Angel Wings and Herb Tea

Life after loss; healing through creativity, writing and art

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June lovely June

June lovely June,
How beautiful the sound,
The song of the cuckoo
In the green woods resounds,

June is lovely.
But things start happening in June. The foxgloves come out for starters. Every time I see them for the first time I give a little start,’ Oh!you again…it’s that time again’. Because foxglove time means its nearly Time.

I start to notice little things I didn’t before.
The label in my neighbour’s shoe when I go to feed her sheep.’.Lilly’ A brand of shoes in the uk.
The weekly article chronicling a blind date in the magazine of the newspaper I read features a girl named Lily.
I read a random section in a book about childhood development and my eye is drawn by a description of the melancholic child..’the drooping Lily’
I suddenly find myself driving past the farmhouse on Dartmoor where Lily’s doves live, the ones she loved and the ones we released at her funeral. There they are preening themselves on the roof.
I get a hug from Lily’s teacher who I haven’t seen to talk to for months, when I pop into the staff room at school to find some milk.
I watch Tansy taking a tiny sip of yoghurt from the edge of her teaspoon, as she is sick and not eating with her usual hearty gusto. And it made me realise I’d forgotten how delicately Lily ate.
Leo and I find ourselves looking through some old photos…and Leo says he can’t wait to die because he will see Lily again.
My lovely friend hands me a card with a beautiful dove flying through an abstract rainbow….

I find myself walking through the school vegetable garden to source lettuces for the summer fair cafe I am helping to run, and see the sun pouring through the exquisite stained glass window which was created by Rowan Day as a memorial for Lily. I have never been able to look at it before.

I know these are not the only things that will happen as the Time fast approaches.
Last days to tick off. The visit to the dentist where the receptionist complimented me on my four beautiful children and Lily broke her pearl necklace on her way there.
The last walk together when Lily covered her fingers in foxglove blossoms, and we ate goats cheese and pesto on rice cakes and rolled down a grassy hill covered in buttercups in the sun.
The last morning when Lily couldn’t lace her shoes and everyone was cross and rushed and Freddie was the one to do it for her….



It’s complicated

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings – their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

.How many siblings have my kids got? Let’s start with my eldest.  He has four from me and four from his dad’s subsequent relationship.. If you count Lily. And why wouldn’t you count her? Well if you’re fourteen and someone asks how many brothers and sisters you have, you might not want to bring up your dead sister right away, or maybe not even the ones that you don’t live with….I don’t know. But I can guess he doesn’t say eight very often. Eight. Hmm. Split families, bereaved families, families with multiple children, how did it all happen?

I’m one of one so this is all new territory to me, brothers and sisters; like an exotic fruit; tantalising, juicy and apparently delicious but just out of reach.Unskilled in fighting, sharing and manilpulating parental favour;

I was dropped into the tumult of sibling jealousy and love that are so exquisitely intermingled they hardly seemed to know which they were or when. 
‘I won’t throw Lily into the nettles down by the river, she’s too beautiful, ‘ for example. From a  three year old contemplating his newborn sister….
The ferocity of feelings between the kids can unsettle me and send me hurtling to the apex of the whirlwind, shouting, ‘No! no!’ like a banshee,  or, ‘Its fine, it’s fine, let’s go do some baking’, in high pitched, strung out, 
Lets- Placate-Everyone-Right-Now tones.
My partner meanwhile, eldest of five, hasn’t even looked up. ‘Just leave them, they’ll sort it out’, he might murmur.
‘But they’re killing each other!’
‘It’ll pass!’
When I was a child, everything was sedate, ordered, quiet…ok pretty dull if the truth be known!!! Predictable and unchanging; and I read alot of books.  Mainly about big, noisy rambunctious families charging around doing exotic, alien things like stealing each others toys and fighting over the last slice of cake. It sounded so exciting, so unreachable, so desirable.
So I decided to have my own big noisy rambunctious family. Four, always four. But complicated things like relationship break-ups happen, and before I knew it I had my four kids but by two dads, although the spacing between broods was close enough to make a cohesive family. 
Each permutation of child pairings had a different dynamics. And these dynamics flowed and changed with time. And just as I find the fighting almost unbearable to watch, so I find the moments of tenderness and true affection almost unbelievable too. ‘But they really love each other!!’
And then Lily died and everyone has an angel for a sister. No one quite knows how to do without her but they have no choice.
But it doesn’t mean their relationship with her has died. All her siblings still love her, even the ones who have never met her on earth. Since little Finch was born three weeks ago, we often say that Lily probably played a part in him deciding to join our family. And although it breaks my heart that  I will never see Finch and Lily together on earth, I know they had a great time together before he was born…..
A white feather always connects the kids to their big sister, floating to the ground in front of them, ‘Lily is preening her wings,’ they say. 
We talk about her, remember things she said, notice traits in the younger ones which remind us of Lily. And all the children have times when they just sigh and wish she was here again.
Truthfully, Tansy and Leo probably have no real memory of her, they were so young, but the presence of their lost sibling is so powerful and graceful that they can never forget her.
A sister is always a sister, wherever they are.
And five kids are five kids, wherever they are, I didn’t plan to have part of my family in heaven, but the relationship between them all will flow and change and grow as they change and grow.
This is their life, and death is part of it, as it is for everyone.
Freddie, Lily, Tansy, Leo and Finch.
Who love each other.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister’s new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it’s definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It’s Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life’s twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband’s have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that’s maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins’ sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children’s relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen‘s children didn’t start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don’t Seek What Isn’t There – On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?


Lilies and Roses

The scent of lilies is particularly intense this year. It might have something to do with the fact that there are three bunches of them dotted around our small cabin.
This time of year.
It’s the month of lilies and roses
The month of my Lily Rose.

The fragrance is strong and sweet and lingering. As if it doesn’t want to let us go, or let us forget. Maybe we don’t want to let go. I bury my nose in the open lily blossom and inhale and inhale. It’s the scent of the first few days without Lily when swathes of lilies descended on our home, when baskets of rose petals were collected by her friends to surround her coffin.
It’s the scent of loss and love and strange sweet mourning. It reminds me of the days when Lily was still recent. When I could still say, ‘Last Tuesday I took Lily to the dentist’ or, ‘Lily and I made beads last weekend’ even though I knew she never would again.
Pots of lilies, bunches of lilies, cards decorated with lilies, we were submerged in their scent, their cool sweet petals which withered and dropped one by one as the days went by.

And this morning was the sickening smell of rotting flesh in Tansy and Leo’s room. A dead mouse festering under the bed. I am generally the corpse remover, with a torch, a trowel and a long stick to manoeuvre the bloated body, fat and pulsating with maggots. The mouse tumbled into a makeshift and careless grave in the wood while I tried not to breathe.
It’s hard for a bereaved mother to have to dwell on these realities of ravaged and rotting flesh. I try not to, I try not to connect the two, but my mind is pulled back to it, the little black demon at the corner of my brain clawing at me with his piercing talons,
‘where’s your daughter now? what happened to her?
It’s easy to forget that everything will be like that, every lily petal, every mouse, every beech tree, every chicken, everyone you’ve met today. You. We are protected, shielded and disconnected from the physical reality of death and  its hard when you come face to face with the physicality of our corporal mortality. It’s just flesh I guess, there’s more to us than that..our bodies are the transitory container for our souls, it’s just hard to remember, when all we think about is material stuff.

After the mouse, I emptied all the flower vases. One was a cottage garden bouquet from my mother, long past its best except for a beautiful full blown pink rose with a delicate scent. Discarding the decaying flowers, I gently lifted the rose out, intending to put it in a little pot next to Lily’s photo on the table. But as I rescued it, its petals tumbled off softly, like falling snow. I was left with a dried stalk in my hand. It was such a stark image that I gasped, but even as the tears sprung to my eyes I spotted what I had missed before, a perfect unopened rose bud still hidden in the old bunch…a promise of new beauty just waiting to begin its fleeting life.

No loss is ever without its gift .