13 February 2016

Tidying up...

Although I had heard of hospices, I didn’t know what they actually did until my Joe was sent to one. I really thought it was some kind of hospital but geared towards end of life. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I found out that they don’t attempt any cures but simply make things easier for their patients. They certainly did that for Joe and me, as I was to find out.

The view from Joe's window

Under normal circumstances he would have loved his room. It was private, nicely decorated, with separate shower and toilet in a well fitted room adjoining his bedroom. An enormous television and radio on the wall, There were four easy lounge chairs and a coffee table. A door led to a small private patio overlooking the gardens where patient and visitors could sit out on a fine day. Honestly, it was more like a hotel room.

One day I was approached by two members of the nursing staff. After introducing themselves one of them asked ‘Would you like a massage?’ What? Seeing my hesitation, I was told that I could just have my shoulders massaged if I didn’t want the whole programme. Naturally I asked ‘Why me?’ to which they explained that they had found that the carers needed as much attention as the patients. Actually the invitation came too late as Joe died the following day. I didn’t get the massage but I got plenty of loving attention and help as well as a pack of tissues for the tears.

So now, just over a week after the funeral I am busy sorting out the house. Joe, bless him, had a tidy mind and that’s where his tidiness stayed. It has given me some sort of pleasure to strip his office room of stuff he accumulated over the years. Client files (remember he was an accountant) some of which dated back to the early 2000s. Fortunately I’ve got a good solicitor! 

Years ago I bought Joe a lovely desk on which he could work. He loved it. He loved it so much he kept it covered, not as you might think with a cloth – no he used bits of paper, envelopes, folders, letters, special account paper, envelopes, scraps of paper, pens and pencils, rulers and rubbers, and a magnetic paperclip holder. There were pots and cartons and dishes holding small things, like caps of biros (the pens themselves long since lost or worn out), rubber bands, erasers, charity badges, corks from medicine bottles, the odd gift card or two, some marbles, oh and the bottom part of a set of false teeth. Don’t ask! Yet he never lost anything. He knew where everything was – even the teeth – but many’s the time if I asked him to get a cup out of the cupboard he would ask which cupboard!

I have heard that brilliant brains have untidy minds. I never could work that one out but I guess there’s some logic somewhere.

You should see his room now. I have rehoused everything so that I know where it all is and it looks TIDY. Now that I can see the desk I’ve quite taken quite a fancy to it. It would be ideal to do my colouring on. If I promise not to mess it up with ink from fibre pens perhaps he wouldn’t mind me taking over. After all, if there was a speck of colour somewhere I could always cover it with bits of paper.  Couldn't I?


  1. Valerie, what a beautifully expressed post! Especially love your last paragraph. And this made me giggle...

    "and the bottom part of a set of false teeth. Don’t ask!"


    From your photographs and the way you described the hospice Joe was in, it sounded exactly like my fathers. He was in hospice of Boca Raton, Florida, and it was so lovely. It almost felt like a spa. The staff there was so kind, supportive and tentative. And like you, up until that point I had no idea what hospice did or was all about. They made everything so much easier for my family and I. In fact, after my father passed away, I sent them a thank you note and framed picture of the nursing staff that I had taken of them while I was there.

    Hope you're having a peaceful weekend, my friend. It's very cold here today (17 degrees), but you know me, I love to cold!


  2. It must be tough Valerie. I have been thinking of you every day. The desk sounds lovely.

  3. Having lost my first wife when I was in my 30's I know everything is a new adventure for you. I am so sorry for your loss and I hope that you take the pace you want to take and people give you some space. We did not have the hospice for my father and 8 years later we had it for my mother. It was a great change to have people care for everyone in the room. The do what doctors will never do to explain and comfort. Do take care. Making new spaces and doing things on your own is a part of the healing. I think I repainted many rooms in the house just because.

  4. I have heard nothing but good things about Hospice care; glad you found the same experience. I think it would be nice for you to use the room for coloring. It would give you your own space but yet feel close to him.

  5. Good morning, Ron. I too sent a thank you note to the hospice, also one to the nurses at the hospital. They do so much good and deserve at least to be thanked. Joe's name has gone in the memorial book at the hospice. I believe they open the page on the anniversary of his death. I'll never know the story behind the false teeth! I mean, what happened to the top ones haha.

  6. Denise, I am in the process of clearing out and moving my stuff in so I can use the desk. It will be useful to have more space and as kden says it will make me feel closer to Joe.

  7. kden, I agree entirely. It will be comforting to use the room. I could turn it into a studio, now there's a thought.

  8. What a lovely post Val and I'm so glad to note the upbeat tone of your words.

    Not that you don't miss Joe terribly, I know that but I'm glad you are reminiscing about the fun times, quirks of Joe's personality etc..and doing some tidy up too,

    I LOVE all things organized!!! Makes me feel so much more productive and creative too, go figure. I can't work in a really messy environment, it drives me crazy.

    I thought that was so nice about the helpers who offered a friendly rub-down, at the hospice. I was a caregiver for a couple of years (with no outside help) for my mom and I was EXHAUSTED mentally and physically, most days. It takes it's toil. And too often, people don't even think of what the caregiver is going through...but we know, don't we?

    Hugs to you and hope you have a peaceful, happy week, G

  9. Geraldine, reminiscing is part of the grieving but a much nicer/easier way of remembering loved ones. I am still sorting out drawers and cupboards that were part of Joe's business life and frequently come across things that make me remember the good times. Like you I can't stand being disorganised so there's a certain amount of pleasure in 'tidying up'.

  10. Oh Valerie, I am so very sorry to hear about Joe. As you know I haven't been around in the blogging world for a few months so have only just found out. It sounds like Joe and you were in the best place when the end came and I am so pleased you were looked after. Please accept my most sincere condolences and remember there is no time limit on grieving, you take whatever time you need, it's personal to you. Much love you to m'dear. xx

  11. Pearl, thank you. It is getting easier, mainly because I know Joe is no longer in such awful pain. I can smile at memories but there are other times when emotion takes over. I know it will get easier, I just have to plod on.

  12. I loved this post, especially knowing how much it means to you. I guess this is what they call empathy, when you are capable of putting yourself in someone's shoes and try to channel their feelings and emotions. In a strange way, I think you found your massage in this post; writing it.


    Greetings from London.

  13. What a loving post. I know how hard it is at first but your getting on getting on keeping the best parts and moving ahead. Take care Valerie

  14. Cuban, you are right, it did do me some good writing the post. It also gave me the opportunity to smile as I remembered certain things. Time is a great healer so I guess at some point the happy thoughts will outweigh the sad ones.

  15. TB, I am doing my best to move on, although it is early days yet. I guess I need to direct my mind forwards a little more but I am assured by friends that it gets easier.

  16. Larry, thank you so much for your encouraging words. I have been through a 'bewildered' time but I feel now that the awful forgetfulness and other worrying feelings have lessened. Still there, but not so bad.

  17. A lovely post, Val. Got me a little teary eyed thinking about how wonderful Joe was and even though I never really met him, I did get to know him through you. Take care dear friend.

  18. Made me feel rather weepy, this post. I have no easy words, but you are very much in my thoughts and I wish you strength and support.

  19. Oh, Valerie, I am so very sorry to hear about Joe. Not having blogged very much lately, I've missed so much of what is happening for other people.

    It sounds as if you found a rather wonderful place for Joe, which must have made his passing so much easier for both of you, and I'm glad of that. It's never going to be easy, but as you say, at least he is no longer in pain.

    It sounds as if he was a bit like me. I'm not going to comment on whether I have a brilliant mind or not, but his desk could have been my desk. It drives Andy insane, because he is a tidy person and I'm sure I've been a severe trial to him!

    My sincere condolences on your loss. You must have suffered so much stress, and I'm sure there'll be a period of adjustment while your heart & mind learn to live in a new way, but you will get there - but walk, don't run. x

  20. Thank you, Jay. Your final words (walk, don't run) is something I'm trying to do but I fear not doing well just yet. I keep busy, sometimes overdoing it bu, as you say, I will get there.


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