Autumn and a long kiss goodbye

Before they rest for winter the deciduous trees glow with such awe inspiring beauty, the leaves giving a grand finale before preparing to stand stoically through frosty nights and bitterly cold days. Leaves turn from green to golden yellow, copper and red, hanging onto the branches till the wind carries them down to carpet the ground, where under the low light of autumn they slowly start to decompose and give life back to the soil.

Each leaf, from spring to autumn, having lived its best life through the summer, gives a gracious nod in parting with a flourish of dazzling colour.

I have been in England for two months and in that time I have been treated to sunny autumn days, allowing me to spend hours outdoors enjoying the changing colours, that seem to have continued to increase in wonder the closer it gets to winter.

I have walked and ran over fields, through woodland pathways, along canal tow-paths and kicked up the leaves in the garden, whilst helping my Dad to rake them into piles.

I’ve enjoyed revisiting memories of my childhood, attending a fireworks display on Guy Fawkes night, and catching up with old school, college and Uni friends. As sad as the reasons for my visit are, these times are also a gift and I am so grateful that I can be here – whilst also staying connected with my awesome hubby and daughters in New Zealand, thanks to modern communication.

My Dad and I have shared some lovely walks, making the most of the public footpaths that weave their way over farm land; we never know what animals we might encounter – from cows and sheep to alpacas and chickens.

There’s also a lot of wildlife in the countryside and we often stop in our tracks to watch a Red Kite soaring over our heads, or a heron fly up silently from a waterway having been disturbed by the sounds of our footsteps. Sometimes we see deer and there’s always lots of squirrels, as well as soil mounds where moles have been busy tunnelling under the ground.

I’ve also been in raptures over all the fungi! There’s so many different varieties and I love spotting fungi as we amble along woodland pathways.

Most afternoons, as the sun sits blindingly low in the sky, Dad and I visit Mum in the nursing home. I often wished I could bottle up the fresh air and crisp autumn leaves to share with her, as she spends her days confined to a bed. We hold her hands, kiss her head, hug her gently and listen to music. She has few words she’s able to say and lies peacefully, reaching for our touch and listening to our voices.

Gone are the years when Alzheimer’s turned her into another person, angry, frustrated and shouting at those she loved. In that time we kept the person she was, before the disease, close in our hearts and minds, knowing the cross words were not from her heart, but from the disease. Now she is quiet and calm, resting like the autumn leaves that have fallen to the ground. We hold her delicately and kiss her knowing she is nearing the end and cherishing the time we have left with her.

Last weekend I travelled up to my sister’s home in the Peak District and climbed over hills remembering the many years that Mum enjoyed walking with Dad, Claire and I. It hasn’t been easy for us to accept that Mum’s walking days are over, but the memories of the walks we have shared live on with vigour in our hearts and we are truly grateful for those times.

Being in the hills is where I feel most at home. I love climbing to ridge-lines and hill tops before descending into valleys and woodlands.

The ever changing landscape of natural open spaces throughout the hours of a day and the seasons never fail to lift my spirits.

Whilst up in the hills my sister and I also went to visit my wonderful parents-in-law, as well as my amazing sister-in-law, her husband and their youngest son of three. We enjoyed a lovely lunch together, reminiscing on the Christmas we’d all shared in 2018, the last time that Dan and I travelled to the UK with our three daughters. It was a really wonderful Christmas, especially as Mum was able to be with us. This year will be a very different one, as Mum will be in the nursing home and Dan and our three daughters will be thousands of miles away in New Zealand. I will spend Christmas with my dear Dad and sister, and we will be visiting Mum for a couple of hours at the nursing home, all being well. All we can do is take one day at a time.

On our regular visits to Mum we sit next to her, music a regular companion to her ears and show her photos and picture books of times we’ve shared. She eats and drinks less and less, her energy needs depleting. This time feels like a long kiss goodbye. There is a quiet beauty in the time we now share together, we are able to reflect and remember the vibrant woman she was before Alzheimer’s disease stole her light. In our hearts her light will always shine on.