Monday, January 19, 2015

A Cuppa Tea

Stan at the Buddhist Centre, making tea for the others

This has been a difficult week. I have re-entered the work arena, on a 'phased return', as they call it, here in England, and, Tuesday, I had to go speak to someone from Occupational Health, to justify my time away, and my continuing to work part-time for a few more weeks. This meant I had to recount the story of the tragic day my husband died. And it meant that the images of that day, images I have tried to place in the background of my consciousness, were brought, full force, to the front of it. 

It's not as if they are ever far away. Something can trigger a memory of that day, and the image of him in that place, on the ground, is as clear as if it happened yesterday, today, a moment ago. I know that all of us who were witness to his death, including his children, and his sisters, are plagued by that image, too. It is a trauma that is replayed over and over again, for us, and one that we will never be able to erase entirely. It is a trauma that compounds our loss of him. It is forever etched into our memory. Imprinted, there. 

It is this image that I carried with me, into the rest of my day, and  through that evening. Though I begged for it to fade away, it clung, stubbornly, replaying itself, relentlessly. When I arrived home from my counselling appointment, I used my words to write into that image, that memory, in the hopes of putting it to rest.

I wrote several hundred words about that day. I am not yet able to share those words, here. They are raw and intimate and too difficult for me to expose in a public forum. One day, perhaps, I can find a bit of distance and shape those words into something I can post. But not now. Not yet.

I did share them with an online writing workshop I am doing, however, called Writing Your Grief. This workshop is a challenging, deep, and incredible forum, in which we are given a prompt, each day, for thirty days, around some aspect of our grief journey, and asked to write what we can, in reflection.

There are people there who have lost best friends, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. There are people in the group who have lost more than one loved one in a short period of time. There are those whose loved one died a few months ago, and those who have lived with the grief for years. There is a loving cradle of support, for each of us,  as we explore all the complexities of living without the ones we love.

We are asked, in this forum, to reflect and remember. We are encouraged to share the things we miss about our loved ones, those that make us happy and those that make us sad. We are asked to dig deep. We are asked to laugh and to cry and to stomp our (virtual) feet, if we need to. The writing is, like the writing here, in Widow's Voice, beautiful and brave.

I like to rejoice in the memory of my husband. I like to write about who he was and what he meant to me, and to others. I like to laugh about his quirks and his silly ways. I like to remember his quiet wisdom and his strength of character. I feel closer to him when I am able to focus, not only on my grief, but on all the ways he enriched my world.

The Writing Your Grief workshop is helping me to do just that. One day this week, I reflected on my husband's relationship with tea.

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My husband was an Englishman, and loved his tea. I learned early that there is an art to making it, even though, to me, it seemed a simple process of teabag into cup. But no. Some like it strong, some like it weak. Some prefer it with milk, some without. Some like two sugars, some like one. To not remember how guests like their tea, when they come to visit, is considered impolite.

My husband liked it weak. His was more like coloured water. Just a swipe of the teabag in the cup. Pour the boiling water from the kettle, swirl the bag around, take it out.

He wasn't particular about the type. He was a working class man. He didn't get snooty and insist on English Breakfast or Earl Grey. Although he did not fancy our Lipton's Tea when he was in America. He said our tea was rubbish. 
When we first met, he stood over me and showed me exactly how he liked it. From then on, it became my job to make him his cups of tea. I would bring him his first cup in the morning, and set it on his bedside table, before I went off to work. When I got home at night, and turned my key in the door, I could hear his voice as I opened it. "BooBoo? Is that you?" Invariably followed by, "Could you bring me a cup of tea?"
Most often, he would be upstairs, in his man-cave, on his computer, playing music, writing, studying his dharma lessons. Scattered around him would be two or three or four cups. Did he not think to take one down, and use the same one, each time, I used to think? I would bring him a new cup of tea,  gather the other cups to take downstairs, and he would wrap his arm around my waist, pull me toward him, and thank me, always.
He drank a lot of tea. He must have found comfort in having a hot drink, even in summer. Our summers are not that hot, here, so a cup of tea never seemed out of order.
This meant he had to use the bathroom, a lot. On our road trips, (and there were many, in the short time we were together), we had to make frequent stops for him to use the toilet. Then we'd need to sit and have another cup of tea. 

It used to irritate me, us having to stop every hour or two for tea and toilet breaks. I was an American, after all, and we buy our coffee at the drive-thru, and drink it in a styrofoam cup, while barrelling down the highway.  We have many more miles to cover, on our road trips through America, and we think we need to get someplace, fast. No time to stop. Our lives are too driven to consider such a thing.

Stan liked stopping. He knew how to slow down. He liked to sit in a spot and watch people, smile, have a conversation, and maybe a little snack.
My husband. how I miss his calling for me when I turn my key in the door. Gathering his cups. His thank yous for that simple act of nurture.
I have the same box of tea bags I had when he died, seven months ago. No one to use them, now.

Perhaps I'll set my coffee habit aside, and learn to love tea. I'll pour it into the cup my husband's grandchildren bought me for Christmas. A quick swipe of the bag, swish it around, take it out

Just the way he liked it. 


  1. It's funny how things that used to be a little annoying are now treasured memories. Stan taught you how to slow down and enjoy life. When I read your posts, I feel as if I knew your loved one.

  2. Tricia, your memories trigger my own lovely memories and bring a bittersweet smile. Each morning my husband would ask, "Cup of tea?" Because his was a quick dunk and mine a longer 'brew,' we even shared tea bags. Must say, am not drinking so much tea these days...

  3. Very sweetly written!