A notice

It barely seems possible but already more than eight months have passed since my beautiful Rosie was taken from us. I’m sitting at home alone today writing this. My children are with their grandparents, up north, and the house seems earily quiet. It’s a most uncomfortable feeling and one that leaves me feeling quite empty.

Since Natalie arrived, just over eight years ago, Sundays have been fun and activity-filled. Before that they were an excuse to stay in bed and read the Sunday newspapers. What I would’ve done just nine months ago to have the opportunity to while away the hours on a Sunday afternoon with Rosie, but without the children! I wish I could be doing that now. Without any of them here it feels plain odd. I don’t like it.

The reason for today’s blog is simply to post a parish notice; one of the Jewish kind. It is the tradition in Judaism that after someone is buried, a period of time elapses before a gravestone is placed on the burial site. Depending on where you’re from this ceremony is called a Stone Setting or an Unveiling or myriad other names. It can take place at pretty much any time after the first 30 days following someone’s death, but before the first anniversary.

As a family we have chosen to hold Rosie’s Stone Setting on Sunday 29th May 2016 at 1.30pm at Bushey Jewish Cemetery. All are welcome.

Elliot

 

Thank you for being a friend

This weekend was one of those that reminds me of the importance of friends; as if I needed reminding. On Saturday Natalie, Joey and I, together with my in-laws, joined a number of Rosie’s great university friends to celebrate her life. For those of you who don’t know, Rosie was an alumna of Oxford University. She was a very clever person, but not in a big headed way. Her brain was the thing that attracted me to her and kept me attracted to her until her very last moment with us. Ro wore her intelligence lightly. She had plenty of opportunities to make me feel stupid, but of course she never did!

Early on in our time together I had the sheer delight of joining Rosie and her family at her Masters graduation; at the same time her brother was picking up his Bachelors degree. Until then my experience of Oxford academia had been fleeting. I had a couple of friends who attended the university and so I’d visited once or twice before. But really I always felt like an outsider; because I was. Going to an ex-poly as I did, studying at a “new” university in a grotty tower block in Birmingham made the specialness of Oxford sparkle even more. And on that first visit with Rosie it still felt like that. But over the years she and I visited her college, Brasenose, with her friends. As time passed by I started to feel comfortable there.

Like her dad I was proud to have a wife (in his case his daughter and son) who went to Oxford. And I enjoyed the trips there. It helped that her friends are such a tremendous bunch of people. All from different backgrounds, all welcoming and warm.

Anyway, one of those friends, Dan, had the fantastic idea of having a chair dedicated to Rosie’s memory in her college library. The Stallybrass Memorial law library is a small but perfectly formed room with every inch of every wall lined with books dating back to the 1700s. Watching Natalie’s face as she entered I thought I could detect a little flame ignite in her. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but she had asked me lots of questions about getting into and studying at Oxford.

Dan and Jeffrey, Rosie’s dad, said a few words (see video below) and her friends and their families enjoyed seeing the chair. I could definitely detect some moist eyes but I think the others, like me, were making a supreme effort not to cry. It really wasn’t easy.

Later on we all trooped back to Laura’s house, another one of Rosie’s great friends. The house was full of friends’ children enjoying themselves. I’ll be honest that I found the whole day overwhelming, but I’m glad we went. At times like these, friends really are so, so important.

And then in the evening I went to one of my best friend’s 40th birthday party. It was a lovely evening with drinks and food galore. Loads of close and not so close friends. Lots of people I hadn’t seen for a long time. Lots of caring questions about me and the children. I thought I’d be ok, but as it turned out I found it became just a little too much. I’ve never been a party person but with Rosie by my side I always had security. Being there alone I felt very exposed. Of course that’s entirely in my own mind. My friends were and are wonderful. I love every single one of them and thank them for their support.

On Sunday my children spent time with their friends. It’s no different for them to have their friends around them. And just like me theirs are very special people. At ages eight and five they can’t possibly know the importance of these relationships but in the years to come they will understand.

To all of my friends, new and old (and I know that this sounds cheesy), in the words of that gloriously cheesy song, thank you for being a friend.

Dedication of Rosie’s chair at Brasenose College

Where it all began

It’s 20th January today, in case you didn’t know. On this date 13 years ago Rosie and I met for the first time. We’d exchanged a few emails in the week or so before we met but the 20th is when it all began. When I recall that meeting it’s like it happened yesterday. The intensity of the memory is searing. I remember what I wore (I couldn’t tell you what I wore yesterday) I remember what Rosie was wearing. I remember the conversation and the bar we drank in; I even remember what we drank. I remember everything in such clear detail. Perhaps I knew, at the time, that that evening was going to be pivotal in my life.

My memories are so important to me. Natalie seems to know that because she asks me every single night to tell her stories about mummy. In an odd way I think it’s a way to seal those memories in place so that I never forget them.

So today, whatever 20th January means to you, have a great day and remember to make some fantastic memories with your loved ones.

Elliot

It’s that time of year

I started writing this blog before Christmas, but seemed to run out of steam. It’s now the new year, exactly seven months since Rosie died and I’ve now found a new impetus. In the weeks running up to Christmas a number of people have kindly shown concern for me and the children at “this time of the year”. It might sound churlish, but this time of the year really doesn’t mean a great deal to me. We’ve never celebrated Christmas in any way. The children don’t get or expect Christmas presents. We don’t have a “Christmas lunch” and on Christmas day there’s nothing we enjoy doing more than being out and about in a London devoid of people. Bliss.

However, it’s just hitting me that although we don’t do the usual Christmas things, it is still a time for family.  And with family time Rosie’s absence is all the more painful. During a normal working day my mind is occupied to such an extent that I don’t really have time to think deeply about Rosie. Of course she’s in and out of my mind all of the time, but during these holidays my mind has been generally unoccupied and so she is filling the void. And that has reminded me of how much I miss her and how lonely I am without her.

Talking to and being with friends and family is lovely. It’s a lifeline. But it doesn’t make up for my best friend not being there by my side. To me loneliness is a word used to describe those bereaved in later life. I never imagined it would apply to me. But it does.

The sense of disbelief that Ro isn’t here is now fading, though I do have pangs of disbelief every single day. That emotion has been joined by a feeling of solitude, and with that a sense of loss and pain. And the pain is real; it’s physical; like a knot in my stomach. I’d hoped that as time passed it would become easier but I’m afraid that it’s getting harder. The day-to-day rhythm of life of course carries on, it must for the sake of the children, but Rosie’s emotional support is no longer there. The old adage is that time is a healer; and for so many things it is. But now we’re in 2016 and it was “last year” that Rosie died. I have no sense of relief from the passing time.

As odd as it sounds I wish I could forget my darling, beautiful Rosie. If I stopped remembering being with her, and being so happy with her then I wouldn’t have this pain. Of course, that’s just ridiculous because the last thing I want to do is to forget Rosie and all of the amazing memories we made together. I’m glad that I have her in my heart and my memories, I just wish she were still here with me and the children.

Elliot

 

 

THE EASIEST WAY TO TALK

The easiest way to talk is to write here on MY blog, yes my blog .

It helps me a squillion times more than you would think because it reminds me of everything that happened from the moment that Joey started walking to now, 8th January.

[ Well not necessarily from the moment that Joey started walking , I mean like from the first ever memory I had and can remember.] This may be promising news but I  try to forget the catastrophe and the horrible 2015 I hate you bad year [ sorry if it was a really good year !!. I can never EVER stop myself from saying things like that it just comes out of my computer [ hee ,  hee , hee] by accident .]

HARRY POTTER books always calms me down a LOT sometimes I actually want to be HERMIONE GRANGER but  not Ron WEASLEY [ sorry Ron you are to loony] [ HEE , HEE , HEE.]

Natalie

Why?

Why why why?

This Chanukah was a bit lonely without mum, she would have remembered all the lines to all the songs. She lit the candles perfectly, she sang the songs really well (not, ha, ha, ha) and she did everything really really well! AND, don’t forget PRESENTS! They were fabulous, absolutely fabulous. I LOVED them I didn’t want Chanukah to end…….. but it did, boo hoo hoo.

My Dad tells me stories every night about my mum,  they are really fun ( and lovley). I understand it all but my 5 year old brother doesn’t, poor him. He misses her so much.I really don’t think that it is fair for anyone to get cancer buuuuuuuuuuuut ……….. it has to happen in the end.

You DO know that it is annoying being the only girl that lives in the house, right? Of course you do ( I hope) well anyway I hope you understand why. I am writing this blog.

Natalie

Giving a little back

I’ve spent a lot of time, more than usual, thinking about Rosie over the past week or so. It’s six months today since Rosie died. At the beginning of last week, together with our families I attended the Chai Cancer Care fundraiser. It was a truly amazing event. 800 people enjoying a lovely meal at the Roundhouse in Camden in support of an important cause. We shared a table with three other engaging, fascinating, genuinely lovely people. I’ll come back to them in a moment.

On 4th February of this year, 2015, Rosie posted this on her Facebook page,“So many of you have offered to help since my diagnosis and have asked what you can do. Here it is – please support CRUK this World Cancer Day. Or for something closer to home please donate to Chai Cancer Care which has been a real lifeline for me.”

By now you’ll be wondering what Chai Cancer Care is, if you don’t already know. Well they’re an incredible support charity, with their HQ near to our home. Rosie benefited from a variety of their services. And others in the family, including me, have also turned to Chai for help. It’s because of this that I decided to be a part of a fundraising video, which you can see below. I was asked by their chief exec, Lisa Steele, if I would take part. I really didn’t have to give too much thought to that request. This was my way of giving something back.

The other person in the video is Tara. It was she, together with her husband and best friend that we shared our table with. I didn’t know Tara but coincidently I had grown up just round the corner from her husband Jeffrey. Tara, like Rosie has secondary breast cancer that has spread to her liver. I’m over the moon to say that she’s battling on and her treatment is having a positive impact on the liver lodgers, as Rosie would call them. I didn’t really know Jeffrey but speaking to him about our shared experiences it felt like I’d known him forever.

Before Rosie died I’d had a conversation with someone very senior at my office. His wife also has cancer and continues her fight. He said that we were members of a very exclusive club that no one wants to be a member of; that of husbands whose wives were living through cancer. Cancer is an oddly leveling disease. It’s unimpressed by wealth or intellect, it picks its victims with little regard for the world around them. And it gives its bystanders, friends and relatives, a strong reason to come together to fight.

And that’s precisely what we’re trying to do as we start to put in place the building blocks for Rosie’s charity. I’m hoping before too long that I’ll be able to talk about the charity here. In the meantime I carry on, together with my children, to make the very best of what we have together. As I say in the video, “Life is for living”.

Elliot

Out of the darkness – Chai Cancer Care 2015 from Creative & Commercial on Vimeo.

Your starter for ten

On a day-to-day basis life without Rosie has become a series of practical tasks that I must get through. I’ve talked about that before. On the whole I manage to get things done, without showing too much emotion. But then once in a while something pops up that makes be feel really sad. I’m then reminded that what I’ve lost isn’t simply an extra pair of hands but the yin to my yang.

Rosie and I didn’t watch a lot of TV. Anyone who has followed Fighting Genghis will know that Rosie became addicted to trashy box sets on Netflix, latterly “Once Upon a Time”. I should add that I didn’t partake in this binge viewing (apart from Breaking Bad which we both hoovered up). But one of the TV programmes which we did watch together,  semi-religiously, was University Challenge. Now as you know Rosie was a smart cookie, and so during any given edition she’d be able to answer a handful of questions. I lagged  behind somewhat. When I did get a question right it was a minor miracle and something to celebrate. In response Rosie always gave me that “I’m so proud of you” look that a mother gives a child. It made me feel warm inside. Last week I watched University Challenge for the first time since she died and lo and behold I got a question right. The sound of silence was deafening. I felt sad all of a sudden.

On the subject of sadness, Joey was talking about missing mummy and being sad. As I usually do in these situations I told him that I miss mummy and feel sad too. It’s quite unbelievable what this little trouble-maker said. “Don’t worry daddy, I’ll take away the sadness”. How do you respond to that? Hopefully one day he’ll read this and understand that statements like that reaffirm my belief that he and Tali will be OK. That they’re going to grow up to be bright, well-adjusted individuals and that with support like this I know that I’ll get through it, with them by my side.

Rosie was my sense checker, my sounding-board. She was there to make sure that my sometimes outrageous ideas didn’t escape into the outside world. She was also the one person in the world that I could talk to without feeling stupid. If I had a problem at work she would be there to give me her perspective. She had no axe to grind, no point to prove. Her advice was free and it was thoughtful.

She also often gave professional advice, that came free. This week at work I was dealing with a minor issue which involved American lawyers. Having been married to a lawyer for many years, and having a step-dad and a brother-in-law who are lawyers I’ve become quite fond of their pedantic, precise ways of writing. And this week’s missive was a classic of the genre. Without Rosie’s perfectly formed view I now have to think “what would Rosie do?”. It’s not easy to get my head around but frankly if CJ Cregg can do it then I can have a damn good try. If you haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about then you obviously haven’t watched The West Wing. Rosie would most certainly approve of that one.

On a separate note I want to thank the lovely people at Rosie’s law firm, Bristows. Not only are they helping to establish Rosie’s charity (name still to be decided) and continue to be a massive support with other aspects of the charity, but they also invited Natalie and Joseph to their annual children’s Christmas party. This is the third year they’ve been. The first year was a month before Rosie started with Bristows. Last year was the second time, when Rosie wasn’t feeling so good and then there was yesterday. The lady who organises and runs the whole event, Marie, greeted us with such love and warmth. I’ll admit that I didn’t find it the easiest of events to attend but I knew the children would enjoy it, and they did. It reminds me of the massive impact Rosie has had on this world. Thank you Bristows.

Finally, I want to express the pride I have in my beautiful, clever daughter. If you’re reading this blog then chances are you read Tali’s. Her blog was direct and to the point. It expressed her feelings and, most importantly, it’s helping her to deal with her grief. It came as no surprise to me but her blog was read by twice as many people as my posts. Long may that last.

Elliot

Natalie’s first blog

My name is Natalie Choueka. I am a daughter of a mother that died of breast cancer five months ago, a sister, a niece and a grandchild.
Everything is changing in my life, new school (junior school) and everyone in my family are especially sad. I love the world but life is just not the
same without two parents to take care of me and my brother.

In my point of view Dad would do anything for my mum, absolutely anything. I would do anything aswell, I would throw away my favourite top if she told me to. I love her to bits and I still do. Forever! I have watched a video of me coming out of the hospital, when I was a tiny baby and when we got home my mum took me to the room that is now my brother’s bedroom.

I have also watched a video of me when I was a little bit older than just a baby.  I didn’t see her but I think that my mum was in the video, well I definitely heard her and I think I saw her hand in the video aswell! I wish I could have said one last goodbye to my mum and say that I love her to the stars and back, the way we always did to one another. She would have said she loved me even more like 1 million thousand time more.Well that at least what I think  she would have said . We all miss her so, so, so much  forever and ever!

Natalie

The highs and the lows

Life really is a very odd thing. In many ways it’s really rather boring and predictable. There’s a regular beat, an almost monotonous rhythm to daily life. Getting up and out of the house, packing the children off to school, going to work and so on and so forth. Every family has it, I imagine almost every individual experiences it. For me it’s been a challenge to find an efficient and practical way to do these mundane things. I think I’m getting there. In an odd sort of way life really is rather hum drum. Like putting one foot in front of the other life is a series of steps to get you from one place to the next. At least that’s the way I view it right now.

As ridiculous as it sounds I now realise that without Rosie I don’t have someone to share that with. The sheer act of sharing the day-to-day things with your loved one never struck me as anything important. It now seems so very important. And when it comes to the big things, well the hole Rosie’s left behind is colossal.

Today is Joseph’s birthday. It’s a close call but I think he enjoys birthdays more than Rosie ever did. That’s saying something. If you know me or have read this blog you’ll appreciate that I’m not a natural when it comes to birthdays, least of all arranging parties. Once again, and I fear that this might be the last time, Rosie came to my rescue.

Now follows a statement of the bleeding obvious.

Rosie was super organised.

She was so organised that she’d already arranged Joey’s birthday. The time, the place, even the entertainment. She’d bought plates and going home presents and knew exactly how the party would play out. So when it came to actually running the party it was a whole lot easier than it otherwise would have been. For anything left over which Rosie couldn’t do, the food and drinks, the birthday cake and the multitude of other things that have to be done, well those were taken care of by the holy trinity: my wonderful sister, mother-in-law and nanny. They were a truly amazing trio who ensured the party went off with a bang. Thank you ladies.

This morning Joey awoke to see several presents lined up ready to be opened (these were on top of the 40-something presents he opened after his party yesterday!). He was ecstatic. He had a great deal of fun opening his presents from the family. And lastly a card which Rosie left for him. In the last week of her life she was determined to write a few of the children’s future birthday cards, she struggled but she managed. Joey was happy to see the card but otherwise nonplussed. I on the other hand was in tears as I was catapulted back five months. In an attempt to console me he put his arms around me and gave me a big hug. As Rosie used to say, “what a nosh pot”.

On a separate, but probably not entirely unconnected note, last night Natalie asked me if she could write a blog. She said she wants to say things on the blog that she can’t say out loud. I asked if she’d like to use Fighting Genghis. “Yes” was her immediate and enthusiastic response. I asked if she’d like to read mummy’s first blog. Her answer surprised me. She told me that she’d read the first entry with Rosie while we were on holiday in Israel. I wonder why Ro did that?  Did she know her end was fast approaching? Or am I reading too much into it? I’ll never know.

Anyway, watch this space and if you see a blog written by Tali please read it and pass it on. I have no doubt it will have the searing honesty and emotion with which Rosie wrote.

Elliot