Walking to remember (Happy birthday Catherine)

My daughter Catherine would have been 41 yesterday. The final birthday we celebrated together was her 30th. We organised a meal at a Chinese Restaurant.

She didn’t live to see her 31st birthday. Pax my son didn’t see his 4th.

The birthdays they have missed are part of their enduring absence. I think of them on these days, perhaps eat some of their favourite foods – ice-cream is a good choice. Last night it was steak for Catherine. And I light candles. But they are not here to enjoy these treats.

This is the pain of bereavement. The times when loved ones are absent.

As a bereaved parent, I also expend energy on keeping their legacy and names alive. I ask friends to do something kind in their memory. It means so much when people acknowledge they have done this.

Finally, I walk. This week in June has become a tradition now – to walk as many kilometres as my age (as my birthday is also this week).

In the past week I walked a day pilgrimage to Durham Cathedral, a stretch of St Cuthbert’s Way in Northumberland, a stretch of St Oswald’s way, a part of the Berwickshire Coastal Path that took me over the border to Scotland, a fantastic walk to see Seabird colonies at at Abb’s Head , and finally a day of peaceful walking on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. I exceeded my target by more than 20 Kms, but more importantly kept engaged with my surroundings.

Everywhere I walked was new, and mostly very peaceful with few people around. In the early days of my bereavement this wouldn’t have been such a good idea, but now I relish the solitude. Having a mileage goal plus targets each day’s seems to help me focus.

And so I walk, in memory, in thought, in reflection, and also in harmony with my surroundings. There is something about the action of walk, connecting feet to the land, that brings such peace. Nature is so healing.

It is also a spiritual exercise, which is another story for later.

Long walks are not possible for everyone, and I appreciate I can physically do this at this time of my life. You might not be able or want to do something similar. But I do believe that time spent in nature, even sitting in a garden or on a park bench, is vital in coping with grief. Let nature embrace and bring you comfort.

(In memory of Catherine and Pax)

On St Cuthbert’s way
St Cuthbert’s cave
Northumberland coast

Lindisfarne Castle

Fields of purple poppies, grown by the NHS.

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