an open letter 

 

to our extended family, our friends from around the world, the community that grew around sharing our home

27th March 2020

Dear family,

thank you for your patience, kindness and support.

It’s been an awful twelve months since Manjula died, a pot-holed, rocky roller-coaster ride. Being able to speak to you directly, through my writing and sharing my feelings has been tremendously helpful. Your direct responses and visits have helped me through these difficult times. Thank you for those who’ve also been here to provide direct practical and emotional support, you know who you are and have made an impossible situation manageable.

Thank you for being a witness as Kessler writes:

“Each person’s grief is as unique as their fingerprint. But what everyone has in common is no matter how they grieve, they share a need for their grief to be witnessed……… they need to feel their grief acknowledged and reflected by others.”

As you know, I’ve shared and its helped. Thank you for letting me share with you, gain your support and help me to manage this tragic loss. I’ve most definitely been through the five stages (Kubler-Ross) of loss: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance, often all at the same time and what I hadn’t realised was the anticipatory grief years before Manjula actually died that we also had to experience. 

Loss of a lover, loss of a life, loss of control, loss of the opportunity to do things differently, loss and the grief that results from it, is for me the hardest thing in life.

I also know now that: Grief unites us.

“You will never forget that person, never be able to fill the unique hole that has been left in your heart,” 

I’m so pleased you met and go to know my beautiful smiling brilliant wife directly through visiting us, or introduced through these pages. She leaves a wonderful legacy in what she created and leaves part of her in all of our hearts.

It goes without saying that she will always be with me and I know the grieving will never be over but I look forward to finding the right balance in Manjula continuing to be part of me and me finding meaning and growing beyond that loss, then ……….  “the time will come when memory will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes” (Kessler)

We’ve now recognised Manjula’s death anniversary with a Hindu Pooja ceremony and lunch for immediate friends on the 12th March (the official Hindu anniversary), shared the BIG photo album (a copy is on this site) then on the 23rd I cycled Manjula through the city, sponsored meals for older people at a local ashram, and had a few drinks here at home. We still have Manjula’s shoes carefully positioned around the house in case she returns and needs them. (Didion) 

Over the year I’ve been careful to do the Hindu rituals, placed flowers at her two main photos in our living rooms monthly, some times weekly, sited benches in our park and at a city museum. I’ve printed t shirts in her memory, hoisted bunting made from her clothing, created a memory tree (Teckentrup) (please ask how you can add a memory or wish) and given gifts of Manjula’s pens. 

We plan to celebrate Manjula’s life in August, around her birthday, please do join us in person or virtually, that’s when we’ll also re-open Mysore Bed and Breakfast, if we’re through these challenging virus times. I plan to keep this place going for at least a few more years (our first season without Manjula was bitter sweet but worked OK)  and so invite you to continue to share our home.

Manjula will always be here.

I have been trying to write to Manjula for months and failed, I need to share my remorse for things I feel I could have done better and more, to ask for her forgiveness and to thank her for our wonderful, funny, life enhancing nine years together. It will be posted soon.

I’ll continue to post on www.meandmycycle.com which is the best place to follow. Writings will be varied: about life in India, more factly fiction stories and I promise there will be a lot less of the grief. I’ve committed to Manjula to write our story.  I’ve verbally shared bits and people have liked it, I just need to write better to do it justice. Who knows when that gets finished and released, we’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime there’s many of our times together and challenges of living in India already featured here and I’ll add more, including her funny videos.

Thanks for becoming Manjula and my family and I look forward to travelling together on the next chapter of our journey.

Your loving friend

Stephen

and Lucie

PS

Manjula would joke that I as I was bringing so many books into the house it would become a library when I was 75 and no longer leading cycle tours. Well, the quantity and variety of books have grown and grown and now include sections on grief and writing (guess why?)  and so Manjula’s library is now at our house. 😉 and no I’m not 75 yet. Do pay a visit or ask for recommendations.

The one’s referred to in the letter are:

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the five stages of loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

Finding Meaning: the Sixth stage of grieving by David Kessler

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion 

The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup

 

Remembering.

 

It’s an important day as the Poojari  has read the stars, consulted who knows who and what to issue a hand written decree that today (12th March)  is actually Manjula’s death anniversary and not the 23rd as we mere mortals might have assumed. I was on duty this morning making breakfast for two sets of guests one from Belgium and the other from Canada had gelled wonderfully on yesterday’s cycle tours.
After breakfast the real work began preparing lunch for our immediate team and special guest Kanchana.

A BIG thank you to SB for everything, Satish was project manager and his wife on cooking duty. Good to see Vasanth and his wife

Pooja for Manjula was completed by one o’clock then we all went outside and closed the door for Manjula to come and tuck in.

should we allow five or ten minutes? I reckoned ten as she was a slow eater. We then knocked on the door to warn her and reentered. One more turn with flames. I’d forgotten to count and so might have done extra. MAnjula wouldn’t have expected anything different.

then we were allowed to eat. Quite unusually in our house. Men first on the floor, women, the sophisticates, at the table. They clearly had planned to feed the five thousand so a fair amount was distributed to the poor. Of course we’d also sponsored food at the ashram for the elderly residents as we, Tom and Amy have done numerous times.


To engage the neighbours I placed little signs by the benches and a life size photo of MAnjula out the front of the house.

Lucie got tired just being Lucie. It’s fair to say she was overcome by the emotion of it all. She’s clearly in tune.

as are the water Lilly and today’s innovation the memory tree.

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Manjula, our star, we miss and love you, sometimes it’s too much to bear but we have lots of wonderful memories to help us through.

What helps

It’s so easy to fall into the quagmire pit of negativeness. Dwelling on the sadness of her last few weeks,the whipping stick of blame or the grief of how much I miss her. She is of course happily still with us in so many ways. I am so fortunate to have fond memories that I cherish and as the brain gets more befuddled I have lovely videos of Manjula talking to me and you. I came across one yesterday on a posting about us both coming to terms with the changes. You can find it here with her lovely humour even at the most difficult of times. I love you Manjula

Thoughts and Feelings, Fond memories April 2019 onwards

Further thoughts and feelings as Manjula flies the nest.

Postings from April through to August

Grief, the three bucket method….beginning to work out how to manage some of the grief and push some away! There are all sorts of ways to deal with this situation Unreturned love of my star, including poetry and more of the journey Private mission: grief recovery and wobbles Key stages, behind the scene. Happiness is a choice you make is a very helpful perspective in this difficult situation, Three stages are quite apparent now. Stepping stones are another analog in Doddery

Memories of Manjula, key images around the house partly as a Hindu tradition. Manjula more memories flowers flowers flowers, pictures pictures, pictures Can there be too much?

A significant anniversary, four weeks after Manjula died she sponsors meals at the Ashram but what are those symbols appearing on our streets. Which change before our eyes in Mixed feelings. Seven weeks since

Ap pagal hey, are you mad?

A getaway, Lucie and I take a break and then we have to leave Kerala farewell. Election time while we’re in Kerala and a reminder of the first time Manjula voted.

Here’s a plan, friends are so helpful. AWOL two friends become directors to replace Manj I travel to Europe and north America to visit guests for Manjula hugs

To live in others hearts is not to die is such a great way to think about it

A smile, Manjula had a remarkable beacon of a smile a common theme…

What happens after we die and Helping children with death, discussing Manjula’s death with my granddaughter.

Manjula’s watching, still being the boss, sending a message from where her spirit is resting ….. did I say resting?

With a little more help from our friends an appeal for memories of Manjula. Here are some of the memories, others will be featured in other ways! Missing Manjula 2 There must be a Manjula 1 somewhere. We also remember with Jingle jangle and New thing for memory of Manjula

Manjula my muse, and she continues to be…

I’ve been fortunate to get away for almost two months in June and July Back home is a challenge

The factly fiction stories

Stop the magic roundabout and Magic roundabout again are my initial thoughts that led to the magic roundabout story.

Watch this space, the relevance of Karma. I then released my factly fiction story Magic roundabout and Magical thinking helps put it in context. Then mmm.

A factly fiction story looking for a home led to a dream for one of our guests Great response

Life in India

Phew, we have to find some help.

As part of our giving we want to do something new, but Oh no not again and

Oh no not again 2

as i realise the implications of having to relate to officialdom again. Our revise experiences of sorting out IDS, Passport, visa and registering he business with the City Corporation have been detailed in our story.

Forever Together

“This feels  com-ple-tely  weird

How the heck, did it happen?

Please, move over, I’m feeling claustrophobic. We are so, not the same size!

To me it feels like the two of us are crammed into a sleeping bag, just like the one we bought for you to go camping in England. If you curl a bit I’ll curl round you, like two spoons together. Yep, yep, that’s it.

Much better.

So you’re the Hindu, can you explain to me what’s happened?

Nope.

OK, I’ll hazard a guess.

I must say, as cramped as this is, I am so pleased to be with you, I know its not exactly physical, more meta-physical but I can actually feel you and its wonderful. I just don’t care about anything else. I lost you and I’ve found you again. Super!

Its also amazing how we can communicate just through thoughts. Are you thinking in Kannada or English?

A mix of both.

You clever dick. You’re the boss. 🙂

Ok so here’s my take on it.

I think it’s something to do with reincarnation. Once we die and we’re released from our body our spirit finds a new home, a new body and begins its next life. Agreed?

Well, there’s also a belief amongst some people that couples can be reunited in their new life.

Yes, I remember discussing this with friends and joking about whether we’d wish to be reincarnated with our husbands! Most didn’t seem to want to be.

I did though!

You and I have had some disagreements. I don’t think you realised how hard it was for me, at times but I loved you to the end of the earth, and beyond

Remember me saying that?

Of course

I love you too.

So how have we ended up here?

The last I remember, you had a second heart attack and you didn’t want to go back on a ventilator, you’d hated that the year before, even though it gave us another year together. So I asked the Doctors not to resuscitate and you died.

Afterwards, I was on my Enfield, squinting through the tears on my way back to Siddartha Layout, to sort things out so I could bring your body home, when ….

BANG.

A lorry knocked me off the two wheeler and next thing I know I was here with you.

Where is here? by the way.

I don’t know but I’m beginning to adjust, I’m not feeling bunched up anymore – I’m getting used to it.

I remember being in hospital and you made a joke about me not smiling so I giggled and smiled, last thing I remember I was complaining that my head hurt.

Then I was in a valley, having passed through a bright sun light. People were singing and dancing. I thought of you and whispered a message, that I loved you, to a passing dragonfly. Then as if by Magic, you appeared and I saw you through the crowd coming towards me.

Wow. So let me get this right, we’ve died within minutes of each other and somehow our souls have joined together, reincarnated into the same body. How amazing is that?

I feel that we’re gently melding together, we’re becoming as one.

Well, I didn’t read about this in the Bhagavad Gita! Did you?

Waahay, this could be fun. Maybe we could give a TED Talk.

Tom and Amy

img_0246Tom and Amy first keep to visit us what to them might seem like a hundred years ago. They were introduced to us by the lovely people at Indiasomeday which continues to be our favourite agency.

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After that first trip, we decided to designate them as our adopted children as we got on really really well. On their return home they got married, resigned from their jobs and became nomads.
They now have an exciting adventure filled life as itinerant travellers working then travelling, travelling and working.

 

Tamy have become part of our lives. Amy was our celebrant at our wedding and Tom took the photos. They continued to be with us during Manjula’s difficult times due to her illness. When she died earlier this year, they immediately changed their plans, rode over the hill to the rescue….. well, flew back to India to stay with me for a couple of weeks. I hadn’t realised how important that was to me, they were a godsend . They’ve now visited three times, this year alone and some guests have come to think they actually live here.

We meet up to eat a vegan when our paths cross in London.

They’ve created two lovely videos of Manjula and I and our work here. Please check here for the videos and a link to their own seeking skies site.

Manjula absolutely adored them, Tom and Madam’s witty banter and humour fed off each other.

Did I mention they’re vegan? Real activists who live their beliefs, working hard to try and save our planet, to show the older generation their mistakes and provide a positive path to the future.

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Thank you Tom and Amy for helping me survive this incredibly difficult time.

 

SF

11th August 2019