Life goes on – Phil the test manager

Phil the test manager, Going Postal
© Phil the test manager, Going Postal 2020

This is my story of the passing away of my good lady wife.  i just wanted to write it down.  It has been written pretty much on a day by day basis, it is hard to remember things if you do not.

01st March – My good lady wife, Carol, affectionately known by me as OH (other half) has been saying no need for a doctor for several weeks.  I asked every day, got shouted at.

12th March – I did not care, I called the doctor out, and he did a home visit just over an hour after calling.

That day, ambulance took her to hospital.

On a respirator, she is peaceful.  Later that day they induced a medical coma.  Much more peaceful.  Told to go home and sleep as she is not conscious.

13th March – Back down the hospital.  She had x-rays, then more x-rays, which worried me.

Later that day, the chief surgeon said there was no good news.  I knew this, he had two of his team with him.  I was supported by a couple of daughters, one of my sons, her sister, and her daughter and an Auntie and uncle.

We learned that in addition to pneumonia, she also had severe cancer in the breast. liver and skull.  We never knew that.  Just thought she was ill.

Later that day, kids and I were holding her hand and she passed away.  The nurse was wonderful, I knew OH had gone 30 minutes earlier, but we kept on holding her.  She was only 58.

We did the British thing, left the room and had a cup of tea.  The chief surgeon confirmed she had gone.

OH was shit scared of doctors and hospitals.  She had seen her dad go to hospital, only 53, and died 4 weeks later, her mum 10 years later at the age of 61, also went into the hospital and died a couple of weeks later.

She would never see a doctor.  People, listen and learn.  You got a problem, get it checked out.

She developed Mental Health Issues about 3 years ago.  She could not (though I now suspect would not) say what it was all about.  I now strongly suspect it was a lump on her breast.  She never said anything though, not to me or anyone else.

Over the next 3 years, the MHI took over.  Often just sitting in a chair and rocking.  Last year, even more excessive shopping, only found out about this as Sister in law just told me, visit to BM stores twice a week, at least £300 quid a shop.

Couple of months ago, she was pretty much confined to a chair, became double incontinent.  Me and Charlie, our 15-year-old boy cleaned her up, as did other sons and daughters when they visited.  Did not stop her from QVC or other shopping channels from ordering stuff we never needed.  MHI can be very cruel.

She died on the 13th March, with me and all the family holding her.  She was not conscious, but we like to think she was aware.

Now it is all about sorting about her affairs.  This dear Puffins is the issue, and I want to make it clear that everyone reacts differently in these situations, there is no right or wrong way to do it.  It is all about dealing with it in your own way.

Some of you will have gone through this already, possibly more than once.  I just wanted to write down what it was like for me.

OH and I had decided from pretty much when we first met in 1978 that once we were together, which was a few months later, she would make all the big decisions, I would make the small ones.  Keeps life simple.  In just short of 40 years of marriage, I was never called upon to make a big decision.

You leave the hospital, in shock.  If you have kids, get them to a relative.

Nothing happens fast.  Even though you want to get it all out of the way.

Time really does heal.  First few days I was constantly crying and breaking down.  As I write this part today, she died last Friday, today is Wednesday.  Today I have only broken down 3 times.

My wife was a serial shopper and hoarder.  Moving around the house was usually crab like, always in danger of tripping over.  I earned a lot of money, but she managed to spend it, and more!  But you love them, you know they have issues, so you get on with it.

I have a quite a big house, 10 rooms.  Over the years, each room became full of stuff.  After she died, I knew that I was going to sell this stupid big house, downsize, then have enough by to make sure me and Charlie could survive comfortably.  Not going to make a final decision for a while though.

I am also fortunate in that the life insurance will pay out enough to pay off the mortgage and still leave extra, which will certainly see me and Charlie through to when 2 pensions pay out in 20 months when I am 65.  Ain’t never going to be rich, but at least comfortable, if I do not buy stupid shite.

17th March – Funeral director came around to the house, I asked her to, did not want to be alone in an office with her.  Sister in Law and a couple of kids were here as well.  Needed to make sure what I asked for was agreed with other family,

18th March – Appointment with the bereavement officer in the hospital, collect OH earrings and rings, plus “pebbles” that they do, plus the all-important “Pink Paper” which you give to the funeral director so they can collect the body.  You also get a sealed envelope with the “Deceased cause of death.”  You get a photostat you can read as well.

You now ring the registrar.  You cannot just go there; you must book an appointment to register the death.  My local registrar 2 minutes’ drive away could not fit me in until later the following week.  The issue is that all the rest of the things you need to do, must have a death certificate.  Manage to get an appointment at Tonbridge, only half hour away this Friday 20th March.

As it stands, as I have no passwords to banking account, I was overdrawn in our current account, I have a few grand in the company account, but no access to transfer it.

Top tip:  Make sure you know all the account names and passwords.

Thanks to the GP Puffins, SB transferred via your most kind donations for a most generous amount, for which I shall be forever grateful, you cunts.  It made a huge difference paying taxis for my family to come and help, food, trips down the tip, normal utility bills, months mortgage etc.  Financially I shall be OK, but that made a huge difference from being overdrawn to being able to do things.  Cannot thank you enough.

On Sunday 15th, my family, 3 sons and 2 daughters, plus my sister in law (absolute star), and a couple of other family said they are going to declutter and clean this stupid big house.  It took 5 long days to complete.

The MHI she had meant she did buy some stuff.  200+ Stanley knives, over 100 scissors, 6 sewing machines, 9 steam mops (£60 a pop), enough wool to stock a shop, enough dog bedding and dog related to stock a quite large pet shop.  Enough cleaning stuff to last a lifetime, so much craft stuff to stock another shop.  I am giving all this to charity shops.

I have 8 telly’s, given away 3 tumble dryers, 3 freezers and a washing machine to family and neighbours.  A friend is going to put some stuff in Gumtree or something, money goes to Charlie,

Today is 18th March.  Appointment booked for the registrar for Friday 20th.

Last Sunday 14th March my kids and wonderful sister in law came down, and between then and today 18th March, I have done 23 trips down to the tip, probably another 6 trips where the kids are taking stuff home.

Tomorrow the garden, 3 benches which have lift-up seats for storage, also, no doubt full of stuff.  I do not look, family fill the bin sacks, I load it in the car and chuck it down the tip.

The garden I shall pay some people in cash to take away all the crap, there is a lot.   Then son-in law says, “Leave it to me”, he got his workmate around and between them had it done in a day.  Gave his workmate a telly, he was well pleased.

My family have been utter stars, me and Charlie have a clean house, uncluttered, and we can move from room to room without hindrance.  Char has his bedroom free of stuff now, plus another room next to his where we found his expensive gaming chair for the first time in 2 years, as OH had stuffed that room full of stuff. Charlie loves it, he is happy, and that is what counts.

19th March – Kids are finishing off the garden; Charlie has selected the stuff he wants to keep.  The whole house is now clear, clean and tidy.

Plan now is to sell the house, downsize and buy another, extra money to see me and Char through to the end of my life.  Final decision to be made, not doing it now.  Will make a will so that the new house goes to Charlie, give the kids whatever money I have.  Mental note, OH funeral is just over 5K, must do a funeral plan.

19th March – Just done 2 more rubbish tip runs.  Daughter and I plan to go into town.  I need a new suit.  I have 7, but strangely, when you keep them in the wardrobe, they shrink, none of them fit.  Must buy Charlie a suit and shirt/tie as well.  Shops are shut for the Corona virus thing though.

Funeral director rings there can only be a max of 10 people allowed at the crematorium.  This may well go down to two or none, keep an eye on the news, but she will call me if there is any change,

21st March – E-mailing various people having photographed the death certificate.  With this virus thing I am finding most people that need a copy are OK with a photo of it.  Not the banks though.  I bought 5 copies of the death certificate, they cost £11 each, but double that if you go back later.  Turned out I only needed 2 though, but this was because in these exceptional circumstances, apart from the banks and the probate people, they were OK with a photo, or you take it in, and they copy it.

A new week starts 27th March.  Corona virus is all that is in the news and gloom.  I feel better every day though.  This has been a good week.  Went to Asda supermarket with Char and managed to get him some shoes and trousers, white shirt and black tie, same for me.  Only place I can find open that does clothes.  Nice lady helped measure him up, I have no idea what size to get him.  She probably should not have with the new social distancing rules, but I explained why, and she was wonderful.  People are so kind at times like this.

Got stuff done this week, despite lock-down.  Went to the Nationwide bank where OH had another account.  Took a death certificate with me.  They were most helpful and explained that they would send a cheque in the next 10 days or so for £4,600 that was in there.

Went to our bank, name not changed on the account yet, told I could not have the 32k in a private account she had without probate.  At least though they sorted me out with on-line banking which I had never done.  I had now had access to our joint account, mortgage account and what we call the caravan account (my Army pension goes in here and pays the annual site fees and all the caravan bills such as water and rates).  They did agree that that in accordance with the law they would pay for the funeral out of that money.

Read up on obtaining probate.  Gave up after 10 minutes, I am never going to get that right doing it myself, so will pay £1,500 to have a legal person do it.

4th April – the start of another week, Charlie is fine, sleeping OK, playing his on-line games with his cousins and my son-in-law.  I hear him laughing a lot.  I am feeling fine, hate not having the routine of work and things.  My week starts on a Sunday, followed by a Saturday, then another five Saturdays. Lock down is not helping.  However, I am feeling good, time does heal, it really does. Charlie is also sorting out his little greenhouse and may get the spare one out as well, now that there is loads of room. (OH never bought one of anything!).

12th April – I iron the shirts ready for the funeral, shoes polished.  Take up Charlie’s trousers, waist size is fine, legs 4 inches to long, so using my new skills as a tailor and some double-sided tape, took them up and ironed them.  I shall have to become domesticated.  Having worked mainly away the last 15 years has made me realise I have no concept of proper housework, managing meals etc.

13th April – Funeral director office calls, the funeral director is now self-isolating at home with suspected Covid19.  Not to worry though, they have a replacement.  By the way, we cannot have the two limo’s for the funeral tomorrow (new lock-down rules).  Had a ring round and told people they will have to come by car.  I would have to drive me and Charlie.  Not sure I could do that.  Feeling a bit rough now, you get better each day, then the funeral is close, and you sense you are going backwards.

That night, son-in law calls me, he has borrowed a new Mercedes, he will pick me and Char up.  That was a relief, not up to driving.

14th April, the service (not religious) would be at Vintors crematorium, start at 10:15, but we would all set off from the house at 09:45.  From about half nine, daughters arrived, son-in-law with a magnificent Mercedes, sister-in-law and some of her family.  We mingle in the house, you need a cup of tea, it’s a funeral, sod the lock down rules, we would be together in the crematorium anyway.

It is so very sad when there is 4-week gap from death to funeral.  I do feel for those that will be waiting even longer with the large amount of people falling to the virus.

The new funeral director, nice bloke by the name of Stuart, arrives with the hearse and coffin.  He is every bit what you expect, long beard, smart suit with tails, tall top hat.  We chat outside for a couple of minutes, get us all ready and ask me to give him the nod when everyone is loaded into the cars and can follow.

This is it then, the final goodbye.  It’s a moment you do not want, but then you do, you must start the closure off.  In terms of feelings I went back about 3 weeks, but this must be done, and done in style with respect and dignity.

We set off, Stuart walking at the front of the hearse until he saw our 5 cars were all behind.  A gentle speed then to the crematorium, it’s only a 5-minute drive, done in 10 though.

Beautiful service, the lady doing it is not a priest but a Celebrant.  OH, nor I are not religious, it would have been hypercritical to have done otherwise.  The Celebrant, Deborah had spoken to me a few times, plus my daughters and sister-in-law so said all the right things. I also insisted on having her tell the family that we must learn the lesson, that if you get a lump or something is wrong, get down the doctors.

The service is not rushed, but you must get in there and out in about 30 minutes.  Sister-in-law took the flowers to her home, and they had a drink in OH memory.  Sons and daughter went directly home (not allowed a wake due to lock-down), son-in-law took me and Charlie home.

Charlie, like me cried a lot at the funeral, held each other but we got through.  Even though only 15, he did exceptionally well, so proud of him.

Now home though, I went for a shower upstairs and Charlie had one downstairs, I put the clothes in the washing machine for which a couple of weeks ago I googled the instructions.  We had a long chat about dignity and respect and memories.  I showed him the box were OH personal possessions were kept, he never looked in it, nor do I think he has so far.  Maybe one day though.

In terms of my feelings, as I suspected, almost back to square one.  That evening I did not feel like cooking, not even a curry ding.  He fancied curry though, so I ordered a big spread of various stuff from my local Indian who now does takeaway.  It was nice.

We both had an early night that night, I think we both needed to be alone, cry a bit.

15th April – Day 1 (again).  Not feeling too bad.  I put everything left that OH had like jewellery and stuff into the box.  Did the housework, put the news and gloom on, then turned it off after 15 minutes, turned NOW70’s TV on, always cheers me up.

Charlie got up and asked if we could go down the caravan.  Sadly, not though, not allowed with lock-down.  I rang sister-in-law and she got her sons to call Charlie and they play the Play Station thingy for a few hours.  Heard him laughing. I smiled as well.

The week goes well, still miss a routine. Bed about 11 at night, up about 7 in the morning, all I have so far.  Thursday is my weekly visit to the supermarket, hour or so to get in, an hour getting stuff.

I am now spending a lot of time thinking about the future for me and Char.  Do I sell this big old house, downsize, have enough buffer money to last until all the pensions kick in?  keep the house and do it up?  The house is clean and tidy, but never decorated since we bought it 8 years ago, any “spare” money we paid off more mortgage, decreasing the time from me being 72 when it would have been paid off. So far, I will be 67 by the time it is paid off, I am 63 now.

Life insurance money came in.  I made a big decision, I paid off the mortgage, rang up and the following day they e-mailed me the “redemption” amount, 65K left to pay.  I shall not make another big decision just yet, I just feel sure paying the mortgage off was the right thing to do, I feel quite proud and happy about that now.

I had promised myself that once I retire, I shall buy a 3-year-old Lexus and never buy another car again.  Saw one, costs 15K, I really want it, but until I can make decisions about what to do with the house, sell or get a better caravan, just not going to get the car.  Hardly 3rd world problems I know, but until my head is back into a good place, I am not going to be taking decisions like that.  Just thought, I must start making the big decisions as well now.

Another week goes by, there is some semblance of a routine. I no longer break down or cry.  Charlie is happy.  I have told him after all this lock-down stuff has gone away, I am going to get someone in to teach him.  He has never gone to school, OH taught him at home and he was doing very well. I find out now there was not much of that going off the last few years, due to OH illness.  He can barely read and write, but in all other respects he is a well-balanced, polite and intelligent young man.  He does a lot of research before he takes on any new hobby, such as gardening, tropical fish etc.  He will not let me teach him though, never has let me to do that.  I shall find a housekeeper/tutor, they can live in if need be, lots of room here.  Charlie is looking forward to this, just a question of finding the right person.

Time does heal, hopefully for everyone.  Life does go on, and you must make the best of it, you only get one chance.  It is a very sad time when your OH passes away, but I have found that everyone I have been in contact with are so very kind, and that really does help. As each day goes by, we move on and get better.

I now have some fresh goals, and in terms of priority, must sort out Charlie’s reading and writing first.

Do I need another woman in my life?  The answer to that is yes, I know this, to be blunt, I do like the company, the sharing and of course the sex, some of you may know I have some “specialist” things I like.

If I do get lucky and find a lady to share my life with, or even if I decide not to, I must then decide about the house, sell and downsize or keep and do it up. Must spend more time with the large qty of grand kids (13 at the last count, another on the way) and family, maybe I will get another bigger and better caravan to share with them.

Once lock-down is over, I shall resume playing Duplicate Bridge at the club, plus I have always said me and my bridge partner would also take up lawn green bowling, but his legs are now shot.  Not doing stuff on my own without a partner.

I do not like having to make big decisions.  They will have to wait.  May just be me, but certainly my top tip, wait until you are certain of what you want to do.

It is now time to start Chapter 2 of life.  Onward dear puffins, onward.

© Phil the test manager 2020

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