So you are here.
Maybe you were walking along the beach and found a bottle with my message.
Or maybe someone gave it to you, told you it would be interesting and shared this story.
It doesn’t really matter, because somewhere down the line, the bottle brought you here, right now.
And whatever happens, I am grateful for that walk along the beach or someone passing my message along, coming here and giving this your mind, your time,
If you just want my note without the background, please follow this link:
If you want to know how it all started, let’s me go right back to the beginning. As with many good things, it all starts with a wonderful story, with the ending yet to be written…
This became a concrete idea after I finished reading this story by Amy Krause Rosenthal, called “You May Want to Marry My Husband”
It’s a moving message written from a wife who is dying from cancer, to someone who might meet her husband later, after she passed away. I read it and thought some more.
I wondered what my own wife might have written, before the big C took her away from our family nearly 18 months ago.
I thought of how she might have summed up the things that made her laugh, delighted her and touched her deeply, however small they were. It made me smile in the memory — thinking of how wise, kind and honest she would have been in in her imaginary letter. How her appraisal of me would have made the best and most honest advert for anyone who might wish to meet me.
Caring for my wife as she died and grieving for her is something I’ve been keeping notes on and writing about for 18 months now. During that time, I’ve discovered a great deal about myself and am a truly better person despite everything that has been thrown at me. Over time and with counselling, support and friends — I have slowly recovered from being overshadowed by this event to building a new and exciting life with hope, passion and optimism.
I know that there is not a clear dividing line between losing someone and then suddenly becoming ‘better’ or that you have somehow, now ‘gotten over it’ — it’s much more complicated in reality and in some ways, there are parts of missing that person you will simply never get over, they just become a part of you over time.
The many things that I have experienced and my recent loss — are some of the things that have tested me and make me who I am today. That’s not the reason I sent the bottles on their journey. I will just say it.
I am lonely.
I miss the simple acts of companionship and sharing — that are so much more important than things of superficial value:
Doing things together we love. Sharing a meal together. Noticing and being noticed. Helping each other. Talking. Making things together. Exploring and travelling, learning and expanding. Affection, loving and being loved. Spending time with friends. Walking the dogs. Going out somewhere nice. Watching a boxset. All of these possibilities, mundane as they sound, and many millions more.
And so I spent a great deal of time talking this through with my daughter, who is 18 this September. Her plans and mine have been entwined since I cleaned her and opened her eyes when she was born. Her opinion and input to all of this has been vital, especially since we are now a smaller team of two + pets.
We have been through a great deal together the last few years and so this isn’t a decision she is responding to — she helped me talk it through, design it, build it and make it happen! I love every atom of her like it was the most precious element in the entire universe. She’s pretty special, you can tell (hey, I’m biased — it’s the best thing I’ve ever helped to make in my life).
So I see the same pair of Robins in the garden for the third year, and feel irrational envy. I feel at a loose end when everyone else’s plans leave me with none. I miss getting dressed up to go out for a special meal with someone. I miss sharing things that may seem simple or uncomplicated — but they are some of the most important things I miss — not about my wife, but that are missing in my new and altered life.
So after reading that article and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to do something about it. Using any of the normal channels for this sort of thing (dating sites, friends, matchmaking services) seemed cliched or somehow less elegant, less noble in intentions than my own mind.
For weeks, I couldn’t think of anything that was exciting or interesting enough to do — until this Police track played on the radio and the lyrics came back:
“ I’ll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle”
and then it went:
“ Walked out this morning
Don’t believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways
Looking for a home”
And that started me thinking. If I could find some good places to throw some bottles, they might wash up on your shore. You might open one and read a message. What would it say?
So — armed with maps, tidal tables, a motorhome, 4G data, provisions and a week driving around the UK — I might just be able to send them to beaches across the world!
I have a couple of weeks to go now, as I write this, and I’m rushing around getting stuff ready, two thousand bottles ordered and everything printed and laminated. I’m really looking forward to my roadtrip — coastal landscapes, tiny roads along the shore — maybe a little campfire on the beach to cook one evening.
It’s going to be a wonderful holiday so I don’t have expectations that this will lead somewhere or that it has to have a romantic conclusion. It’s the journey and the unknown future that’s the most exciting part.
Who knows where my little bottles will travel or how long they will take to get there — I know that connections and friendships will begin, wherever they get washed ashore.
I am delighted you are reading these words and this story, thinking of where it all began, before tides and weather drew us, here and now.
READ MY MESSAGE
GET IN TOUCH:
You can message me on twitter, facebook, email me or write a letter!
Please know that I value your privacy and mine, above all other considerations. I don’t want to share any part of what are private communications and I’m sure you feel the same way. Unless we both explicitly agree to share something, what happens stays private.
You might like to go old skool Austen and write me a letter (horse delivery gets bonus points ;-o)
I’d love to reply to your letter — it’s a wonderfully slow and pleasant way to communicate. Write to:
Back before this all started, I watched as the NHS worked miracles with some of the lowest cancer funding in Europe, for any health service. This puts strain on staff, patients and their families — in all the wrong ways.
I single out particular praise for the Macmillan nurses and Dr Hartmut Kristeleit at the QEH hospital in Woolwich. They tried everything, they explored every option and they worked harder than anyone I’ve seen, despite how hard the work must have been. They gave me hope, when I had none — and the confidence and knowledge to understand the treatment.
All the ward at the hostpial deserve my undying thanks for the dignity, care, compassion and miracle working that they do for very sick people — every day, every week.
We all know someone who’s had cancer — friends, family and our kids — these people keep families going and support relatives in their darkest times. They work with the lowest funding in so called ‘developed countries’ yet manage to make our health service the best in the world.
What would happen if they had a little more?
Would it really cost much from you, from me?
I don’t care what politicians say about the NHS — I’ve spent over a year camped out at hospital and from many discussions, I know that our cancer care whilst good — is probably killing people due to lack of funding.
While we wait for a government sensible enough to fund cancer care like other european countries — please donate now to Macmillan, so they can keep saving people every week:
Read Craig's story
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These little guys saved me and kept my heart full of love, even in the darkest of times. They make me laugh and see life through their joyous little personalities — a priceless gift of their unequivocal love:
I hope you get to meet my furries someday (photos will be live before 21 July).