I wrote this in October but didn’t feel ready to post it at the time, but tomorrow is the 1st anniversary service for my nephew and I want to mark it and then tell you what else has happened in the last couple of months… which will be in another post shortly
I have been unable to post anything for many months due to several personal crisis’ this year. We’re having what the Queen once called an ‘annus horribilis’. My emotional and physical energy has had to be focused on supporting the family and planning for the future while my work which has been slow the last couple of years anyway dried up even more. The final blow being my 7-year home based class collapsing for a number of reasons I had no control over!
10 months on we are still in the middle of the stress. This is going to be rather a long post – there’s a lot to fill in on but hopefully the next post will be a shorter and more positive one when I post some pictures of some banners I designed for one of the churches we used to look after.
Before I explain what’s been happening we are having a ‘house cooling’ sale at our house this weekend, selling lots of things we need to get rid of and serving refreshments plus a preview of the winter Fairtrade cards and catalogues for Traidcraft and Tearfund’s Created, hope you can come if you’re in the Brighton & Hove area
(Of course this has now passed)
Firstly my husband moved sideways in his job which comes with tied accommodation. We were assured we could stay in the same house, but when it came to it, local politics kicked in and the louder voices won, which meant we spent the already stressful pre Christmas period pleading with the people concerned to reconsider because it means a massive downsize and is the house we declined when given the choice eight years ago, when we knew this one would work for us in every way and that one wasn’t going to.
We were still reeling from this, the thought of having to go through a 5th move having had to move twice in both of our previous situations already and the knock on consequences of longer journeys to schools, colleges and work, when in January, our 16 year old nephew took MDMA (a powdered form of Ecstasy) for the first time as far as we were aware. Within 2 days, 11 out of the 12 adults capable of getting there were at his bedside in the emergency wards at Kings Hospital in London when all the life support systems had to be switched off. Absolutely everything in his body had closed down, he’d had 3 heart attacks, Kings and another hospital nearer Hayes where the rave took place had done as much as they could, operated to save his legs from clots, pumped him full of good drugs, put him on every conceivable life support machine. They couldn’t do anything more to support his body without damaging it further, so if his body couldn’t pick up from there we were going to lose him. We prayed, we wept, we hoped, we hugged, but in the end his body was so damaged he would have been extremely disabled that if he had lived it would have been a living hell. As we watched the life waves diminish on the monitors and listened to the beeps changing in tone, we held hands, we said farewell rites, their minister anointed him with oil and then we held our own counsel. It was both a tremendous privilege to be there Aunts & Uncles wouldn’t normally be able to say goodbye but a horrendous place to be, how could someone so vibrant and clever and outgoing take 5g of a drug and be dead two days later? Would God do a miracle for us or was he going to take him to a greater peace? And what were we to do with the outcome of his one stupid decision?
I hadn’t been able to go up to London the first day he was in treatment, I had to stay in Hove with our younger teens, so I was praying all day and kept hearing the phrase ‘make it count’ all the time while my heart was pleading with God to let him pull through. The next day was Monday, the children had school, so I went up with Alex (my husband). I went up hoping that things had improved overnight, but we met another brother in law on the stairs and he filled us in on how desperate it was. I still couldn’t believe it, but the amazing young male nurse very gently confirmed to me that we were as far as we could go now and so my focus changed to praying for support for his mum Fiona, dad Tim & brother Jacob and how we were all going to get through the next few hours, days, and months along with the other family members who were also there. After Daniel died his father, Tim said ‘I suppose it’s at times like this people set up a foundation’ and so the ‘make it count’ message I had kept hearing made sense
I lost my father about 4 years ago, he was getting more & more disabled and grumpy with life and in the end it was a blessing for him when he left for a more happy place. We had wonderfully positive celebration of his life after a private close family cremation, that’s not to diminish the pain and grief of everyone who loved him, but this a hundred times worse. It always seems so wrong when your children go before you, when they die after such a stupid decision it is even worse. We’ve been there over the months, trying to support and encourage through the awful things Tim & Fiona have endured. They very bravely agreed to talk to the Press from the beginning in spite of the often crass hassling and reporting by some parts of the press pack, (most have been very supportive and reported fairly) they’ve been incredibly gracious, non judgmental, open and faithful. They have talked on TV and radio, to newspapers and magazines all in the hope of preventing other youngsters from making the same mistake. They have had to wait ages for the funeral while inquests were opened and dealers arrested, through the trial of the runner, who got off on a technical mishap and the dealer, who got a sentence having admitted his guilt – we hope for restorative justice in time and pray he will find peace, forgiveness and a new life while he’s in prison.
Their lovely church, Emmanuel Church of England, cooked meals, did laundry, shopping, tidying before interviews and millions of other little acts of kindnesses for us all. The teens and staff at Daniels school – Archbishop Tennyson’s, have been incredibly supportive throughout. Friends have come along with special skills to help set up the Daniel Spargo Mabbs Foundation (will link as soon as I can ) http:/dsmfoundation.org.uk, the school friends have supported with fundraising and going out to other local schools to talk about their loss and experience. They all pulled together in an amazing way for the extremely positive funeral. The most choking experience of all was as family cortege wound past the school on it’s way to the crematorium. It was pouring with rain, the whole sixth form stood outside, cold and wet under brollies as we passed between the line ups, my realization that stastically many of them will have their lives blighted by drugs whether addictive, recreational or through losing other friends was overwhelming, so much promise and so much evil in the culture we now live in that preditates on our youngsters for financial gain, without thought for people’s wellbeing or futures. Then a close family internment, still pouring, but somehow seeming right. A sense that God was not pleased, He was angry and the gloomy weather somehow expressed His and our grief over yet another too early death.
The church was packed, the presentations by friends and uncles positive while emotional, the press hovering outside like vultures, the singing, the memories, the stories and jokes rounding out an intelligent, challenging, teasing, lovely young man who we shouldn’t have lost; a colourful personality just like the clothes we’d been asked to wear.
But then the ongoing grief, pain, media interest. The setting up of the foundation, the healing and counselling, meeting with other drugs awareness organisations and other lost families. It’s been agonising being on the sidelines, seeing the ups and downs, the tears and the little rays of hope, the shocks and reality of the drugs world out there, and the ‘friends’ who drew him into taking that silly decision. I have felt helpless and useless much of the time, the little I can do in support is so small, but their friends who are nearby have been amazing and continue to bless us in many ways.
The foundation is up and running now, we’re all doing fundraising as we are able. About 20 friends and friends of friends did a Croydon to Brighton cycle ride, we met them in and hope to host their coming in more meaningfully next year. And so to our second sale, our first being on our drive in the summer, shared with our son’s school eco volunteer work trip to Tanzania – see my Tanzania Mania quilt blog louisemabbstanzaniamania.wordpress.com for the project I’m doing to pay ¼ of his expenses for that. This time being likely to be cold and wet we’re doing it indoors and over three days.
So as for us after a long haul trying to work out how to fit in the new house, arguing for a few minor alterations so it will function for us and many delays before getting go aheads plus a lot of reorganising my work materials and equipment, getting stuff off to auctioneers and charities, recycling and swapping my loom for help on my website and media status… we are a month or so from the move.
In the middle of this I had a heart scare in the spring, lots of tests, cut out caffeine again (it worked), cut down, hopefully, on my fat, sugar and salt intake, lost weight, gained it, got cellulitis on my left ankle (week of antibiotics) fought off a kidney infection (another week of a different one), went to do my stall at the Festival of Quilts in August and got bitten by another insect so had cellulitis on my right leg! This time it wrapped completely round my calf and bubbled up into a nasty water balloon which painfully popped and took about five weeks to heal up with 3 lots of other oral antibiotics one of which I reacted badly to with immediate raging thrush on the top of my legs and shoulders and finally 4 days getting intravenous AB’s in the Sussex Royal Hospital, which meant Alex & I missed Greenbelt a really good Christian Art’s Festival, because he had to take me up there each day and I was on bed rest for a couple of weeks! In the midst of this we celebrated our 23rd Wedding Anniversary but it was a rather extreme way to get the time to ourself! Kind friends had offered to look after our younger teens if we put them on the train, so they were well looked after and we had the space to spend hours at the hospital waiting for authorization to have the shots. Having had a serious bout about 13 years ago in London I knew it was necessary but the 30 minute procedure took several hours each day as we waited for a doctor to be available to agree it. Alex missed working and networking for his new Ecology-Theology role. Maybe next year we will get to have a normal year for once!
I’m extremely grateful in all this that I haven’t got too SAD-o this year (Seasonally Affected Depression). Moving to Brighton 8 years ago I realised how much brighter the air and light is here, so grey days feel twice as bad as they did in London. I’m often exhausted by the end of November after all my Fairtrade events & three lots of every church service throughout December and Christmas itself leaves me cold with the excessive materialism of society around us, the twee representation of Baby Jesus in the community and the way He gets lost in the often frantic busyness of the church calendar. I much prefer Easter when we think about his life and death and why without it we would not have the hope, grace or experience of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
This year I hope to arrive at the end of the year quietly, having finally moved to our new home and worked out where everything will go and am looking forward to my new studio, this time downstairs, light and spacious, with a garage to store my fabric and junk modeling treasures -recycled/reclaimed ‘rubbish’ (Alex), which I have great plans for. In the new year I may finally be starting to teach at a local Adult Education centre – classes were undersubscribed in September but that gave me space to deal with moving issues – and once I’m up and running I have many projects to finish, start and hopefully get a new home class going too.
In the meantime I have my sale this weekend and then 13th – 15th November I am a guest artist/teacher at the West Country Quilt Show westcountryquiltshow.co.uk in Bristol a new venue for me. After which maybe we will finally be moving!
I hope if you are reading this, you have had a much better year and never have to face the loss of your loved ones to drugs of any form. Please visit their website to see what projects they’re working towards & our quilt fundraising project
I promise to talk about textiles and positive creativity next blog, but I needed to explain the long gap this time.