Category Archives: death

The reason

Today marks one year since this project was started, since the first Random Act of Kindness, since Love Join Me was born.

The 21st August was not just a random date to us, it was an important and significant date. It was her birthday. Not only that but today, 21st August 2016, she would have been 60 years old.  One whole year ago we started this project with one thing in mind – doing 60 acts of kindness for her 60th birthday – our twitter handle @lovejoinme60 represented this. We did it. 60 Random Acts of Kindness in her memory (the full list of them all is here).

This project started as something very personal to us; it has been about ways we could spread her kindness as a personal tribute to the wonderfully kind person that she was (see excerpt from our introduction below).

… when you lose someone you love you spend time thinking about who they were as a person: thoughtful, kind, selfless perhaps.  That’s what she was. Love Join Me continues with that modus operandi: to pass on kindness and love to others. Like the light of a star shines bright for millennia after its death, kindness can persist through the selfless acts that we undertake in memory of her.  Love Join Me is born.

There are very few people who know our identities. In this blog we talked a lot over the year about our Little Love Join Mes – our children.  Only one is really old enough to know something about what we’re doing, he knows we are doing kind things for people. Our husbands, although knowing of the project and being there for our second RAK Balls for Dogs, have been kept pretty much in the dark throughout the last year. It was something that was important to us – the attention is unwanted, we don’t want praise, we don’t want people to be proud of us. We, as with many others out there, have been struggling with the concept of true altruism but we’ve tried; because it’s about her not us, about what she did in her all too short a life and what she meant. Here is an excerpt from our post entitled Is there such a thing as a truly selfless good deed?, in which we’ve attempted to explain the reasons behind our anonymity and our conflicted feelings when carrying out our RAKs.

We are not doing this for us, for us to feel good. We are doing it because we want to help people and make others feel good. It’s not about saying “wow! Look what we did!”, it’s about saying “wow! Look what she did, look what she inspired”.

Look how her kindness is carrying on in selfless deeds in her honour and in her name: Love Join Me.  She did all this, not us.

LJM1 8th June 2016

We did it  in her name.  Her. The overused personal pronoun in this blog. Her, the original Love Join Me. LJM. Lesley Jean Maddison. Our mum.

If you’ve been following us for a while you may have deduced information about who she was and what she meant to us.  Just 20 days before her death, she appeared on BBC Radio Tees talking about her illness and encouraging others to get themselves checked. This speaks volumes about what her concerns were about being terminally ill with cancer. Her words speak for themselves.  The full recording can be found here.

I think to a degree your family suffers more than you because they just feel so useless […] I’ve got a lovely husband […] and it’s harder for him because he wants to take it away and he can’t […] I’ve got twin daughters, they’re 26, one gets married this Saturday, so things like that keep you going but then you’re sort of ‘I’m their mum, I’ve got to be around’. Even though they’re grown women you still feel that it’s your duty to be there for them and it’s things like that that I find difficult to cope with.

Lesley Maddison – 3rd December 2009 BBC Tees

Today is the day we want to make this bigger. Today is the day we want Love Join Me to spread further than it has already. We have followers in Canada, America and Australia as well as the United Kingdom and today is the day we ask something of you. All of you. Whether it’s the first time you’ve read our blog or you’ve followed from the start, we would like you to do one simple act. An act of kindness to someone else. In her name.

Love Join Me
Lesley Jean Maddison

21/08/1956-23/12/2009

Her last dance, just after her eldest daughter’s first dance. Man I feel like a woman! 

 

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Holding on

I still have her text messages on my phone. I got my first iPhone 2 months before her death so despite having 2 newer iPhones since, I have kept her message thread. It’s not that I’m not letting go it’s that I’m holding on and that’s different. 

The texts aren’t even that interesting, just an exchange of information about parcel deliveries, birthday gifts and what to have for meals when visiting. I read them occasionally because it allows me to ‘hear’ her voice. I’ve often thought of texting her but her number has probably been reissued now so that would be weird!

Her final text to me was a week before she died. She was in hospital by this point. In it she told me she was a lot better, but instantly when I read it I knew she was not – there were too many mistakes in her text. 

I’m thinking of ditching the iPhone on my next upgrade so will let the message thread go then. Until then, that red “delete” button just seems too mean! 

Living eulogies & obituaries 


There were perhaps 200 people at her funeral. The church was packed, even more than it had been 18 days previously when she walked down the same aisle arm in arm with the very same vicar before she watched her eldest daughter marry. 

We stood there at the pulpit LJM1 & I, and read her eulogy. We took it in turns, a paragraph each. I laughed at recalling a memory involving a donkey. I didn’t cry, not until everything was over and we were outside the crematorium. I felt remarkably strong, just as she had been when confronting what was facing her. 

She didn’t tell us she was dying. We knew there was no cure and that she was running out of options but she hid it well (she had planned to tell us but she didn’t have as long as she thought in the end). It’s not as though you can prepare yourself anyway; knowing outright wouldn’t have made it any easier. She made sure she left plans, made things straight forward. Shortly after her death I found a notebook in which she listed the steps to go through. She thought of everything: bank accounts, death registration, pension. I remember touching the page of the notebook where her hand probably rested. She also told me something one afternoon in LJM1’s old bedroom. I don’t know why we were in there but we were gazing out of the window looking down the street and she told me to help our dad find someone else. I kept it to myself for a long time, until it was needed. Even when faced with the most horrific outcome for herself, she made a decision that would have broken her heart to vocalise. She was truly selfless.
One of the RAKs that is in the pipeline got me thinking about her eulogy and about living obituaries. I wish she could have heard what we said and I wish she could have read everything we’ve written about her in this blog. Perhaps then, we should take the time to write a living obituary to our loved ones? Show those around us how much we value them now in the present day and not wait until they are no longer around to hear what we have to say? 

Perhaps we could use it as a self-evaluation tool? What would people say about me? What would I want them to say? We encounter self-evaluation in work all the time, but realistically how many of us evaluate ourselves & try to improve ourselves in our day-to-day lives? We don’t set ourselves ‘targets to improve’ bar an often light-hearted New Year’s Resolution that lasts a couple of weeks. Perhaps it’s time we did. I guess that’s what we’ve done these past 11 months. We’ve definitely thought about others in a different way, looked into their lives more and tried to understand them. But what about when our initial project is over? It certainly won’t be the end… It’ll soon be time to evaluate and improve once more!

You didn’t even say ‘hello’

Despite my previous post being about grief and losing her, it’s not something that I talk of often at home. However, I have had chats with my biggest little one about her, about mummy’s mummy.

So it was somewhat out of the blue that, in a brief moment of Sunday-afternoon quiet, Little LoveJoinMe1 piped up, “Please can I go up the big rock (where her ashes are spread) to say goodbye to mummy’s mummy because … because she, what’s it called? Is it died? Because she’s gonna … died?” 

I was so taken aback. I gestured for him to come and sit next to me and I hugged him while I said “She’s already died”. His response was a simple “but I didn’t say goodbye!” I explained how she died before he was born, “was I in your tummy?”, “No, before that”. 

I’m not sure where it came from. But more and more he is showing me his perception, his emotional intelligence and at not even four and a half years old. It’s reflected in the tone he uses, a gentle voice, quietly probing because he knows it makes mummy sad. 

We were telling daddy about our conversation later and as Little LJM1 said “I didn’t say goodbye”, his father said, sadly, “you didn’t even get to say hello”. Neither he nor Little LJM1 have read my previous post on grief yet this is precisely what I had written about. He didn’t get to say hello. Hellos are infinitely happier than goodbyes.  This makes me saddest of all. My little boy: he sees it with a clarity and gentleness beyond his years. He makes me proud and he makes me want to tell her

Death 

This blog is meant to be uplifting, though its ‘uplift’ has stemmed from loss. Tonight, I can’t help feeling consumed by sadness at our world and the evil that seemingly resides in it.

I did not know Jo Cox. I had never even heard of Jo Cox. Yet tonight I am deeply sad and moved to tears watching the news. A woman, not that much older than me with children of similar ages to mine, murdered in her home town. Two children who will barely remember their mother, who will grow up without her.

I can’t pretend to know how that feels. Losing her was the hardest thing I have ever endured but I was an adult, able to process my emotions, try and understand it, almost prepare for it (though nothing can prepare you). These are two small children. How can they even begin to process where their mummy is tonight? When I was out giving blood last night my husband put our children to bed, little LJM2 asking repeatedly for ‘mummy’, as she always does. I wasn’t there and she slept. I can’t comprehend how that, for those children, that is forever. Mummy isn’t coming back. My heart is breaking for those children.

Losing a mum is like a special sort of ugly club that you don’t want to belong to.  At the same time you find people who understand you and it. No one wants to be in that club. No one wants others to join them. When they do, the club members feel like they should have the words to say to the newly bereaved but they can’t find them. At that moment, there’s nothing more awful and nothing anyone can say to make it better. I am a lucky member as I joined fully grown. There should be no children in it but now there are two more.  A mum is a guiding light, there to raise you to adulthood. In all intents and purposes, mine fulfilled that role. Jo never got the chance. She was a wife, a daughter and a million other things too, a rising political star by all accounts.

I am angry as well as sad tonight that someone thought that it was ok to take her life. Just why? When did anything become more important than life itself? We will probably never know the answers. Tonight our thoughts are of her.

Sprinkles and Magic: Conversations with Little LoveJoinMe1

There are four little LoveJoinMes. The eldest is four. He is very inquisitive and is very good with numbers and maths. Today in the car he asked the question “when we get to a big number, do we go back down and get to zero like when I was a baby?” I explained that your age just keeps getting bigger and then stops when you die. He asked why it stops and I explained that that’s when the person ‘stops’. Only they don’t in so many ways.  He asked me to explain dying (I have before but it’s a bit of a tricky concept for him to understand). I told him that it’s when someone’s really poorly or their body stops working properly, like with her. I said that his auntie and I are doing a project and we are doing kind things for people to honour, remember and celebrate her. He said, “like when we went to the countryside (cemetery) and left the cards of seeds!”.

I asked him if he could think of any other kind things that we could do for someone. Without hesitation he said, “we could take some flowers to the people when their body stops working”. Just then we drove past the cemetery where we left the seeds and I explained that all the grave stones were where the people’s bodies were. He asked if we could take flowers to where hers was.  I reminded him that she is on the cliff, where we spread her ashes (I may have explained cremation using the words “sprinkles” after he asked what ashes and dust were! So he may now tell others that her sprinkles are on the grass on the cliff!). He said we should take flowers there at first and then he said “or we could take them to her house!” Death and its finality are still so lost on him. I explained we couldn’t, that she was gone and would always be gone and we can take them to the cliff like he said.   So we will one day soon. And we’ll carry on teaching him and the other little ones her ways of kindness too; how people’s bodies may stop but their love lingers, and that their effect on the world can be huge and can ripple through to reach others years after their death.

Just as we pulled up on the drive he said, “but, mummy, why can’t we just magic her back?”. “We can’t” I replied.

Oh to be four! With sprinkles not ashes, with magic and kisses fixing even the most difficult of things.

16 years

If I were her, I would have 16 years to go until my diagnosis and 21 years until my death. If I were to go when she did, my children would barely be adults.

Morbid? Perhaps. But thinking like this makes me realise how important it is not to get caught up in negativity. Like most things, that’s easy to say, but if you surround yourself with positive things and positive people then you’re half way there. Unfollow those people who annoy you on Facebook (it’s more positive than delete – they won’t know or get upset!). If you do positive things (like Random Acts of Kindness) you’re two thirds of the way there!

I am forced to consider myself lucky. After watching a tear-jerking episode of DIY SOS last night I do feel lucky – some people don’t even get what we had with her.

Cliché or not, life is too short, no matter what age you go. There will always be things you didn’t get to do and things you didn’t get to say. No one really knows when their ‘end’ will be; no one knows when their loved ones will go. So, be kind. Say your  I love yous. Surprise someone – a note, a text, a smile, forgiveness… whatever it may be. Spread positivity. 

Her last words to me were “I love you”, and mine to her. Not because she was going, but because that’s how we always ended things.  I wish I’d been inspired by a project like this when she’d been alive. She would have been on the receiving end of so many acts of kindness!

Love! Join me!

Forget-me-not #36


The (very quickly written) poem reads:

In here you will find some seeds,

They are for you, a good deed,

For we also know of grief,

And that time is all too brief.

The heartache felt of a death, 

Feeling a very last breath,

Take these, it will mean a lot,

Your loved one, Forget-Them-Not.
This RAK is to offer some comfort to the grieving. Accompanying the poem are little envelopes, each with some forget-me-not seeds in, instructions and with a different quotation on the front.


Some of the quotations are meaningful to us, particularly  Sonnet 18 which I read as part of her eulogy as it was one of her favourites.

I took the envelopes to the cemetery in my home town but choosing where to place it was difficult given the rain and wind. In the end I settled on resting it next to the old chapel on the main path through the cemetery.

Little LJM1 & 2 and I spent some time wandering around the graves. The children were care-free: falling over, picking daisies and meandering as they do. In their innocence, death means nothing to them. They didn’t understand the graves, what they were, that they are someone’s sorrow and someone’s comfort. One day they will understand. But I don’t think that they’ll understand or grasp her absence in their lives, no matter how much I tell them. For what you’ve never known you never miss.

One day a little while ago Little LJM1 asked “mummy, do you miss her?”. “Yes,” I replied, “every day.”