The sun keeps rising

Fran Hall

I took this photo on November 4th, the morning after Steve’s funeral. I was out walking before sunrise, on my own with my thoughts.

As the inky blackness of the night sky gradually changed and lightened, and the orange tint of sunrise spread across the horizon, there was something so reassuring about the rising of the sun. The symbolism of light overcoming darkness and a new day beginning seemed poignant and pertinent as I walked over the frosty fields, trying to sense how I felt.

Before Steve died, I had worried about what it would be like, in the days after his death. We’d known for some months that he had terminal cancer, and I had been occasionally allowing myself to try and think ahead to what life would be like when he eventually succumbed to it.

I was afraid that, when he was dead, I would wake up thinking for a split second that he was still alive, and that I would have to remember each day that he had died, but this hasn’t happened. It seems that while I’m asleep, my subconscious doesn’t forget that he’s gone, so I don’t have to go through that re-remembering. I really hope that this continues. It’s a relief not to have to consciously remind myself of what has happened.

Walking the dog before the sun comes up has become something of a habit in this new, bereaved existence. I am waking really, really early, often 3.30 or 4am. This is a new thing. No matter how late I’ve gone to bed, nor how tired I am, whether I’ve had a drink the night before or not, I wake up with a start, and that’s it, my day has begun. I’ve learned to get up and get out and walk, early, before the rest of the world gets up.

I’m blessed to live in a semi-rural location, so there are fields and woods and footpaths all around. Within five minutes of the house, I can be walking along the canal or across the golf course, with just birdsong for company, and Juno, our rescue dog (who belongs to my son but who has become my surprised but delighted early morning walking companion).

We walk for miles, returning home as others, who keep more normal hours, are setting off for their morning walks. This suits me absolutely fine; I’ve found I don’t want to get chatting to anyone at the moment. If we do meet another early riser, smiling and nodding seems to be enough, early morning people seem quite undemanding of social niceties.

I am finding that walking moves me forward in more than just a physical way. Emptying my mind and just keeping putting one foot in front of another as we wander different routes each day creates space for the jumble of feelings and emotions to order themselves. I noticed this, that first day after we buried Steve’s body. I realised that I needed to keep giving myself this time on my own, moving my body but letting my mind rearrange itself as it needs. As I walk, I feel lighter, less dense, less contracted into painful and hard-edged grief.

Sometimes, tears stream down my face, as the deep sadness of being without him wells up and overwhelms my thoughts, but as quickly as it comes, that sadness passes, and other thoughts and memories take its place. I just let them all come and go, like bubbles drifting in the air and then vanishing. I have learned to do this. It’s instinctive and yet unfamiliar to me, but I know it’s the right thing to do, to just allow feelings to drift in and out of my mind.

This solitude is something I need, almost crave, while at the same time I need company, and distraction. I’m trying to ensure I get adequate of both, although I haven’t got the balance right yet. And I don’t want to be far away from home, I feel I need the sense of safety and security of familiar things around me, to be safely tucked away from other people, to be able to pick up and put down things as I feel inclined, not to have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to. It’s an effort to make myself go anywhere at the moment, but walking in the early morning feels like a good habit to form. Silence and birdsong and the sound of water are strong medicine. And watching the sun come up on another day reminds me that every day I am alive is a gift.

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Bob Coates
Bob Coates
10 months ago

The sun is usually going down when I walk; most often in the nearby ‘Royal’ park. The atmosphere pre-dusk, particularly at this time of year (roaring stag; mistletoe-festooned Lime), heightening the melancholy.
The favourite though is the twenty nine thousand, four hundred steps (mainly along the riverbank) from my front door to my wife’s place of rest. It takes me by where we met when she was seventeen, where we courted and where we lived for thirty of our forty eight years together.  

Sue Holmes
Sue Holmes
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob Coates

Oh Bob, I’m really sorry to hear about Sheri. I have so many happy memories of you both (and Ben and Brewster). You supported us both at the very start of our married life which neither Andrew or I ever forgot. Take care my friend xx

Sammy Wilsmore
Sammy Wilsmore
10 months ago

The word that reaches me is: refreshing. Feels like an odd one to associate with such a piece, but the raw honesty is just that: refreshing. I come from a family that is quite closed off from the subject, being able to read your writings is amazing, thank you so much for sharing your story. Best wishes x

David Holmes
10 months ago

Raw and powerful. Reminding myself that every new day is a gift is something that has come to me with age.

Stevie Glover
Stevie Glover
10 months ago

You are right, finding the balance is everything. X

Joanna R Vassie
10 months ago

Thanks Fran, I’m sure your story is going to help so many who find themselves in your situation, they will realise all their feelings are quite normal. much love Jo x

Sue Goodrum
10 months ago

I can imagine your early morning scene, without pressure and open to the flow of your memories and feelings. Quite beautifully described, thank you Fran.