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By Belinda

I have been working hard over some time off from work, getting my upside down house in order. There's still more to be done, but my soul is happy with what has been done.

One big job tackled and done, as I mentioned in a recent post, was dismantling all of our photo albums covering 1966-2006--that's 40 years of photos--and putting them into photo storage boxes. It was hard work just taking them out of the albums, then breaking down the albums for recycling. But I also wrote on index cards the main events covered in the photos in that box.

A wonderful surprise was finding photos of the part of our lives that I've recently been writing about--Mum's stroke and our journey as a family that surrounded that event.

It was a strange feeling seeing photos of things that I tried hard to capture in writing. I wished that I'd had the photos as I was writing, but what I plan to do is scan the photos and then post little catch up "albums" with links to the corresponding stories.
Meanwhile, I have already scanned in the photos that are connected to the most recent posts about my trip to England at the end of January 2004.

Remember my description of Mum coming home from the hospital in a pink hospital gown, cardigan and slippers? Well, here she is on the evening of that first day home. 

Her cat, Sam, had not seen her for two months and since he always was a "one woman cat," he was so happy to  have her home and she was delighted to give him the treats he looked forward to.

By Saturday morning (Mum had arrived home on Thursday,) Mum and I were learning the rhythms and routines that worked for her. I found myself wishing that it could always be me, helping her with them, and not a stranger, however kind that person might be.

I asked Mum if the carers that had come to help her immediately after her stroke had been nice; before the gastro-enteritis that sent her back to hospital. 

"Some of them," she said. Mum was not able to express herself in many words anymore, but sometimes the few words she chose, spoke volumes.

I thought of the different people, with different routines and different ways of doing things and I decided that the next day I would write out Mum's routines so that it would feel as comfortable as possible for her.

That night as I helped her get ready for bed she told me as we did that routine, "I'll be doing this myself." I begged her not to try. I knew she needed help and I worried that if she appeared to be more able than she really was, the help might be withdrawn.

Never the less, Mum was blossoming and "coming back" to us a little at a time.

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That morning I had gone to run some errands in the village and stopped at her hairdresser, "Imagination." I asked the young girl doing hair if any of the hairdressers did hair in people's homes, and she said that she did. Her name was Charlotte and she said that she would call me the next week to make an appointment. I would set up a bi-weekly appointment for Mum just like she always had before at Imagination. I was so grateful to find that someone from her own hairdresser's was available! Charlotte was to faithfully do Mum's hair every two weeks for the next 8 years!

After leaving the hairdresser I walked up the steep hill to the churchyard, intending to stop by Dad's grave. As I got to the entrance to the churchyard, I felt the old familiar emptiness, wondering where he was and would I see him again one day.  

Then I remembered all of the assurances that God had given me and something inside of me broke. For the first time I really felt that I would see him again. I knelt beside his grave, my left hand resting on the rough wooden temporary cross and cried as I traced the engraved lettering on the brass name plate.

I suddenly knew what to put on the headstone that Rob and I still had to choose: Christopher Leslie Cater--dearly loved husband and Dad--"Until We Meet Again."

Rob was happy that I had thought of something and right away made arrangements for us to go and look at some headstones that afternoon.We would make the final choice the following week. 

To be continued...

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