The day a huge hole opened in my heart and in my life

I met Roger the same year I first met Icelandic horses and considered myself very lucky indeed to find a man who not only shared much of my outlook on the world, but was also as passionate about horses as I was, probably even more so. I quickly realised that in my 40’s I had finally met my true soul mate and we fell in love so quickly that it was painful to be apart almost immediately and we have spent little time apart since. Roger was romantic, passionate and sensitive. Of course as Roger would say “people are patterns” and I will not pretend that either of us always showed our best side to each other but we have remained close passionate and in love throughout.

Although I converted him to the joys of Icelandic horses very early in our relationship we were put off from buying them initially by the prices at the time. We did not then appreciate fully the special joy (and frustration!) to be gained from riding these gaited and spirited horses. He helped me buy my first horse Beanie (Big Fat Cob) and we searched for a suitable horse for him. This did not go at all well and after being thrown a couple times he finally converted from ‘Big horses’ and together we started our journey into the world of Icelandics, not just in the UK but travelling to ride in Iceland and to see these amazing little horses strut their stuff in World Championships in Germany and Denmark.

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Our first Icelandic horse Fleygur was something of a challenge both because of his anxiety issues and because of our inexperience but we preserved, got help and learned and grew as people and as riders. Fleygur had such personality and funny little ways I often imagined what he was saying and provide a ‘voice over’ Jonny Morris style much to Rogers amusement. With Rogers encouragement and having seen other ‘talking animal’ blogs on Facebook I set up the Little Viking Horse page and gave Fleygur his voice. My intention was to entertain with a positive, slightly funny portrayal of our horses with the hope of also educating people in the UK about Icelandics and promote interest in the breed. The website followed as a more effective way to provide the educative side and this provided space for my own voice too. I guess the writing urge hiding inside me had to come out sometime. The feedback and engagement I received from all over the world inspired me to continue and one year Little Viking Horse was even short-listed for a Social Media Award and he was later adopted by the Icelandic Horse Society GB on their website. I was amazed by the response I had but Roger remained my biggest fan and many many posts were tested on him first. I sometimes wondered what I would write when one of the horses died, how would I break the news? Would I still blog? If it were Fleygur would Svipur take over the mantel of Little Viking Horse?

On the evening of Saturday 7th May Roger my best friend, my husband and my soul mate died suddenly and unexpectedly. A huge hole had just opened in the middle of my world.

We had spent the Friday evening having a lovely meal with family and although Roger was still recovering from flu and a possible chest infection he was up in the morning to enjoy some archery with his sister and brother-in-law and then we all went for a ride. A lovely spring day and a beautiful ride, Roger and Fleygur did their super fast ‘bat out of hell’ tolting on the way home while the rest of us followed at a more sedate pace.

Back at the yard it was clear that Roger was now exhausted and after lunch we waved good-bye to his sister and her husband and went to bed for a nap. He was uncomfortable and a temperature check read 38.1. As a retired nurse he ran through his symptoms took paracetamol to lower his temperature and commented that if it wasn’t for the fact that we thought he had flu and a chest infection, which as someone with mild asthma he would often get if he had a bad cold or flu, he might feel a little more worried about how he was feeling. I might have been more worried too but he had been checked out that week. The previous Tuesday morning I had driven him to Accident and Emergency has he had complained of chest pain when we woke up. He reassured me all the way there that the most likely explanation was ingestion but he had never asked me to take him to hospital with indigestion before, so of course I was worried.  The ECG was normal, though his blood pressure was a little high so reassured we went home and he made an appointment to see his Doctor on the Thursday.

He spent much of Wednesday in bed and that evening he phoned the out of hours Doctors number to run through his symptoms again and seek a view about if he should go back to A&E, the conclusion was it could be flu and that he would probably be okay to wait and see his Doctor in the morning. On Thursday the Doctor checked with the hospital about his test results and could find nothing specific other than slightly high cholesterol (blood pressure was improved) so given the temperature which was lowered by paracetamol flu seemed the most likely explanation. The slight discomfort in his chest, a chest infection. A high temperature is not, Roger and the Doctor told me is not a symptom that would indicate a cardiac problem.

We talked about the dream home we were about to buy and settled on a Nordic style sitting room. Roger said that although he felt like shit he didn’t feel like sleeping and would go and watch some television. I stayed in the bedroom and had a short nap. I don’t know for how long, but when I woke up I got dressed and walked through to the sitting room. Roger was lying on the sofa, not with his head propped on a cushion to watch the TV, though the TV was on but flat on his back with his mouth open just like when he snores. Roger, I said. No response. I shook him a little ‘Roger’ I said more loudly my own heart rate increasing. Nothing. He was warm but he wasn’t breathing. ‘Roger’ I screamed and ran barefoot to my neighbour bursting straight into their home ‘help me help. Roger’ though I felt I could barely speak.

My neighbour, a nurse performed CPR but even as I tried mouth to mouth I could hear Rogers voice in my head saying ‘there is no point in breathing air into the lungs if the heart is not pumping the oxygen round the body’. An ambulance had been called and I grabbed some shoes and both our mobile phones but as we waited I realised it was already too late. I went in to shock and a haze of disbelief descended over me. This can’t be happening. Roger don’t leave me. I love you.

The ambulance arrived. I called my brother ‘I need you’ ‘I’m on my way’.  CPR, adrenaline I don’t know what else and as they worked a glimmer of hope rose in me, but then I noticed they did not use the defibrillator, it’s no use if there is no electrical activity at all. It has to be used immediately. They could not get a tube down his throat, there was no response. He was gone. I was numb.

I wailed when the undertakers took his body away, I have cried some since, but I have not yet sobbed. I know it will come.

It’s been just over a week. My family, friends and neighbours have been amazing. I was immediately surrounded by people sorting things making decisions trying to feed me, hugging me and just being there but I wanted to do each step of the formal processes around Rogers death myself, on my own. I don’t know why I just did. I spoke with the Doctor, took to call from the Coroner confirming the cause of death as a massive heart attack, registered the death and started the plans for the celebration of Rogers life.

Some people told me not to think about the future right now just take one day at a time but that’s not how I work. I lay awake all the first night thinking through all the things I had to make decisions on. I was frightened to sleep I thought if I did I would dream that Roger was still alive and then would have to face the terrible reality all over again. One of the many things I thought about that night was will I ever blog again? What becomes of Little Viking Horse, not just the Facebook page, but all the horses? Roger and I were a team, I went out to work and he did everything else, everything. How will I cope?

I knew at least that I had to let people know what had happened, and for so many of us social media and Facebook is just another part of the way we communicate now. Fleygur’s voice was and still is silent in my head and anyway this post needed to be from me. Once I was sure that family and close friends had been informed I posted the news on my own Facebook and then on Little Viking Horse.

I was blown away by the response, on both my personal account and on Little Viking Horse. I received so many messages of support, love and encouragement and a few women private messaged me to tell me about losing their husbands in similar ways and offering me comfort and hope. I am very glad they did. People often say in situations like this “Nothing I can say will help but…..” But it does, it really does help and I thank everyone who contacted me in this way.

I realise this is a very public thing to do to blog about the death of the man that I loved and so soon when I am still raw and struggling to come to terms with what has happened, but this was not a private happening Roger had touched many people and Little Viking Horse appears has done the same. It is out there, people know and many people care. I can’t do the British ‘stiff upper lip’, close the curtains, shut people out, don’t talk about it. It’s not me. I don’t consider the many many kind words and offers of support as intrusions. Of course I cry when people speak to me and they say how sorry they are but I need to cry, it’s part of the process I have to go through and it has helped me hugely to hear peoples stories of how Roger gave them some advice they valued, encouraged them or their children, was kind or made them laugh.

I have not been able to face dealing with any of our affairs, car registration, banks or anything else. I know I need to get these things done and I need to prepare myself for going back to work but for now I am still numb, my memory is shot to pieces, I cry as soon as I see someone who I last saw before Roger died and I can’t concentrate properly. I don’t feel confident enough to drive and I haven’t been able to listen to the radio, watch TV or play music, so I guess I am not yet ready for the whole reality of life without Roger.

What I do know is the only time I have felt anywhere near normal in these first few days is when I have been with the horses, just getting done what needed to be done for them. On Sunday I rode for the first time and I know that the horses will be an important part of me getting through this. I don’t know how I will manage with them all yet but they will be part of my journey.

I wasn’t sure when I posted the news of Rogers death on the Little Viking Horse page whether that would be the last post I ever made, but the writer inside me was already writing in my head and gradually I realised it wasn’t a choice I was making, I had to write. This webpage allows me to voice my thoughts and I know that gradually Fleygur’s voice will return to me and his joyful, self centred musings will continue on Little Viking Horse.

Roger wanted me to write this blog, he loved it. It will continue.

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10 thoughts on “The day a huge hole opened in my heart and in my life

  1. You are being incredibly brave. I lost my husband Frank 13 years ago. He went off for a swim before lunch as usual (he had been David Wilkie’s coach ) and suffered a massive and totally unexpected heart attack in the pool. He too was far too young.
    Frank never rode my Icelandc horses, but he loved them and helped me a lot. He died doing what he loved (swimming) and the last active thing Roger did was also his passion.
    My friends and my horses saved me and they will do the same for you. One day you will catch yourself laughing with joy out on a ride, and maybe, like I did, feel guilty, but don’t. Live it for Roger.
    Very best wishes and good luck. I’m looking forward to hearing Fleygur’s voice when you are ready.
    Dorothy Thomas

  2. I was so shocked and saddened to hear of Rogers death. I met you both at Tankey Lake, and also your wonderful horses. Roger was a lovely man and he will always come to mind whenever someone mentions icelandics. He was so passionate about them. I think you are incredibly brave and I hope that time heals you quickly. Regards. Daniele & Disco

  3. I am so sorry for your lost. I hope your horses can get you trou this. Horses is very good to listen. Sending you a lot of ❤ ❤ ❤ from sweden.

  4. You are so unbelievably brave and I really send all my strength and hope to you. I am so happy to hear that the horses (and writing )are helping you through this. For as long as I remember I have been reading your blog and I think it is the same for all of us readers, you all have felt so familiar, like we have known you. This is why I have been thinking of you all week and you are in my prayers.

  5. the love shines through in your blog. I dont know what else to say, except hears hoping that the horses will help you through in this new chapter of your life. love and Best Wishes
    Jill

  6. So glad you have the reassurance that you both did everything you could to prevent this tragedy. So glad you are the person I thought you to be. I was going to say, life goes on, but it felt a little callous. You may hate every moment and it may hurt so much you wish it wasn’t but it does and things do resolve into a new sort of normality. There will be joy again. We love you and grieve with you for your loss. All our love, Mo and Nick.

    • Life does go on Mo, and that was Rogers philosophy very strongly so. I miss him hugely, I feel cheated, it’s not fair, why him? Why me? But he was very happy, we were very happy and I am going celebrate his life and hold on to those wonderful memories while I grieve. I have no idea what my future holds but I know it includes lots of support from lots of amazing people.

      • Do you know what my minister said to me when I lost my babies (I lost twin baby boys) when I asked him those questions. The answer made me angry to start with but afterwards really helped. He said, “Why not you? Are you special, different or immune to tragedies that the rest of the human race experience?” Of course, I wanted to say “Yes I am!” and particularly as, at the time I had a strong Christian faith and I believed that I should have been protected by a bastard God (apologies to anyone who still has faith) from those tragedies. He was a wonderful and wise man and gave me many words of wisdom. The other one that might help was the one that led me to abandon my Christian faith (very ironic!). After I lost the babies and my husband left me with the girls, we went on a Church holiday and he said, you need to seize the joy of now. Living a miserable life, waiting for some kind of “reward” in heaven is not glorifying to God. He intends us to experience the joy of the moment, not to mortgage the real now for a promised but unknowable “reward in heaven”. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive. He went on to talk a lot more about heaven, but up until that point my life after my husband left had entirely been lived on the basis of the promised but unknowable reward. Exit Mo and the girls stage left and begin to live in the moment.

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