Words that flow...

Words and images - powerful elements of our everyday life. Most of the time we take them for granted, but sometimes something happens to make you aware of how important they are... and how thankful you are to have the opportunity to use or appreciate them. Here lies some of my words and pictures (which are untouched apart from cropping, unless I've said otherwise) - Please add your words to mine, and leave a comment. Thanks for visiting!

07 July 2008

Where am I now?

Life is created and life is destroyed...

Life is tenuous and life is robust.

Life is fortuitous then life pulls the rug from under you.

There is no surety, yet there is continuity.

Where am I now?

I ask this in the sense that sometimes I feel so solid, so here, so now. Other times I am but a fleeting spark in the Universe's huge flame.

It is one heck of a journey, and one which I find I am taking alone. No matter how much I want to share it. No matter what other lives walk beside me.

In my life, I have been privileged to know some beautiful people, some closely, some simply as acquaintances, but the very fact their lives touched mine - touched me - I am thankful for.

From the very first memories, of course, my parents made the biggest impact. Many memories of the two of them sharing their lives with us, their children. Their affection for each other spilling over to us, so that I always felt lucky to have such a childhood.

My dad's early life was one of 'be seen but not heard', closely controlled by his father. So, when it came to having his own children, he guided and informed, but left the major decisions to us. He was there when we needed him. He could always answer a question we asked of him. He mended our toys and gave to us all the love he had, only asking that we loved him in return. It wasn't hard to do. I miss arguing with him. He was the only person I've ever known who I could argue with long and hard, yet know no hard feelings would be attached. Missing him has been part of my life for a long time.

Dad died, aged 54, with mum beside him.

I hadn't yet had any children and have always wished he could have known my four lovely kids, and that they could have known him. Family was everything to him, and I know he would have made the greatest grandfather ever. But that was something that never happened.

Ten years after my dad, my older brother, Jim, died. He was quiet, but surprisingly an adventurer. Jim led a simple, straight forward life (or so he'd have us believe...) and was a person who you could trust. He was always there... until he wasn't.

He died alone, aged 38.

A few years ago, my friend Julia, happy with her partner and newborn baby, moved to a big, beautiful new house. She felt lucky. Or rather, she knew how lucky she was. Everything was right with the world.

And then she found a lump. Well, the story that followed has been lived through by so many. The treatments. The sadness, anger and incomprehension that followed is the by product of cancer. But so is the bravery, the determination and the willingness to try new paths for the sake of finding answers to so many questions. My friend was not going to die. She would do everything she could to counteract the disease - exercise, meditation, yoga, diet - and that probably kept her going for more years than she would have had. Who knows.

Julia died a year ago, aged 44, with her family and friends around her.

I miss her more every day.

For the last eight years Mum has been relinquishing her memories and herself to Alzheimer's. Some times the progression has been fast, sometimes slow, but progress it has. Since Christmas she has been bedridden, with chest infection after chest infection. Each time we think her time has come, but each time she has fought back strongly and surprisingly.

You wouldn't believe the number of times we've been warned that it might be her last few days. Her brother came over from Denmark to see her on her deathbed. That was nearly two months ago. The doctor has exclaimed that he never thought he would see her again. But he has. Again and again. She stops eating, stops drinking. She seems to be slipping away. Then some strong will to live asserts itself, and she comes back again. It has become a regular thing.

At Christmas, mum looked like she had less than a month to live. A month later she looked the same. Some days she looks like she might have hours to live. But she fights her way back. One might think, with Alzheimer's, she might lose the will to live, but it sometimes feels as if it is stronger than ever before. Maybe there's something unfinished she wants to do, or to happen. Maybe she wants to reach her next birthday in a couple of weeks when she'll be 79. I don't know what it is in her that keeps her holding on, when there is little enough strength to do such a simple thing as cough, but she does.

Her three remaining children take turns to visit every day. We sit for hours, reading aloud, talking to her, feeding her and just 'being there'. We have strong feeling that that is why she holds on, maybe because we are. But, how could we not visit, knowing that we are all she has? How could we leave her to be alone in her bed, day after day, with no company apart from the fleeting presence of a busy carer? How could we leave her to die alone?

We couldn't.

So, every visit we say goodbye as though it were the last. Every time we arrive we see a shrunken body, which was once robust, cheerful and embracing. We are told she's near the end, so we visit for whole weekends, only to have her recover. We think she has recovered, only to be warned she is on another down-turn. She has chest infections that would whisk away some a lot stronger than she is, but she keeps fighting them. We think she would hate to be like this, but she fights on anyway, so maybe she doesn't hate it so much.

To start with, we found the staff, though kind and considerate, seemed to have an expectation her life wouldn't be long, and talked about her as though she would soon be gone in front of her, talked about her condition as though she couldn't hear. We put up more family photos. We talked to her. We read to her. We took her out in the garden and held her hand. Now she is considered to be a bit of an icon. She has bucked the trend of death so many times now, nobody is so sure she will die. It seems, though she hasn't eaten properly for months, though her fluid intake is poor at best, that she survives on air alone. We know its not possible, but she does it. We say she's getting weaker, and she can't keep going like that for long, but she has.

I am so going to miss her when she's gone.

A few months ago, I had difficulty swallowing. The condition worsened until finally I had to get a specialist to look at it. Though I've given up for the last 3 1/2 years, with over twenty years of smoking behind me, I feared the worst. Ever heard the expression 'it brought a lump to my throat'? Well, that was what I had. The stress and emotion was so great my throat had constricted so I could no longer swallow properly. Then, one day, I woke early in the morning unable to sleep, and took a walk in the forest (see pic above). It was beautiful. I cried for Julia, for mum, for dad and Jim. I cried for me. The lump in my throat went. It needed a release.

Now, again, mum is weakening again. Again. Again. Thoughts of 'Let go, mum' have popped up in my head, to be followed closely by, 'Don't go, mum!' She's mum. My mum. I used to call her 'mummy' a long time ago. But she was so much more than that. She became a friend, a confidant, a saviour. She has always been there for us. We will be there for her... right to the end. However long that is.

And, when she goes, I will miss visiting her. Even though she hasn't been able to talk for a long time, there was one thing she said that reminded us that she was still 'in there'. When her brother came over from Denmark a couple of months ago, I started reading her 'The Scarlet Pimpernel'. I read five chapters, and when I finished for the day I said to mum, "I thoroughly enjoyed reading this mum!" And she answered clear as day, "So did I."

© Annelisa Christensen 8:55 pm

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At July 08, 2008 6:20 pm, Blogger Akelamalu said...

Oh honey you've lost so many people dear to you and you know with certainty that you will lose your mum, when she's ready. What wonderful memories you have of all these people you love - that's what it's all about my dear. Be brave, it's life. You know where I am if you want someone to listen. xx

At July 09, 2008 5:50 pm, Blogger Queenie said...


At July 10, 2008 10:25 pm, Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Oh, sweetie, my heart cries for you and all you have been and are still dealing with! I wish I could help. I'd go with you to visit your mum and we'd have a cuppa...some tea biscuits and then everything would lighten up for a bit.

I am thinking of you a lot and hope you can refresh yourself with some energy over the summer holidays. Somehow, things will even out in your life and you'll summon some more resilience to continue to carve out your life. You are not alone and will not be in the end either.

Hope all is well with your kids.


At July 12, 2008 10:25 pm, Blogger Pauline said...

Such a beautiful tribute to "love"
letting go is so very painful. We never get used to this process.

As children bring
their broken toys
with tears for
us to mend. I
brought my broken
dreams to God
because he was my
friend. But then
instead of leaving
Him in peace to
work alone, I hung
around and tried
to help with ways
that were my own
At last, I snatched
them back and
cried. "How can
you be so slow?"
"My child," He
said, "What can I
do? You never did
let go!"

author unknown....

At July 23, 2008 12:27 pm, Blogger Katie McKenna said...

I wanted to let you know that you are still in my heart and thoughts!
love and hugs, Katie

At July 25, 2008 6:51 pm, Blogger TopChamp said...

Hello - I am glad for the update. And as ever it's accompanied by stunning photography. I do love to hear from you.

Keep going - you're doing brilliantly and I'm sure your mum would be moved by the love he kids are showing for her.

Thinking of you x

At July 26, 2008 5:26 am, Blogger Mimi Lenox said...

Annelisa - I am speechless. I don't know what to say to make it better for you. I want to give you a hug. I wish I could.

You are a strong woman and full of love and compassion. Such wisdom in your photography - such honesty and pain. I admire your strength and daily send prayers to you and your loved ones. You have lost so much in your life it seems.....Better days ahead, my dear.

I am here if you need me. Anytime. You know how to reach me.

At August 01, 2008 3:35 pm, Blogger Bulletholes said...

Hey lisa!
its torture now, but I bet that in the years to come you will realize how forunate you are that she is hanging on...she's hanging on for you.
I wish my Dad had hung on long enough for me to read him something, but he left rather suddenly...and I am sure you will understand when i say

I count myself as fortunate for that.

At August 11, 2008 7:31 pm, Anonymous David Bartholomew said...


Couldn't find an email address so had to leave this in the comments. I am David Bartholomew, originator of the One World Flag. You have an incorrect image on your Words that Flow blog that is attributed as the "One World Flag". The actual One World Flag can be found at www.oneworldflag.org. It is trademarked, but people are allowed and encouraged to post it on their websites and blogs, etc. From the links page of the One World Flag site you can see that I also support numerous other inspirational flags, images, credos, manifestos, etc. I hope you will pull down the incorrect image, replace it with an actual One World Flag, whatever feels right. It is just confusing now to have people go to Google's image search (for example) and have an incorrect One World Flag image. I like your blog, and I believe if you visit the One World Flag site and/or the One World flag blog (www.oneworldflag.org/blog) and read some of the postings you will find we resonate to some of the same things. Regards, David Bartholomew (david@oneworldflag.org)

At August 12, 2008 3:25 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lisa,

I think you may be right. Mum has learned to live on air. Others are right, too, of course, to express their sympathy and emotion for your deprivation and your many losses, but I want to strike a different note. Mum may last forever. Her spirit has learned to out-endure the physical limitations of her body. This is not a long time of sorrow, it's an extended (if muted) celebration. How smart of you to be there with her for as long as you can both help one another. Stay beautiful, beautiful.

At August 12, 2008 3:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On another matter, I'll let you decide how to respond to Mister Bartholomew's concerns about his One World Flag trademark. You can take mine down, or not label it One World Flag, whatever pleases you. I meant no harm when I offered my image free to the world.

At August 25, 2008 6:18 pm, Blogger David said...

I have tears now. Thank you so much for sharing.

At August 28, 2008 8:58 pm, Blogger twilite said...

Hi Annelisa! It's been a very very very long time. Glad I visited you today and found you're still blogging.

Stunning photos. Thank you for sharing. Life is just filled with challenges...overwhelming sometimes.

The Olympic Games baton is already your country's hand. Looking forward to 2012...with a difference!

Take care. God bless.

At September 04, 2008 12:41 pm, Blogger krystyna said...

Hi Annelisa,
I'd like to tell you that my heart is always with you.
Thank you for sharing.

Have a blessing days!

Love & hugzzzz

At September 04, 2008 12:53 pm, Blogger krystyna said...

You are an inspiration for many of us!
I am grateful for your presence here in Blogosphere. You are sunshine, you are Love!

"There are many people we meet in life, but few are special..."

You are special, Annelisa!

At December 26, 2008 8:09 am, Blogger TopChamp said...

Hello - Didn't want to leave this on your most recent post, but I hope you're having a MERRY CHRISTMAS!


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