propanolol (anti-anxiety meds) daily, but had stopped the sleeping tablet. i now had my own, prescribed supply of diazapam should I need it, and carried it with me at all times, just in case.

Tuesday March 12th – Wednesday 20th March

Groundhog Day in many ways.

I’d get up in an empty house, have a shower, eat Shreddies and drink coffee whilst spending time focusing on God, looking out into the garden. Each morning, as I sat with my Saviour I didn’t know what that day would bring. My prayers, when I could focus my mind, were 1) For Jesus to meet intimately with Ga in his sedated state and encourage and strengthen him, giving him his peace; 2) That if God saw it best to physically heal my Ga, he would overcome the infection and return to me. That was my will. But every morning I gave my husband’s life and my marriage back into God’s hands; 3) For Jesus to give me all I needed to get through the day and do whatever I needed to support Ga,  and for God’s wisdom and peace at this distressing time. 4) That my actions and words would glorify Him, our Lord and Saviour whatever the outcome.

I’d walk the 20 minutes to the hospital, arriving about 12pm and buy my lunch before hanging my coat up in my work office, updating my Acute Pain Nurse colleagues before heading across the corridor to the ITU entrance. Ga was in Bed 14, in the middle of the main bay. To begin with he was lightly sedated (to stop him pulling the tubes out) and opened his eyes for a short time when I arrived. It was difficult communicating as all we had to go on were eye movements and slurred facial expressions. The longer he remained on the ventilator, the stronger the sedation he was on, and for the last week I never saw him awake. He was too weak to come off the ventilator that first day so remained on it, and it was the same each day after that. He had aggressive 4 hourly chest physio but was now bringing up copious amounts of thick brown gunk as fast as the physios could suction it away. He looked relatively relaxed, but it was a machine regulating his breathing for him. He was sweating profusely and it was good for me to be able to do something for him, even if that was just mopping his brow with a damp cloth. I’d stay at the hospital until 7pm (as the days went on I no longer left when the physios did their suctioning). Tei, the wonderful anaesthetist who’d stayed with Ga in Africa was now back from the Liberia trip and met us in ITU each evening after her busy shift in a different hospital. I was so relieved to have her input and reassuring explanations of why each decision was being made. You’d think that I spent 7 hours by Ga’s bedside each day but it’s actually hard to do that in ITU as you keep having to wait in the waiting room whilst ward rounds are done, nurses reposition him and physios do their work. Often I only actually got a couple of undisturbed hours at his bedside. Every day was so hard leaving him, knowing he had another uncomfortable night of physical struggle ahead of him, whilst I was going home to the relative comfort of his sister’s house. I was subconsciously scared of him deteriorating in the night and me not being there. Although despite 9 days ventilated on ITU, from what I could see he remained relatively stable; his vital signs remaining the same level of worry with no improvement or deterioration of his severe chest infection. None of the tests for weird bugs or infections had come back positive. The staff couldn’t wean him off the ventilator as each time they tried his carbon dioxide levels shot up. But as he was so ‘stable’ that fear of nocturnal deterioration remained a subconscious one only (even though his chances of survival diminished with each day he remained ventilated).

Birthday celebrations in the midst of Intensive Care:

I had made plans to celebrate my 32nd birthday with friends on Saturday March 16th, as me and Ga would have been flying to South Africa around my actual birthday on the 24th. I was encouraged to take an afternoon/evening away from ITU and relax. And in actual fact I needed the break, for Groundhog Day on ITU was taking it’s toll. So I had picnic food at my house with several close girly friends – Ruth, Mary, Jenny, Lisa, Rachel and Rachel – and we ended up playing Cranium and laughing until our bellies ached. Oh it was such needed therapy to let my hair down and laugh. But don’t be fooled. My right hand side of my brain may have been having fun but my left hand side was steeling itself for what was coming. Not a second went by in that surreal evening when the wrongness of celebrating turning 32 whilst my 30-year old husband was fighting to live didn’t pass me by. But you cope how you need to cope. The next day, a Sunday saw me acting as hostess and ushering in close friends and family to encourage Ga (although I felt bad as I don’t know for sure if he would have wanted them to see him like he was in ITU.) What I remember most was that Wales had beaten England in the Six Nations rugby, and that was the news EVERYONE was excitedly sharing with him (he would have been just as excited about that result)! That and the fact that was the last day I had eye contact with him.

Battling to get Ga off mechanical ventilation:

I began to hear snippets of plans for Ga to have a tracheotomy (a hole cut in the neck and a tube placed in giving direct access into the lungs), as the last-option IV antibiotics hadn’t made any difference. I was surprised at how matter-of-factly this was portrayed to me as the only (and simple) option to get him off the ventilator.  How the ITU staff seemed to consider that possible outcome a success, and didn’t seem to acknowledge that my husband was currently only being kept alive by machines and medical staff. Maybe my nursing experience gave me a more realistic idea of what could lay ahead for us over the coming months, for knowing Ga as I did, knowing his frustrations, anger, and herculean effort needed to complete the daily CF treatment he already had to do, to enable him to live the life he wanted (crazy African adventures and inspiring ‘big’ DIY projects and plans with me), my gut instinct was that should he have a tracheotomy he could be ‘woken up’ but wouldn’t get off it (I mean, he had a raging chest infection the strongest variety of antibiotics weren’t touching, and making a hole, directly accessing his damaged lungs would undoubtedly bring repeated infection after infection), meaning weeks if not months on ITU needing 24-hour care and most likely constant oxygen. With little guarantee he’d ever make it home. I was grateful for Ga’s CF specialist nurse, who rang me each day and reassured me she thought I was being very realistic, when I admitted I felt like a horrible, defeatist wife in not jumping for joy at the option of a tracheotomy. I’m ashamed to say I was relieved Ga was unconscious, for I was too scared of scaring him and what would be unleashed in both of us if we admitted he was dying. I’d always imagined that when it happened, we would have faced that truth together. I never once directed Ga’s medical care, leaving that up to the competent team looking after him, but I did demand they discuss such a big procedure with me before carrying it out. In the end I met with one of Ga’s CF consultant’s in the ITU relatives room on Wednesday 20th March, armed with the most depressingly difficult list of questions. Most of which revolved around what he thought Ga’s chances of recovery were, and at what point would they think about stopping all treatment, as deep down I didn’t think giving Ga a tracheotomy was in his best interests. When Jesus is waiting to welcome you home, there are worse things than dying. I appreciated the doctors honesty and frankness. He did think there was a possibility Ga could recover from the tracheotomy but it would be a very difficult, uphill struggle for us both. If he did get home his functioning would be a lot less than it was previously, he’d need home oxygen, wouldn’t travel abroad again, and the damage done to his lungs from this infection meant the team would be pushing for him to have a lung transplant. Depressing answers to depressing questions. We left with a plan with a deadline – Ga was to have 48 hours of IV anti-fungal medication and if no improvement was made a decision needed to be made about giving him a tracheotomy or turning his life-support off. We also discussed Ga’s Not For Resuscitation (NFR) status, and agreed that it should be activated, as if his heart failed as well as his lungs, CPR would be unnecessarily futile. I left and discussed all this with Ga’s sister who thankfully understood and agreed with where I was coming from. We went and sat with Ga, the ITU rhythm, noise and routine quite familiar now. Tei joined us around Ga’s bedside and we chatted comfortably for some time, watching Ga silent and still in his bed.

I changed my plans and spent the night with two close friends, close to my GP’s so I could extend my sick note the next morning. It was late when I arranged this but they were incredibly welcoming and it was good to end that difficult day chatting to them under their cosy, red blanket. I updated the current situation via facebook and trusted people would be holding us up practically and in prayer. As it turned out, the end of Groundhog Day on ITU was very near.

March 2013; The beginning of the end of my marriage – the most traumatic four days of my life.

Some may ask why I am sharing these moments. Some consider me very brave for doing so. The truth is I need to share them. I need to state ‘This happened to us.’ It is part of my grieving, acceptance and healthily ‘moving onwards’ process. I live every day with memories such as these alongside all the amazing ones. It was the reality of my life then and shapes who I am now.

Thursday March 7th:

The most horrific morning I’ve ever experienced as the most extreme panic attack set in. I couldn’t function, shaking, heaving with nausea, crying, too distraught to speak, eat or drink. I had to be treated like a baby, my friend Ruth taking me as an emergency to my GP who gave me anti-anxiety medication, and then tried to get me to eat and drink something but I couldn’t, the panic and nausea were too great. I cried in a crumpled, broken heap beside her, under the pressure of needing to be able to function so I could go and see Ga, who would be worrying if I didn’t get in soon. But I couldn’t get myself better. During sobs I admitted to Ruth I was scared Ga may die as I’d never seem him so sick before. In the end her, and some lovely friends from church worked together to get me well enough to get to Ga’s bedside, through getting hold of a friend’s supply of diazapam (not advisable I know, but in the end it was only this that helped me calm down enough to have a shower, drink something and be able to leave the house), and driving me to the hospital, working out where would I sleep for the next few nights, as I couldn’t be alone. From this moment on I was too frightened to ring the hospital for an update incase they said he’d deteriorated, so others did that for me.

But when I saw Ga on the respiratory ward, he smiled at me as the chest physios were busy trying to get up the thick, treacle-like brown gunk that was filling his lungs. He was quite breathless so we didn’t talk much. We didn’t really get much time alone as once the physios were finished (they were seeing him every 4 hours at this point) the nurses were setting up his IV fluids, antibiotics and PEG feeds. Ga’s dietician came in with lots of easy to eat snacks for Ga, and myself, and gave me the biggest hug. Ga must have been so exhausted and frightened (but neither of us ever verbalised that fear) but his fighting spirit remained and I could see he was doing all he physically could to get the gunk off his chest, using a variety of differing breathing machines to assist him. I left in the evening, setting up my temporary home at my sister-in-laws house.

Friday March 8th:

I slept well (the medication helped) and woke up in an empty house, as everyone else had gone to work or school. I took my bible and had some time alone with God whilst eating breakfast, looking out into the garden. This became a regular, daily occurrence over the next two weeks. I knew I’d need both food and my God’s sustaining presence and perspective to help me face whatever the day would bring. I got to Ga about 1pm and he looked more relaxed and told me he felt better. We chatted a little but mostly I sat in the chair knitting a purple cardigan for a friend’s little girl or reading a newspaper whilst he dozed, his breathing still laboured. The phyios reassured me that what he was bringing up was nothing unusual for a severe chest infection. It was a very calm, relaxed day after the drama of yesterday. I even contemplated not needing to use my two week sick note, as if he progressed to needing just his usual IV antibiotics I could return to work. I day-dreamed about us walking out of the hospital together, ready for our next adventure, after having the conversation about ‘no more trips abroad!’ Our favourite CF specialist nurse popped in to say goodnight before she left and said she was pleased she didn’t have to worry about Ga over the weekend.

Ga went back to sleep but woke some time later, wheezing. The nurse gave him his nebulisers and I gave him some chest physio (whacking him on the back to dislodge the gunk so he could cough it up). Neither worked and Ga got more distressed. The on-call chest physio came and I watched as for 45 minutes he worked with Ga but all they had to show for it was a small. gloopy blob of thick, brown sputum. I could hear Ga wheezing and see he was beginning to panic so tried to remain calm myself and help him calm down. I felt like a crap nurse worrying I was missing something vital that would make this better. As the physio went to leave Ga pleaded with him not to ‘It’s not getting any better!’ But the phsio went, not wanting to exhaust Ga any further with strenuous physio exercises. I didn’t know what to do; knowing something was desperately wrong as Ga never complains and went out to get the physio and nurse back in. I was only out of the room a few seconds but when I came back Ga was sitting up in the bed, head rolled to one side, unconscious and not breathing. My nursing experience kicked in even though I was thinking ‘My husband’s stopped breathing!’ and I shook him, shouting his name but got no response so pulled the arrest buzzer. And in hardly any time at all the crash team was there, sticking needles into him, getting a trace of his heartbeat (which hadn’t stopped thankfully) and were putting an plastic breathing mask over his face and manually breathing for him with it. I tried to be helpful, asking what I could do to help, but the nurses told me ‘Nothing. You don’t need to do anything.’ Of course. I was the relative now, not the staff member. So I quickly texted ‘Please pray – He’s arrested,’ paced the corridors, sat in the relatives room or stood watching the team work on Ga. A friend stayed on the end of my mobile until others arrived (after going through every red light)! It felt like an eternity but can’t have been more than 30 minutes and I broke down in their arms, sobbing, as plans were in progress to urgently transfer Ga (who had gained conciousness somewhat) to Intensive Care.

Amongst the waiting, the trauma, and distress I had the realisation that Ga may die tonight. That this could be the time I lose my husband, that |God takes him home. I remember having a deep, inner calmness and contentment, that if that was what was happening, I knew deeply and confidently that Gareth would be okay. I knew that we would both be okay. We were both safe in God’s care. That safe feeling held me together as the shock, trauma and unknown outcome ravaged my physical and emotional self. In the midst of this there was an intimate, unspoken conversation going on between me and God.

As they were waiting to get his trolley into ITU I trepidly went over to hold his hand and was immensely surprised to see him conscious. His eyes followed my face, nodding or shaking his head to whatever it was I said. I tried to keep my voice light and reassuring but I’m sure my face gave away my true state. I could hear friends praying. I was glad for that as I couldn’t string a sentence together at this point. Eventually he was in ITU, Ga worrying about how I was doing! The chest physio was back and now Ga was using a Non-Invasive Ventilation (NIV) mask, a rubber and plastic contraption that rhythmically forces air into the lungs to open them up and aid breathing. Ga looked quite uncomfortable with it. As the chest physio worked on Ga (who was hot and sweaty) I lay my head on his bed, by his knees and Ga stroked my hair with his free hand. I had no words to convey my thoughts and emotions, just sheer relief I still had Ga and he was well enough to touch me. His touch was so precious at that moment; I don’t know how long it lasted. In the end two, massive thick plugs of sputum were coughed up and immediately after Ga was able to breathe quite normally (relatively speaking) on oxygen alone. His oxygen saturations were good and soon he was sleeping, so we went home, emotionally exhausted but hopeful that with some rest, our feisty, determined, mentally strong Ga would continue his recovery.

Saturday March 9th;

I visited Gareth on ITU with his sister, where he was back on the NIV mask as despite initial progress his Carbon Dioxide levels has risen overnight. The blonde-haired, bubbly nurse, Carla was lovely, explaining everything to us but encouraging us NOT to talk to Ga, as he needed all his energy to breathe, do physio and get the gunk away from his lungs. Ga was fully conscious but exhausted and the NIV mask made it very hard for him to talk anyway but of course at times he wanted to join in with us and we had to repeatedly make deals with him that we would only stay if he didn’t talk to us! At one point though, Ga shared of his experience the night before, saying that throughout it he was worrying about the effect him struggling to breathe was having on me. What a wonderful, thoughtful man. He said that just before he actually stopped breathing he thought he was about to die. His last thoughts before he stopped were ‘I asked God to look after you, and I committed my spirit to God.’ He remembers me shaking him and shouting his name but wasn’t able to physically move. When he eventually did come around he was quite surprised and thought ‘Oh, i’m alive. I’m still here!’ How thankful I am he was able to share that experience with me.

He desperately needed to sleep (this being his 9th day without decent rest) but sedating him wasn’t ideal as he needed his reflexes to cough up the gunk. Ga’s CF consultant popped in to see him, encouraging him to keep the NIV mask on for as long as he could as the next option would have to be invasive ventilation, which was a last resort. Ga understood this, and I could see him mentally taking a deep breathe to endure the discomfort of the NIV mask, agreeing with the Dr and saying decisively ‘I don’t want to be ventilated!’ We left him in Carla’s capable care and I met my family, who’d driven up that morning. Later that afternoon his sister and I returned, and hoping to add a bit of fun and humour into the proceedings had bought him a plastic door hanger at work saying ‘Creative Genius at work‘ and some mutlicoloured smiley faces. We told Ga that for each horrible thing he went through and for every hour he kept the NIV mask on for, he’d get a smiley face and my deal was that if he filled the chart he could have both the chickens AND pond he’d wanted for our back garden for ages (that I’d always said no to until now). At this he looked at me sheepishly and said ‘I feel guilty now!‘ – as he knew how much I didn’t want them!

That afternoon Ga remained extremely sick but was still alternating between the NIV mask and normal oxygen. Carla told us when she’d started her shift that morning she would have put money on him being ventilated by now. I was again immensely proud of Ga and his steely determination to endure it all, and thought he had contributed significantly to Carla having lost her wager. It was very hard leaving him to go home. Some relatives never leave their partner’s side. Should I have done that? But seeing Ga like that was taking it’s physical and emotional toll on me and I didn’t have it in me to be there 24/7. I also didn’t think that would do Ga any good, me never leaving and getting more and more exhausted myself. So I went home with my dad and brother, updated my daily facebook update, feeling peaceful and positive he wasn’t ventilated as had been expected.

Sunday March 10th.

Mothers Day.

I was looking forward to Christian fellowship in church before heading back to ITU but when I rang the unit I heard how he’d had a rough time and although better now had been panicky and scared like he had been on Friday evening and he took me up on my offer to come in earlier. So I didn’t make church. Again, inside, that knot of fear… where was this heading? My role was mainly one of reassurance. It wasn’t a time for talking; breathing was a huge effort and taking up all his energies and thoughts. So I sat beside him holding his hand as he tried to rest in between. I left him to have dinner with my dad and brother but throughout I had a knowing sense of doom and was inwardly becoming increasingly panicked by what I would find when I returned.

What I found was Ga’s bed now at the opposite end of ITU and he was visibly worse. He was struggling for every breathe, using his accessory muscles and shoulders heaving as he breathed in and out, intermittently having hacking, violent coughs and using the suction to bring up small (oh so small) amounts of thick, brown gunk. It panicked me to the core and was an immense act of will for me to stay by the bedside watching him going through it all, and my insides wanted to run away from this terrible scene. Thankfully Carla was looking after him and I’m ashamed to say I was relieved when asked to wait outside whilst the ITU consultants reviewed him. I sat outside feeling numb, frightened, inadequate and unsure what to do. Ga’s sister arrived and I filled her in through my tears. I felt sick, like I had only 48 hours earlier. More phone calls to get me reunited with more diazepam. I was too scared to go back in to see him. Ruth had to go first whilst I composed myself and found the mental strength to do what I needed to do. The team were trying a different ventilation mask with Ga but he was getting more distressed and agitated, telling us that ‘it’s not working – give me the other one back!‘ and he asked for his trusty PEP mask (something he used every day at home). As the panic and distress rose up in me I was glad of something to do so went in search of it. I couldn’t find it in ITU so went down to the CF Unit to see if they had a spare one. Thankfully the ward was quiet and I found a nurse I knew and as I asked for what Ga wanted I broke down and started crying. She took my hands and led me to the staff room, exclaiming they were freezing (I guess I was in shock) and for the first time in seven years I wept on one of Ga’s nurses’ shoulders. We didn’t find the PEP mask but I felt calmer after my outburst and I made my way back to Ga, who said to me apologetically ‘I think I need the ventilator.’ The desicion had been made with the consultants whilst I was away to ventilate him for 48 hours, to give his body chance to rest.

In my heart of hearts I knew this was our last conversation, but couldn’t verbalize that to him. I was trying to protect him, but he must have known too. I was able to get up close to him, look him in the eye and nod, saying ‘We love you, we’re proud of you and we know you’ve done everything you can, and I agree, you do need the ventilator. You need a rest. And I’ve just seen your CF nurse who told me some people with CF have come off ventilators. So you have a rest and we’ll see you in  a couple of days.’ Then I lifted off his oxygen mask and kissed him on the lips firmly, but quickly (knowing he needed the oxygen back). As I kissed him I was thinking ‘This is it. Our last kiss.‘ I waved him goodbye and then waited outside with his sister where we promptly began to cry and hug each other. I was numb and exhausted. Unable to eat properly all weekend and thankful for the homemade fudge thoughtful friends had supplied me with, to keep my energy levels up.

Not long later and it was all done and Carla invited us to go in and see Ga. He looked so peaceful and calm, compared to the immense struggle he’d been having to breathe minutes previously. To be honest, it was a relief to see him like that. He had white elephant tubing attached to a tube coming out of his mouth, attached to green and white filters running to the ventilation machine. His breathing was 25 beats per minute, rhythmic and calm. It was a relief to know he was resting and not aware of what was going on around him. But I knew that a CFer, with a raging chest infection that had showed no signs of improvement, with no sleep for so long had very, very slim chances of getting off the ventilator and recovering. i hoped that the 24 -48 hours of ventilated rest would be enough for Ga to regain some of his strength so he could keep fighting the infection, but I also felt that the countdown to the end of his earthly life had begun.