Wednesday, 26 December 2018

LOVE, DEATH AND CHRISTMAS




As the year is quickly coming to an end (late Christmas Eve as I write this) and the official holiday time has approached us. I feel like it's that time of the year where you can truly reflect on the year you’ve just had. You work out and summarise if you've had a sh** year or not. And for some that can lead to this festive period, feeling like a real emotional time. Christmas is about love, joy, cheer, merriment, pulling crackers, celebrations, sprouts, long walks, mulled wine, family and everything in between.....So why on earth am I about to talk to you about Death.

This year has been incredible work wise. I toured a no.1 hit show, working with the no.1 theatre company in the world. Travelled across America, lived in New York and worked with the most talented, hard working bunch of people that I have ever had the pleasure to work with (epic but true). I also got to celebrate my best friend getting married (with an epic hen in Las Vegas), travelled to the south of France with an amazing group of friends to watch a magical open air amphitheater performance of Jamiroquai (With my friend Sola Akinbola drumming). I also got cast in a TV bbc drama 'Gold Digger', playing a younger Nikki Amuka Bird (inspired me for years), which will be on your screens next year. Also recorded an gripping political radio play for bbc, filmed a commercial, performed and worked on a new musical with a stella cast. But what I never ever shared with you is that I lost one of my closest friends to cancer earlier in the year. 

I was in NY at the time and Vikki deteriorated quite suddenly. I literally got a call and she was passing the next day. I was up searching for flights to come back on the Sunday to see her to say goodbye, but it was too late. At the time I was told she had gone, I acted like everything was normal. I got on the subway, travelled to work and then completely broke down. There were discussions of me not going on (to perform in King Lear at Bam Theatre, Brooklyn) but I somehow thought of Vikki and managed it. I had a convo with her in March, she was having chemo again and wasn’t feeling fit enough to watch my show which was at the Hackney Empire, London at the time. She kept apologising, and I just thought she was poorly from the chemo (unaware that that would be the last conversation I'd have with her). Even being at her funeral I didn’t actually fully register that she was gone (felt surreal). It’s only really this last week that I think I've felt ready to open up and accept that she’s no longer with us. I’ve had time to think about her husband Mike's first Christmas without her. I want her to text me to let me know when to drop off the boys gifts (she has two adorable sons), I want her to call me to tell me how her treatments are going.....And I want her to reflect the question back to me (as she always did) and ask how I’m doing. When Dag (Vikki who I've written about before here) first told me she had breast cancer in late 2015, I knew the angels would need her but I didn’t realise she’d be needed so quickly. As my mum had cancer I always felt like Dag could be really frank and honest with her illness with me. I would ask the questions that needed asking and she knew that I didn't need to hear only the good. In New York I wanted her selfishly not to pass whilst my mind and body was so wrapped up and distracted in acting work. All of my friends at the time rallied around her bedside in Queens hospital, Essex and were with her till the utter end....apart from me.

Also whilst being in New York I was told that my grandad was really ill and in hospital again. At 87, I’ve slowly seen him get frail and more poorly over the years. Then on a what’s app family group by my aunt (oddly not on my grandads side), I was casually informed that he had passed. My aunt thought everyone on the whats app group knew and was passing on her condolences (I didn't know because of the US time difference). My dad wanted to tell me at the right time. I immediately phoned my dad once reading the whats app message, and he said he was planning to tell me once back, as he didn't want me to worry (But I was worried, worried about how he was feeling after just losing his dad)

So after Vikki and my grandads funeral, which I didn’t attend because my dad said there’s no point flying back from NYC as grandad wouldn’t want that. He wanted to see you in Eastenders! (grandad would literally always ask me 'when am I going to see you in eastenders'. Every single time I saw him). I didn’t go to my grandads funeral as my family assured me that in grandad's heart, he’d would rather watch me on stage, doing what I know he loved, that he knew I only dreamed of doing (it just made sense to us).

But what I was also not sharing with you recently on instagram (because this definitely isn’t living 'the best life' content) or here. Is that seven weeks ago and five days after her 91st birthday, I lost my gran Claris Anastasia.....Now this is very hard to write....I just wasn’t prepared for that to happen. Gran lived a long story telling life (I loved hearing her stories) and still is such a remarkable women who I don’t think they make like her anymore. She had time and love for absolutely everyone and anyone. She didn’t care who you were, because she would invite you into her home. Gran didn’t have any old fashioned stale values (even at 91). Her heart was enormous and probably why she had over 400 people attend her funeral. I also don’t know how she was able to have such a giving relationship with her eight children (one including my mum) and many grand and great gran children (over 30 of us on her side of my family). Claris was strong and fierce. Fought through a lot invited here to the UK, coming over from the caribbean in the 1960's. Highly religious but never in a preachy over bearing judgemental way. She was just so special and loyal to so many people. Gave the best advice and was always someone you knew you could immediately turn to. Seeing her deteriorate over the last few months, and hearing her trying to mouth
I love you back at me a day before she passed still breaks my heart.

And just the notion of watching her and other people you love suffer is what pains the most at this sensitive time of year. So with Christmas slap bang in your face and with no chance of escaping it (unless you find a sunny beach somewhere).....It’s okay to say you want to give Christmas a nice big
punch in the face this year. We have to stop this way of never ever talking about grief. It's okay to say you're hurting, that you feel a huge measure of saddened pain. 

You can hopefully see that after the year I've had that writing about fashion just didn't feel right. But I still have the time to smile and you can too. We would not grieve if we did not love, so remember there isn't a set guide on how you're supposed to feel and deal with death. I've been in shock for a while but writing this honest post has therapeutically already helped mentally. Hopefully in time you'll feel open to continue to love and see how beautiful this thing called life is (If writing can help you, do jot down your daily thoughts). And what really helps me is knowing that Vikki, Grandad and Gran would never ever want to see their friends and family cry or upset. They'd all be saying get out there love! dance and shine! Spend every day grateful for what you have and make every single moment count.......If you’re alone or feeling lonely this year, you're not alone because I’m sending you all my love and warm wishes  xxx Wishing you a Glorious Holiday Season and A Happy New Year xxx

(You also maybe reading this having never had an illness such as cancer immediately effect you or never felt the loss of missing a love one. So I really do thank you for clicking this post and reading a topic that I know is highly sensitive to discuss. But by putting into words hopefully you have a clearer understanding (as you may have someone you care about suffering from a loss). If you or anyone you love is effected please try not to deal with your difficulties alone. Macmillan is an amazing charity that are here for you to talk, especially during this festive season)
. X

*All vintage prints available to purchase framed and selected by Free Mile Style.


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