Friday, July 20, 2018
Home Blog

To Plan or Not to Plan?

3

“Sometimes we let life guide us, and other times we take life by the horns. But one thing is for sure: no matter how organized we are, or how well we plan, we can always expect the unexpected.” ~ Brandon Jenner

So as my amazing friend Kerry just completed the London Marathon run, I am feeling incredibly proud of her and endlessly grateful because half of the money she raised is in memory of my beautiful Elizabeth.

But I am also feeling very sad because a year ago I too applied for this marathon with a great hope to get a place. I also encouraged seven of my supporters to do the same so we could have our own rainbow team. Kerry was one of them although she ran the London Marathon twice before and was NOT going to do it again. Yet, when I asked her to join, she was too kind to say no. Guess what? None of the rest of my team got the place-  except for Kerry!

Kerry Fitzpatrick running the London Marathon 2018

Now, I am not a runner. Literally, I am not able to run even a mile without stopping to remain alive.  And, if I am being honest, I actively dislike running anyway. So why am I feeling so sad then? Well, it is not because I wasn’t running the London Marathon (although I would quite enjoy to fast-walk it) but because whenever I try to make some plans for my life, they just never work.

For instance, when I finished my coastal walk, I planned to go back to Ukraine to look after my mum who had dementia. The London Marathon seemed a perfect option to continue fundraising for Elizabeth’s Footprint while being physically in Ukraine as I could train for it there. Yet, as someone wise said – ‘life happens to you while you are busy making other plans’. My mum passed away within a month after I entered the ballot. Instead of Ukraine I found myself living on the Outer Hebrides (which I didn’t even know existed!). And I also failed in getting into the London race.

Although it is just one recent example, the truth is that all things in my life that I tried to plan very carefully, ended up like this. I don’t really know whether it was my own fault or the whole universe was against me, but as a result I developed a real phobia of planning which blossoms especially bright after I lost my Elizabeth.

Well, living a life without a plan is equivalent to walking without a destination. Although sometimes it sounds quite liberating, generally it is rather confusing and very stressful. These days, I experience the practical downside of it since I failed to plan properly for my hospital’s walk. I must admit, the lack of preparation makes me struggle every single day. Goodness knows on how many occasions I wished I could press a ‘pause’ button so I could organise some things better in order to maximise my hard effort. But of course, I cannot do that.

So, as Kerry was running the London Marathon yesterday, I spent my entire rest day checking on her progress and thinking deeply about how to plan things so that they work.  As, it seems like it would make a lot of sense to invest more time in organising my next walking challenge.  Obviously, this is assuming that I can overcome my planning phobia!  Please help me if you know a special key to successful planning that could help me to unlock this essential skill.

Thank you so much!

Natalia xx


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal. Charity No. 1043603
©&™ Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation/Aardman/W&G Ltd 2015. All rights reserved

Or go to https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or you can text ELIF 55 to 70070

Letter to my Elizabeth

1

My beautiful little one,

This is so unusual to write you a letter but I desperately want to get in touch with you and I cannot think of any other way.  You don’t have a phone in Heaven, do you?  Oh, I so much wish you did!  It would make such a big difference to me even if l could call you only once just to check that you arrived safely .

I just wanted to tell how much I love you.  Just in the same way as I did before, and  will forever.  Do you remember how I told you that you are my best ever gift in this universe?  You are.  Always.  My special gift that l am unable to see, smell or cuddle any longer but am blessed to remember and love until I no longer breathe.

Since you left the earth, nothing changed here.  Yet, in the same time everything is changed.  Unbelievably.  Inexplicably.  Irrevocably.  Although I still can feel the warmth of the sun and the damp of the rain…and the grass is still green and the sky still blue… Yet somehow this familiar place became very surreal when you disappeared.

Everyday, I wake up thinking about you.  And your beautiful image remains a solid background in my mind of whatever other things might appear throughout the day.  Until the tiredness sucks my thoughts into a deep hole of night. Then, there is nothingness.  For some reason, you don’t like to come to my dreams.  Despite I beg you daily to visit.

Today is a special day, it is Easter.  Usually,  special days come to me with an extra weight which squash extra blood out of my deeply wounded heart.  But Easter is different.  While the pain of missing you is very sharp and real, there is also blissful joy.  Because for me, Easter means Jesus Christ defeated death.  Therefore, a huge thank you to God, you are there alive.  And l will see you again.

Do you know, I am dreaming about that day just as you used to dream about your earthly birthdays.  Oh, what a wonderful event it should be!  I imagine:

You rushing towards me across a blossoming field, excitedly screaming at the top of your lungs – mummy, mummy, mummy… Your golden hair is flying around your angelical-cheeky-smiley face.  So is your dress… And I don’t know yet if it caused by a heavenly wind or by your own eternal energy…

Oh my dream!  I catch you up, wrapping my eventually free from the heavy cross hands around your gorgeous and so much missed figure…holding you…crying…unable to talk.

And you will be wiping my tears with your soft little palms, cheerfully kissing my cheeks and chatting, chatting… Telling me all about your afterlife that unfortunately I cannot possibly imagine while I am still on earth…

I believe you aware of the time when I will be born into your dimension.  Just like I did when you were growing under my heart.  It makes me smile visualising how you arrange a welcoming rainbow party for my arrival!

Do you remember when a few weeks before you were gone, you started to ask me what will I do when you die?  I often think about it. Did you really know?  Did you try to prepare me for a different life without you? And do you know what am I doing in your memory?

Did you manage to meet with the lovely ladies Yvonne and Ethel?  They hosted me along my coastal walk but sadly passed away in December 2017.  I hope they told you that now you are a little star, shining bright and lighting up love and kindness in the world which you adored and planned to live until old age.

By the way, do people get older in heaven?  Are you growing?  Or will you be 5 always?  Oh, Elizabeth, l have millions of questions for you but there is no answer.  Your photo is silent. And it is not really you.

You are somewhere else.  Perhaps far away from earth but still very close to me.  Always.  My broken heart is connected to you in the same way like it did when I was holding you tight in my embrace, enjoying the sweetest joy of just loving you and just being with you.

That is how strongly I feel your presence despite not having seen you for more than two years.  But I wouldn’t know the time if the world didn’t tell me.  I guess, because you took me with you to heaven and we both are here, and there, until we are together again.


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal. Charity No. 1043603
©&™ Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation/Aardman/W&G Ltd 2015. All rights reserved

Or go to https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or you can text ELIF 55 to 70070

One Day At A Time

1

This is the strangest life I have ever known

~ Jim Morrison ~

On Monday, as I ventured my way through the snowy paths, I found myself staring at the Longleat Forest gates. These ones that cheerfully welcomed my excited Elizabeth to the famous holiday park back in 2014. But this time it was closed, empty and desolated. Just like my own life.

Contemplating about the time which no longer I can enter, l walked inside to the black and white image, dream-trotting on the familiar path and imagining little footprints buried somewhere under the snow and under the 4 years old dust. She was there, asking if she could try these highly appealing girlie things that the holiday offered. And I was there too, telling her that she had to be patient because she would have a long life ahead with plenty of other opportunities to enjoy everything she liked …

But I bought her a cute fox as a reminder of the fun she had in Longleat. That one that is silently seating now in the pocket of my rucksack, witnessing thousands of miles I do in Elizabeth’s memory.

On Tuesday, still feeling thunderstruck by the sudden visit, I asked myself a simple question – am I mad? Am I living in a real world or all of it is an illusive creation of my own brain or even better, just a bad dream?

On Wednesday, a few blue-lighting ambulances overtook me, rushing poorly somebodies into the hospital. Unfortunately, these days I face loads of them. And every single time l can hear the sirens, my heart is bleeding as badly as it was on the night when Elizabeth was rushed to the Bristol Children’s Hospital. It always comes with an inexplicably sharp pain. Because of my daughter. Because someone else struggles to keep alive. Because I know how it feels when your loved ones is inside of the ambulance.

l finished that day at Yeovil Hospital with a marvellous reception that lifted up my spirit and provided me with enough energy and motivation to keep going.

On Thursday, I walked throughout a lot of quite distinctive, yellow-stoned villages as pretty and carefree as a fairyland. It prompted my mind to ask my heart about what could it possibly want from it’s own future. But despite the very best attempt to figure it out, the only answer my heart managed was just to be there where my daughter is …

That evening, l was blessed with another amazing and warm gathering at the Angel community centre in Langport. As I comfortably set there, munching the rainbow cakes and listening to the beautiful choir of local children and their mums:

Red and yellow and pink and green, Purple and orange and blue, I can sing a rainbow, Sing a rainbow, Sing a rainbow too!

Listen to your heart, Listen to your heart, And sing everything you feel …

I thought about my Elizabeth. About the time when she sang these exact words on the proper stage (together with the ballet group). Just four months before she passed away.

There is a DVD from that day, hidden somewhere in my all-over-the-places storage. But l never watched it. And I think, never will.

On Friday, I reached the town of Taunton which has population of nearly 70,000 people. But did you know that one of the loneliest places to be is actually in the crowd? I learned, this is so true and so sad indeed.

Taunton Hospital was my final destination which met me with rain and with lovely Helen (my host for that night) who kindly came to support my visit to the A&E, regrettably unexpected.

It takes me a lot of guts to walk inside of an official organisation and explain who I am, what l do and which support l hope for to the people who never heard about Elizabeth’s Footprint. Here is my freshly learned lesson – living one day at a time is a great thing without a doubt … until you are entering an official world which has a tendency to plan everything years in advance!

Later that evening, we had a meaningful and inspiring chat with Helen and her family. Painful too. Because, sadly, we share child loss in common. Their precious son and brother Lloyd was beaten to death on 25 September 2005 in Taunton. On the eve of his 18th birthday.

Since then, Adam, his brother, runs a charity in his memory and here is a link where you can find out more information:

https://standagainstviolence.co.uk/who-we-are/

Talking to Helen opened up my mind and helped me to understand that my still-just-the-same-raw-feelings are totally normal. Yes, I am. Lost. Numbed. Unable to plan ahead. Unable to identify myself. Unable to have a personal wish.

Because two years is NOT enough time really. Even though sometimes our society encourages us, grieving parents, to make premature decisions and conclusions because they want us to move on. But the reality is so different. There is no such thing as moving on after loosing a child. But there is a life, sometimes a very different one to which we had before. In my case, it is walking a different place every day and raising funds for others critically ill children and their families.

On Saturday, tired and dishearten by decreased donations, l plodded through the mousy coloured day alongside the wet asphalt. Thinking about my problems. Until I faced the real one – where, oh where to find a toilet?! Such a basic desire that puts rest of the life into a correct perspective.

I was just crossing a holding edge when I suddenly discovered the Blue Ball pub at the top of a hill that I nearly disgraced. Dashing into the ladies department, l dropped my card to the astounded barmen.

When (after a while) l came back (blushing of course), he politely asked me if I would like a cup of coffee and a sandwich. I said no to the food but accepted the coffee. Obviously. And the generous donation, which followed from the kind owner Fiona. And that was enough to cheer me up for the unforeseeable future.

On Sunday, I rest. I am already in Devon, in the Travelodge hotel nearby Tiverton. Which is lovely but doesn’t offer a washing machine. I had no problem to wash my muddy stuff in a bath but drying it out required much more creativity. My wet socks especially as strangely, they are the sickest part of my wardrobe. They travelled all over the room until I found an appropriate place for them. On the lamp shades.

Satisfied, l walked to the Costa Coffee for writing there my blog entry. When I came back, my room was perfectly cleaned. And my sock still hanging from the bedroom lighting. Because they walked 97 miles this week and deserved a good rest …


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal. Charity No. 1043603
©&™ Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation/Aardman/W&G Ltd 2015. All rights reserved

Or go to https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or you can text ELIF 55 to 70070

The Guardian Newspaper

0

I’m aiming to raise £1m for the team that took care of Elizabeth – and have helped comfort others along the way.

Read my story in The Guardian newpaper feature.


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal. Charity No. 1043603
©&™ Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation/Aardman/W&G Ltd 2015. All rights reserved

Or go to https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or you can text ELIF 55 to 70070

From Sunday to Sunday

2

Overlooking the cosily covered thick snowy blanketed buildings, I am really feeling blessed that it is my rest day today. I have a time to reflect on my week and my memories. And to write a blog.

Last Sunday, 11th of March, I woke up at 5 am with a huge headache. It was Mother’s Day. It was a start of my third walk of love. And I was very apprehensive about these imminent challenges.

I didn’t want to face my own reality. All I wished for was to call my mum and tell her how much I loved and missed her. And afterwards, just stay in the bed waiting until my beautiful daughter would treat me with her cute drawings and with her so affectionate cuddling.

Instead, thinking about them both being in heaven, I took two painkillers. Then I packed Elizabeth’s photo into my rucksack, put on the pink walking gear and stepped outside to start a new walking chapter which might well continue for the rest of my life.

Firstly, I visited the C of E St James School in Cheltenham. The school which my daughter loved wholeheartedly and which hosted a Mothering service that Sunday. It was such a fitting synchronicity especially as Reverend Natalie kindly offered to bless me with a special prayer for the following journey.

So, I walked to the school. Just like I did so many times together with my little Elizabeth. Millions of images flashed inside of my mind, dipping me once again into the most precious moments of my entire life.

Here she was rushing to me with her sticking out, who-knows-why unplaited hair. Mummy, mummy, mummy… Swirling around the hall in her beautiful yellow party dress… Proudly showing a star reward that she stickered to her shoe…and a missing button on her uniform…Chatting, endlessly…

Until suddenly, she is there – silently greeting me from the photo that now lives on the piano, decorated in her memory by the lovely rainbow handprints of her school-friends…

l cried. Even though I wasn’t able to cry for the last six months. But now, I just couldn’t hold the tears. Oh! How could l manage being so broken down before I even started the day?!

The service was really beautiful. Loving. Heart warming. At the end, children went around with flower baskets, sweetly spreading the posies to the adults. l got two. And cried again.

Afterwards, my friend Sara drove me to my official starting point at the A&E of the Cheltenham General Hospital. The place where on the morning of 22nd November, two years ago, I was hastily carrying Elizabeth holding her in my arms for the very last time.

I honestly didn’t expect that so many people would come to send me off! There were my friends and my supporters. People I knew and I didn’t. And the group of nurses and the doctor who tried so hard to stabilise Elizabeth on that unforgettable day. All encouraging me with their supportive hugs and their lovely wishes.

About 11.45am my third walk of love began. The sun generously poured glorious light and warmth on our region, it felt like I received a special blessing from the skies.

A colourful crowd followed me out of the town until my route turned to the extremely muddy field. Still, there were some brave ladies ready to walk with me up to the end.

Now, I promised to write an honest, real account, didn’t l? And as you know life wouldn’t be real life without unexpected, and often embarrassing, mishaps. Hence I had one too despite my best precaution not to.

I was crossing a bridge thinking about the marvellous spring when Majella (a lovely lady who walked behind me), kindly said that there was something falling out of my trousers. Immediately l knew that l was in an indelicate situation.

Well, it wasn’t just something but my black knickers! (before you even ask – a spare one) Oh, my word! I honestly have no slightest idea how these ended up being there (perhaps it was my cheeky Elizabeth, wanting her Mummy to smile on such a special day) but I very much thank God that they didn’t show up somewhere earlier. Especially when I was receiving my holy blessing, standing in the middle of the school hall!

Rest of the journey was quite normal. We had some incredible mud that added a lot of weight to our footwear. We followed a wrong path that lead us right into the bramble bushes and we practised our team skills while crossing a ditch and climbing a tall barbed wired fence.

We came to Gloucester one hour earlier than we planned so there was a stop for a coffee before we officially finished at the children unit of Gloucester General Hospital.

The lovely nurses there organised a very welcoming reception in support of Elizabeth’s Footprint. With loads of hot drinks and really delicious cakes.

A kind nurse (who looked after Elizabeth while she was in Gloucester), invited me to see the room where Elizabeth spent the last hours of her conscious life.

First, I hesitated. Then, l went in.

Because I had too. Despite the obvious pain, l wanted to relive once again our last minutes together. These precious moments, when l was holding her hand, still believing that she had nothing really serious…

When she was playing with a bright pink light on her finger which she though was a Christmas fairy but not a device that measured her oxygen level.

When, just a second before being put into the induced coma, she gave me the most profound look that said she knew everything more than I did. That it was time for her to go even though she desperately wanted to stay. That it was such a painful goodbye but, in the same time an inspiring promise that it wasn’t forever… One day we WILL meet again.

I left the hospital and finished the day. And finished the week, somehow covering over one hundred miles. Emotionally filled right to the edges of my whole being and cushioned with love and kindness…

My boots are resting in the corner of someone else’s home, ready to take me tomorrow far beyond the horizon I can see out of someone else’s window.

Through snow. Through rain. Through sun.

From Sunday to Sunday…


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal. Charity No. 1043603
©&™ Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation/Aardman/W&G Ltd 2015. All rights reserved

Or go to https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or you can text ELIF 55 to 70070

Welcome to My Blog

0

It is 2 years and 3 months today as I lost my beautiful daughter Elizabeth. I would never think that I can make it without her so far, but I did. And I did it literately by putting one foot in front of the other and taking only one day at a time.

I spent many hours contemplation should I write. Or not to write. A proper blog. I was worried about my imperfect grammar, about what should I actually say and about would anybody be interested in reading it. Eventually, I decided to ask an advice of my wonderful followers on the Facebook page and here I am – encouraged and inspired to document my journey. Just as it is. In an honest and real way.

So, my journey is … Well, I don’t know how to describe it! Definitely, it’s not what I ever imagined in my wildest dreams. Neither it’s something that I would ever chose for myself or wished for other people. The truth is that I don’t really recognise what it is? How did it happened to me? And where does it takes me now?

What I know is that tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Yet, I’m a daughter without a mother and I’m a mother without a daughter. So instead of having a normal day for the occasion, I am starting my third walk of love in memory of them both.

I also know that today is 10th. And every 10th of each month I cannot help but to ‘celebrate’ reaching my yet another challenging milestone.

All is upside down in my world. Like today, I woke up and first thing this morning I read a lovely children’s book by Tracey Corderoy “It’s Christmas!” Why did I do so when I have an enormous pile of other jobs to do as the last minute preparations? Because this was a very special present from the author herself who kindly dedicated this book to memory of my Elizabeth. And I just received it.

We met Tracey back in October of 2015. Elizabeth really loved books so I took her to Tracey’s event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. She also got a lovely book which Tracey signed for her. Reading it later that evening and holding her beside my heart, I never expected to live to the time when I would read a book in her memory …

Where else will I find myself in this realm? That is something I wouldn’t dare to predict. But like a frog who fell in a bucket of milk, I will keep trying to make something positive.

For now, I have to pack my rucksack and get ready to continue my challenging journey. One step at a time, not knowing where, not knowing how? But you are so very much welcome to join me!

Thank you x


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal. Charity No. 1043603
©&™ Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation/Aardman/W&G Ltd 2015. All rights reserved

Or go to https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or you can text ELIF 55 to 70070

Walk of Love 3

0

At 11.30 am on the Mothering Sunday, March 11th, 2018 at the A&E entrance of the Cheltenham General Hospital – I will set off for my third Walk of Love in memory of my beautiful daughter Elizabeth. This will be my official start. However, you can join me at 10 am at the St James School (where Elizabeth studied) as on this occasion they will hold there a church service where I hope to receive a special blessing for my new challenge. You are very welcome to come to any of these places, I will be so much thankful for your support! xxx

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/natalia-spencer


Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Appeal. Charity No. 1043603
©&™ Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation/Aardman/W&G Ltd 2015. All rights reserved

Or go to https://www.justgiving.com/Natalia-Spencer/ or you can text ELIF 55 to 70070

Must Read

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Letter to my Elizabeth

One Day At A Time

The Guardian Newspaper

From Sunday to Sunday

By using this website you agree to accept our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions