We’d had much needed rain overnight. This morning Sarah was taking me to see my dear friends Julie and Terry after the death of their son Jason. It would be a bitter sweet visit as I hadn’t seen them since before Covid and I’d not been to Milton Keynes for years. A place I lived for 30 years and which Sarah thinks of as home as she spent much of her life there and frequently visits her friends….
It was also Julies birthday. Now sadly one associated with the passing of her much loved eldest son. It was also the eighth year anniversary since I was diagnosed. So a very bitter sweet date in the calendar.
I txt Julie to say we’d only stay an hour and absolutely no food, but she’d replied in her usually manner of ‘I’ll make us some lunch’.
Me and Sarah spoke about so much on the journey and she told me about the Conversation partners being introduced at Hull Royal and her own hospital at Castle Hill. Our trust has appointed a Dementia and delirium Matron and a Dementia and Learning disabilities clinical educator . Their aim being to improve care for people with dementia, learning disabilities but covers other neurological conditions and Sarah believe both are passionate to bring about much needed change.
The Conversation partners are volunteers trained in using an app which will in turn spark conversations appropriate to the person. So it helps both the volunteer and the patient as it’s more structured in a personal way. And as Sarah says, if you get it right for someone with dementia it can be appropriate for many more.
It was a three hour journey so we stopped half way for a cuppa and the loo and just to stretch our legs. It was a strange journey of rain, sunshine, rain, sunshine, all the way there.
We were heading for Junction 14 at Newport Pagnell on the M1, famous for it’s services, being one of the first to open to all traffic in 1960. We lived in this town on the edge of Milton Keynes for many years before I moved to Willen in Milton Keynes. Our children went to school there together. Newport Pagnell, Cedars Junior school their starting point for all that followed.
We watched the development of Milton Keynes, which has only just become a city in the last year, even though we called it a city from the start. It was built to ease the housing shortages in an overcrowded London. Created in the American style of vertical and horizontal roads linked by roundabouts. We always used to joke how you could tell someone from Milton Keynes by the wear of their tyres on the inside from going round all the roundabouts 😂 It was known, and still is, as the City of Trees. Soo many were planted to hide the housing estates and often all you can see when driving along the roads are trees. Imagine how it must look in the Autumn 😍 At the physio department, where I worked at the hospital with Sylvia, was a physio, Jane, whose husband had been a leading light in its design and creation.
We moved there in the early 1980’s and Julie and Terry a couple or so years before.
I typed so much on the journey but it failed to save 🙈🙈…so I’m now going from my emotions and photos….🙈😔 I remember our conversation growing quieter as we neared our destination
I wondered if I feel a familiarity once we arrived. Well Junction 14 certainly looked familiar and even had the obligatory roadworks in place1
First it didn’t, then the familiar roundabouts kicked in and the signs of once familiar places brought the surroundings from blurry and unfamiliar to crystal clear.
Me and Sarah made a short stop at Willen with it’s beautiful calm Peace Pagoda and the two large lakes which were my running ground for many years. I was lucky enough to live a We might have gone there after our visit, looking at the photo order, but as I said, all my notes were deleted 🙈
As we headed into Middleton, the familiar houses and streets came into view and suddenly I was transported back in time.
We turned into their street and their house instantly stood out as the house with all the colour, all the flowers, just as I remembered it. Julie is the most amazing gardener, always has been. Making a relatively small piece of land into a paradise, a haven for wildlife and flowers…and Terry, being an expert in lightening, added the finishing touches creating a stunning look, especially in the evening..
As we got out of the car I could see figures moving inside and in seconds Julie was on their doorstep and we held each other tight in that hug I so wanted to give her and then Terry. Tears flowed as the emotion of the moment was relived once more before we went and sat, numb with grief, yet so happy to be together again.
Then Alec appeared. As I hugged him I told him I’d never hugged such a tall Alec as I hadn’t seen him for many years. Then his wife Che appeared and more hugs, more welcomes.
We chatted about Jason, reliving moments of pure joy. How he was soooo particular. He never ate 2 things at once. He was the only person I knew that could dissect a Jaffa cake, leaving only the jelly to finish off with 😂. Even a meal on his plate, when he was much younger, was precisely eaten. He’d go around the outside and work his way inside like one big spiral of eating and no two foods ever went in his mouth at the same time.
Terry told such funny stories, which I wrote on the way home but are now gone from my head. But most of all I remember us laughing. Laughter gets you through the worst moments in life and laughter got us through this one.
Towards the end of our visit, the final piece of their jigsaw arrived, as Ryan and his adorable family came through the door. Once again, I’d never hugged such a tall Ryan before. They’ve both grown into two successful and happy individuals as have all our children.
Jason adored jigsaws. The one piece of the jigsaw absent now was Jason himself. It felt like that important corner piece was missing. His chair still in the corner, laying empty, but his presence filled that room for the few hours we were there and will always be there in spirit and certainly never forgotten by this special family and by the many people whose lives were touched by Jason.
They took us into their family when we needed it most and have never let us go, nor us them.. I won’t be able to get to the funeral, as both girls are working, but I’ll be with them at their side every second of that day.
P.s…..Julie messaged me on my way home, with a message she’d received.
“Hi Julie, hope you don’t mind me contacting you but I was reading Wendy Mitchell’s book ‘Somebody I Used To Know’ and she mentioned her friends Julie and Terry and their son Jason and I wondered if you were the Julie I used to know at GOSH (Great Ormond Street hospital)?”
This nurse cared for Jason in the 1970’s and never forgot him, which just shows how much he touched peoples lives in his 47 years….🥰