Closer 

Yesterday I completed my 3rd and final; Three Welsh 3 Peaks in Four Weeks Challenge. I’m currently nursing my tender legs with lots of ibuprofen and muscle freeze gel.
I’m extremely grateful for all the kind support from family and friends that myself and the teams that I walked with on the first two challenges recieved.

Between the three challenges we’ve raised over £3,800 so far, for four awesome charities; the CATS Foundation, Noahs Ark Appeal, Ty Hafan & The Wallace & Gromit Bristol Children’s Hospital Appeal! 

Four charities close to mine and fellow team members hearts.

And I couldn’t have done this without the support of my fellow team mates, along with our friends and family who helped spur me on to complete three tough challenges.

And of course, I couldn’t have achieved this without Archie in my head and in my heart. It was my wee man who inspired me to get into hiking and he’s always with me when I’m on the mountains as motivation to push me on and up. 

For everytime the muscles ache, the lungs hurt and the sweat drips I think of him aswell as the causes I support and he gets me to the to the top.

Yesterday for example was the toughest! The 3 peaks but in reverse to the standard way of undertaking this challenge. 

Starting small on Pen Y Fan at 4am, I stormed up the track, pushing through the wind and fog to hit the top in 39 mins. I did my usual acknowledgment of thanks to Archie; a touch to the trig followed by a look up with a kiss blown to the sky above. 
And as I descended the first peak a little bird flew out just a few feet in front of me. Then he flew, landed, flew and landed again by the side of me. To anyone else this would have been just a bird but in the tranquility of the moment, this was Archie being with me in spirit. The little thing then flew off and so did I with a feeling of warm encouragment to complete the first mountain.

Cadair Idris was a similar affair with the fog. She is a menacingly beautiful mountain: majestic to look at whilst scaling but everwhere you look it just wants to hurt you! And she does just that! Amazingly I had the mountain to myself. And despite the strong winds at the top and hanging on to Sonny James’s teddy who I was doing this challenge for, it was awesome to look up again and give my thanks to my wee man.
Then my final peak of Snowdon was the highest and toughest with the two previous mountains having sapped the energy from my lungs and legs.

This is my favourite summit. For a number of reasons: the serene views and the challenging terrain make the journey a worthwhile accomplishment. But mainly because the higher I hike on a mountain the closer I feel to Archie.

I don’t know if there’s a heaven as such but I know he’s up there looking down, proud of his daddy.

So having smashed this challenge by doing 3 in 4 weeks, it makes sense that my next mountain event is harder and higher so watch this space!

That means continuing to share these experiences with awesome people, raising money for great charities and getting closer and closer to my boy.

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Three

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I must admit, I woke up a blubbering mess. It wasn’t planned. In fact I was going into today with my half full attitude and lots of air punching. “Yeah! I’ve got this!”

But, the impact of the realisation that it’s now another year that’s passed since I last held my wee man has hit me  harder than expected.

Three years since I last whispered in his ear that I love him so much.

So today there’ll be no stiff upper lip or facade. No manly “I’m ok!” With a shrug of the shoulders.

I’m just going to do the normal thing that I should do on a day like this.

Therefore today, my glass isnt half full or half empty. I’ve tipped it out.

So, if you see me today and there’s some snot involved then you’ll know why!

Anyway….

Miss you mate. Love Daddy x

On this day……

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I came close to turning Facebook completely off yesterday! Well, for at least the next 3 to 4 weeks. It’s difficult to leave that place forever (we’ve all tried!).

Whilst in stationary traffic on the way to work yesterday, I glanced down at my phone and had the usual FB notification from their ‘On this Day’ feature. So I clicked to see what memories I had to share and there it was, a post of the youtube video of ‘I don’t want to live on the moon’ from Sesame Street from three years ago.

It was posted as I lay next to Archie, wondering if it be the last song we’d listen to together as at that time (on that day) he was given not long to live. In fact everyday after admission to Ty Hafan a few days prior to my post was a potential final day.

His awesomeness however shone through and he pushed on for a few weeks more. That’s why he was Amazing Archie.

I wasn’t prepared for the impact that this FB Memory had on me – I knew this month was going to be tough but this hit it home that although time is a healer, it’s never a curer.

And I then began to panic that for the next 3 weeks all my daily memories that FB would kindly remind me of would be those of definitively losing Archie over that period of time. And the following weeks after that would be of further posts about the emptiness of him not being here anymore. And I wanted to switch it off.

But I haven’t. Although yesterday was hard and the next few weeks will be just as, these are memories of not just saying goodbye to Archie but of enjoying the last of his days with him. And that’s how I’m going to plough through this month. The glass half full way of thinking that I always refer too in my previous blogs.

I’m going to listen to that song again later. And this time it will make me smile. The moon for just an afternoon.

‘Well, I’d like to visit the moon
On a rocket ship high in the air
Yes, I’d like to visit the moon
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I might like it for one afternoon
I don’t want to live on the moon’

Let’s see what great memories FB notifies me of over the coming weeks!

Brad – Archie’s Dad

 

AA +

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So, I’ve just finished a three month programme of counselling and for the first time in a long while I feel really good!

Its been 5 months since my last blog and that’s because in all honesty things haven’t been that great and I prefer to write when I’m in a good place about bereavement, Archie and how things generally are.

However, as I have discovered through my recent discussions, most of my previous blogs posses some form of a façade, to show you, my friends and family that I’m doing ok. In reality its been a struggle. Think of Smokey Robinson’s ‘Tears of a Clown’.

On top of the burdens that grief produces, like rocks around my neck, the weight of pretending that all is tip top uses quite a lot of energy. It exhausted me to the point where I couldn’t see through the fog that your mind creates when you’re looking for answers to questions that bereavement forces you to query. The main one being; ‘Is it my fault?’

Myself and Lauren not only lost a son, but people we love lost a brother, a grandchild, a nephew, a cousin, a friend, a family member. Those around us also lost a piece of us, I lost a piece of me. It’s something that’s become a battle.

I tried counselling shortly after Archie passed away but it wasn’t right and I wasn’t committed. The stubbornness in me thought that no one can help and I’ll just have to ride it out. After all, people lose people all the time. It’s natural and I should just let time be a healer (I now cringe when I hear this!).

However by not talking about how I felt for a long period of time it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the feeling of grief can just consume you. And that it did.

But, after finding the right person to discuss how bereavement has affected me it’s done me a world of good. I’ve discovered many resultant negative traits that have been a by product of loss; mainly guilt and responsibility that I allowed to manifest which in turn produced this awful heavy feeling that I have carried around with me.

Counselling has taught me many positive things and I now look at things from a completely different perspective and finally have started to put myself and those important to me first. If anything Archie has taught me is that life is too short!

I cannot change what’s happened. I’ve learned that I’m not to blame for all the bad that’s happened in my life and it’s unhealthy to hold myself accountable.

So, I’ll concentrate on things and experiences that will benefit me and those around me, including a new job which I believe will compliment my new outlook on life very well.

My advice to anyone is talk. If you’re feeling down, just open up and let people know. You shouldn’t be ashamed and talk to a professional if you need to. It’s not taboo. You will not be judged. Hey, it might even make you feel better.

Anyway, I didn’t get a certificate for passing my counselling sessions today. I don’t think it’s the norm. However, I will do something I rarely do which I now feel comfortable doing and that’s giving myself a pat on the back. And an A+.

Bollocks to it. I’ll make it an AA+ for Amazing Archie!

High five.

Remembering Archie

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It occurred to me recently that its been a while since my last blog. It also occurred to me that its been a while longer since we said goodbye to Archie.

It was a moment of thought that once again confirmed to me that time is not only precious but it can pass by so very quickly. But not fast enough where our memories of our little man seem further in the past. This is because for the short time we had with him, so many fond moments were created with Archie and at so many special places with so many amazing people.

And one of those special places is Ty Hafan.

It’s where myself & Lauren came to remember Archie at a place so close to our hearts, just before Christmas. Not in a sad way however, but in the only way we could, that would honour our little angel and put a smile on his face up there.

The day began with an appearance in the Christmas panto where I had the honour of playing a princess! Lippy and blusher applied, dress zipped up and with my phone placed safely in my handbag I took to the ‘stage’ and had a right old laugh with the other parents, staff and guests who all took part. Grief makes you do funny things and this was up there with the funniest, but Ty Hafan has that effect on you. It sounds strange, but its difficult to be sad in a place that you’d expect to feel sad in, particularly if that’s where you said your last goodbyes.

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Make up removed, dress hung up and BAFTA nomination in the post, myself, Lauren, along with Archie’s siblings; young Matilda & Sam went to see Archie’s pebble in the Ty Hafan garden. As Matilda ran around happily, too young to understand about Archie’s association with this wonderful place, both myself and Lauren agreed that that this is how we want her, Sam and older brother Jack to feel whenever they come here. As that’s how we believe Archie would have remembered it here too; as a fun and happy place.

That afternoon myself & Lauren agreed to be filmed talking about Archie and how Ty Hafan helped, supported and cared for him and our family through such a tough time. We shared our special memories that were created there and how much the place and the amazing staff mean to us.

This is all part of us keeping Archie’s flame burning. Whether it be appearing in a panto, talking on film, climbing mountains, or just taking a walk in their gardens, in doing so we are honouring our amazing little man the best we can.

And although time moves so quickly, our memories will always be there to help slow things down as we reflect on the legacy that Archie has left in our lives that we can fondly share with others.

 

Good from Bad – A Team Effort

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You could probably tell from my last blog that the last few weeks have been tough!

I also wasn’t looking forward to the fact that Archie’s 4th birthday was imminent and that the start of September would also have been the beginning of his pre-school year. A time where myself and Lauren would not only be shopping for his birthday presents but for his new uniform, lunch bag and looking forward to seeing him off at the school gates to make new friends and enjoy experiences that would help mould him into future life.

So, during these sad moments, you have to go back to the beginning to understand the end and that’s what I did to help me get my glass half full again.

I reflected back to the time when Archie was diagnosed. It was then, with the help of friends and family, Lauren and I decided to pull the curtains open, approach our unfortunate situation with bravery and positivity and try and make the most out of Archie’s limited life expectancy. I remembered that feeling of strength we both had at the time, despite being delivered that terrible blow, we had both agreed that we were going in this together as a team, head on, and being there for Archie and his brother Jack as normal parents as we could be.

It wasn’t long before we discovered that we belonged to a greater team. An assembly of family and friends, who like us, inspired by Archie, wanted to make good from something that was bad. We were in awe of the support and this helped drive our new ethos and determination to give Archie the best short life he could have.

During that process, Archie became known as Amazing Archie which in turn naturally produced Team Amazing Archie; a group of family and friends that would help us achieve our goals to raise awareness of Archie’s Tay Sachs disease and fundraise for our chosen charities that would provide our family with care & assistance.

The first main event organised by our newly incorporated ‘Team’ was in Feb 2012, two months after diagnosis, at the local rugby club.

And when my glass was half empty a fortnight ago, I searched for my thank you speech I gave to those who supported and attended the event to help inspire me to turn the tap back on;

“Many thanks to all of you for coming tonight.

Both myself and Lauren are overwhelmed, touched, blown away by the amount of love, support and generosity that we have received and we are eternally grateful for this.

As you know we received the devastating news before Christmas that our beautiful boy Archie had Tay Sachs disease which unfortunately is incurable and life limiting.

After the shock of receiving this news and with the help of our families and close friends, myself and Lauren decided it wouldn’t be fair to Archie and to those around him to shut the curtains and let the inevitable tear us apart.

We decided as many of you saw from our Facebook statuses that we were going to make the most of Archie’s time here and raise awareness of his disease to help him and others.

It is a bit of a cliché but the phrase time is precious has never rung so true. I’m sure you’ll agree but most of us spend the majority of time in a rush; to and from work, round the shops and in many a case we rush to get to the weekend quicker. We would give anything now to slow time down and our message in this respect is that we want you all to cherish every moment you have especially with your loved ones as we will cherish the time that we have with our Amazing Archie.

We really appreciate your attendance and contribution tonight and want you all to enjoy yourselves. Times are hard and any donation that is made tonight will benefit Archie directly and indirectly as we are also supporting the following charities; The CATS Foundation (cure and action for tay sachs), Caerphilly Children’s Centre and Ty Hafan and we thank you all for your generosity and kindness.

We would also like to thank Helen Owen & Paul Morgan of Morgan travel, Julie James, Aimee Harvey and Brian Watson for their assistance in arranging this night. It has been incredible what you have done. We would also like to thank the kind friends and businesses who have donated prizes for the raffle which we will list on Archie’s Facebook page and also thanks to all of tonight’s entertainers and volunteers.

As well as tonight there are friends and family who are doing so many great things with fundraising e.g the st David’s day run, the three peaks, sky diving, bucket collections, school dress down days and more to follow!

I like to finish by saying that we want you all to have a good night, enjoy every minute of it and thanks for again for your love and support!”

Reading this again produced a catalyst of positivity as I fondly remembered everything that everyone had done before, during and after that night as Team Amazing Archie. So much has been achieved in his name! Archie has inspired people to physically and mentally to undertake challenges they never would have done and to  change their perception of life to improve their own and others around them.

And it still continues; we had 5 separate ‘Team Amazing Archie’s’ in last Sundays 52 mile cycle ride for the charity Ty Hafan!

So next time I’m down, I’ll think again of our Team and all that we have achieved and will continue to do so, to collectively make good from bad.

Thank you Team Members!

 

Half Empty

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Generally I like to portray my glass as being half full.

But sometimes, my glass does become half empty, seldom seen away from my immediate family, but enough to take it’s toll on the soul.

The last few weeks have been difficult in respect of work. Things haven’t panned out with a latest venture and I’m now self employed, with no savings or supportive partners wage to keep us financially comfortable until work picks up. I do have a great opportunity to make money, but the cash I need to keep the family and house afloat in the meantime until it rolls in is non existent and the strain is evident. When usually confronted with tough situations, my turbo kicks in and my ‘curtains wide open’, positive gung-ho attitude and previous experiences usually helps me rise above in these situations and succeed, but today, I’m struggling to even turn the tap on to fill the glass at all.

Tough situations are often challenging anyway to anyone, but all the more harder when grief forms the underlay to the surface of the obstacles you’re trying to overcome. Like trying to run in the hurdles on a track of quicksand.

And grief to the soul is often like weather to the sea; sometimes calm, sometimes choppy, sometimes rough. When captaining the ship, no matter how bad the waves are, as long as you’re in control you can with determination, navigate away from the turbulence that hinders your journey.

However, At this moment I find myself rudderless and without compass.

But, I’ve been here before. I’ve experienced worse. It’s on those occasions where my glass becomes half empty that I look to Archie, and the promises I made to him as my motivation to pull myself together to maintain the course of our vessel with my wee lad, in the sky, perhaps blowing into the sails to aid the journey.

So, despite it being tougher than usual, I’ll try and turn the tap as hard as I can and get that glass half full again.

Normal service will resume shortly….