Coming Home

“Will you just GO?!” she giggled, pushing him away as he leaned down to kiss her one more time, “You’ll miss the train!”

“Ok, ok! There’s always another train anyway… but ok,” he smiled and lifted his bag, turning to unlock the front door. A blast of icy air hit her bare legs; she hopped and jogged on the spot.

“Fuck! Gotta scrape the windscreen,” he sighed.

“See? Now you really will be late! You should listen to your wife… she always knows best.”

“He! Yeah I got a genius one. Get your ass back up to bed, it’s cold.”

She reached up and squeezed him in a hug, “I love you, have a good day.”

He kissed her, not allowing the fact that she tried to wriggle out of his embrace because she hadn’t brushed her teeth stop him, “Love you too, gorgeous.” He locked the door behind him and she tapped on the glass; a code they’d shared forever, before hurrying back up to bury herself under the still warm duvet.


Her eyes heavy, sleep just starting to envelope her, she groaned at the sound of her mobile buzzing next to the bed.

 “Feeling shitty. Turning back and coming home.”

She was surprised to see only fifteen minutes had passed but she smiled at the thought of having him home for a day, even if he was feeling under the weather.

“OK, see you soon x”

She ran to brush her teeth so she could kiss him properly when he got in.


She heard his key in the door and pulled his baggy fleece over her cami top to keep her warm as she went down to greet him. His face was pale, eyes bloodshot; he did not look at all well. “What’s wrong love?” she asked, touching his forehead to check his temperature; his skin was still cold from the frosty air outside.

“Killer headache and I feel a bit off… think I’ll head back to bed and maybe get a later train.”


His face went even more ashen and he shook his head, “No thanks, just bed. You come back with me?”

“Try to stop me!”


Snuggled under the duvet together, he wrapped her in his arms and kissed her again, “Love you, gorgeous. I wish I was feeling better,” he sighed, “I just wanted to come home to you.” She soon heard the low buzz of his heavy breathing, and smiling, she closed her eyes and relaxed against his chest, knowing she would not sleep again once his snoring really took hold.


An hour passed until her stomach prompted her to get up and make breakfast for herself, deciding to let him lie on a while longer. She watched his face, so peaceful in sleep; the deep creases that routinely marked his forehead unusually softened. He looked completely relaxed.


Wincing at the cold kitchen tiles under her bare feet, she regretted not wearing socks, but didn’t want to risk disturbing him again. With a smile, she watched the little robin busying himself on the patio as she waited for the kettle to boil. She noticed the garden was still under a heavy blanket of frost and ice. She shivered and wrapped his fleece tighter around her, thinking she would eat her toast under a blanket watching breakfast TV and then would check on him.

Carrying her tea and toast through to the TV room, she was irritated by a knock on the door. Not even 9.00am; too early for the postman – not wanting him being woken by more knocking, she hurried to open the door.


“Mrs. Johnston?”

Her vision blurred at the sight of two uniformed officers on her doorstep; a tall man and shorter, slightly portly younger woman, “Yes. I mean no. I’m… I didn’t take the name… what are you here for?”

“May we come inside?”

Irrationally, she snapped, “No! What do you want?”

The couple exchanged a slow look and seemed to come to an unspoken agreement that the young woman would speak, “Ma’am, are you married to a Mr. Tom Johnston?”

“Yes… why?”

Her mind reeled. What had he done? Was he in trouble?

Looking at the strangers at the door, and across her driveway, something in the back of her mind registered as not quite right about the scene before her.

“We are very sorry to inform you…”

She wasn’t listening.

The car. Where was his car?

“Your husband was involved in a car crash earlier this morning, at the train station junction. I’m afraid it was a fatal accident, Mrs… Um Miss…”

She slammed the door closed and whirled, taking the stairs two at a time, screaming, “Tom! Tom!”

Flinging the bedroom door open, she fell, scraping her bare knees as she skidded across carpet, taking in the thrown back duvet, wrinkled sheets and pillows; the empty bed.

She felt gentle hands on her shoulders, pulling her up. The young female officer lifted her to sit on the edge of the bed, as she murmured, “No. No, he was here. He was here…”

“I’m so sorry, Mrs… sorry, what is your name, love?”

She couldn’t speak.

Her eyes locked on the hollow indent on his vacant pillow.


Copyright, 2016,

All rights reserved

*at the risk of “dissecting the frog“, this story came to me a couple of weeks ago when the OH texted exactly that and came home to me rather than go to work. I was haunted by the idea – what if a ghost came home instead of him and couldn’t quiet shake the thought. I am a bit morbid that way…

Incidentally, the morning went 100% as described, (even down to the glass tapping code… yeah we do that),  although I am happy to report he is still in the land of the living!


This coming Sunday, October 9th, will be a tough day for me.

It is every year.

It is a day I dread. I know it is coming, it is as inevitable as, well, the days of the week. I cannot avoid it.


In 1993, I was 20 years old, at college and living away from home with the boy who would later become my husband. I was crazy in love and never wanted to leave him, never wanted to spend a weekend back at home without him.

I knew my mother missed me and would have liked me to visit more. But, hey, I was young and selfish and thoughtless. And, like all 20 year olds, I thought there was all the time in the world.

I called home one day in September, from a phone booth outside the Post Office, (back in the days when we actually used phone booths), and spoke to my mother, who told me she had been to see the doctor and was going into hospital for some tests.

The next time I called home I was told she was in Intensive Care.

One month later, on October 9th, she died. I was holding her hand when she took her last breath. The last thing she ever said to me was, “I love you, darlin’”. She was 53.

Turns out I didn’t have time.

I will never know what our relationship as two adult women would have been like.

I will always be the rebellious kid that left home without a backward glance. The girl who fought tooth and nail with her. The girl who rolled her eyes at her. The girl who loved her to bits but wasn’t able to show it. The girl who felt she never ‘got’ me, not the way she did my sister. The girl who was insanely jealous of their relationship.

At her funeral, in that final moment that we had to say goodbye, just before the undertaker closed the casket, in front of a crowded room of people, I bent down and kissed her cold cheek and the reality of it hit me. This was it. I think I had to be helped up. I’m not sure, but I think it was the boy I loved.

An old friend of hers I remembered from my childhood, (because she had a pet tortoise that fascinated me, she seemed so exotic and I loved visiting her house), came over, hugged me, looked me in the eyes and said, “She was so proud of you.” I never knew.

So, Sunday will come and I will think of her. We will talk about her and laugh at good memories. She was a very funny lady.

I will cry. And I will miss her.

I love you Mam.


Copyright, 2016,

All rights reserved.






Wall of Tears

If you have any unresolved issues in relation to grief you may not wish to read this post.

I was deeply saddened to read in my friend Annie‘s blog about her very recent loss of her mother after a long, difficult year of illness. It brought to mind my own lovely mother, whose hand I held as she took her last breath when I was only twenty years old.

My mother went to the doctor one day because her feet had swollen to uncomfortable, bloated size. She was sent immediately for tests and was told the swelling was called by severe deficiency of potassium. Her potassium level was so low that she had been walking around for months on the verge of a heart attack. That was shocking enough but there was much worse to come.

I called my mother from college and she told me she had to go into hospital to be treated for her potassium levels. My mother was admitted to hospital and never came back home.

She went into hospital on September 9th 1992 and died on October 9th 1992. She was 53.

I have no memory of the last time I ever saw her in our own family home. I imagine it must have been a Sunday evening as I left for college, but it was just another Sunday for me. If I had known that I would never see her again wearing her own clothes, sitting in her favourite chair, I would have seared that image of her into my memory. But I did not know and I cannot remember that day.

I do remember visiting her in hospital for the first time and walking into Intensive Care, scared by all the beeping monitors and drips, thinking “this doesn’t look good at all”. She, in typical Mammy mode, gave me a list of things she wanted me to get for her from home, written on a paper napkin. I still have that list. I think she wanted to give me a job to do to keep me feeling useful.

To cut a short story shorter, she was transferred to a bigger, better hospital. I recall driving home from there one evening with my older bother driving the car, my father in the passenger seat, (that alone should have warned me something was badly wrong), and me in the back seat. It was a silent hourlong journey. As we drove up to our house my brother reached his hand back between the front seats and grabbed mine tight  and squeezed it so hard it hurt. I started to get very, very scared.

We assembled in our living room, my father, older brother, my older sister and her husband and I was told that my mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to her liver. I stood frozen and started then to shake. I remember my brother-in-law gently taking me by the shoulders and guiding me to a seat. Then I remember my brother handing me something to drink. That is all I have of that night.

For a month we drove up and down to visit my mother in the hospital and at the time there was a lovely album out called A Woman’s Heart, featuring several well-known Irish female folk singers which we played in the car a lot on those journeys. One song in particular always spoke to me; Wall of Tears by Frances Black.

I twisted the words slightly to suit my situation. I changed the words Him or Her and cried quietly in the backseat of the car.

“Looking out my window, staring through the pain
I can’t see the rainbow for the rain
Someday Ill forget you, life goes on they say
But they don’t know what’s standing in my way
And there’s a wall of tears, I’ve got to get over
Got to stop thinking of him, got to learn not to love him
I know the sun will shine
I’m gonna be fine but until then
The rains gonna fall just like a wall of tears”

I am listening to it now and it still brings back the pain.

I miss my mother all the time. I left home when I was 17, for college, but I fell in love and decided to stay in my new town with my love so, apart from one summer, I never lived back home again. I missed that time with her. I left home during that period where mothers and daughters are still clashing constantly, fighting and struggling to understand each other. We never got to become friends, never got to know each other as women. My sister, eight years older than me, did get that and yes, I have always been jealous of that.

I am so grateful that the OH had a year of knowing my mother. It is such a comfort to me that he can share memories of her with me. He tells me often that I have turned into her. As I sing whilst cooking, or when certain expressions fall from my lips he will joke,”Hey Breeda, you’re back!” and we laugh.

As a kid, when I was told how similar I looked to her I would scrunch up my face with disgust and she would roll her eyes and say “Well thanks!” sarcastically. Now, I look at photographs and I see the resemblance, and it is incredibly striking. What’s more, I love it! My mother was a very beautiful woman, very striking, and whenever I am told that I look like her now I smile wide and say a very sincere thank you.

All I can say to Annie is that she will never stop missing her mom and she will feel the loss forever, but clichéd as it is, time really does help. The pain and sadness will lessen every day until you reach a point where thinking of her and remembering her will make you smile rather than cry.

For a long time after she died I couldn’t even talk about her or say her name but now, even though I write this with tears in my eyes, I am smiling; thinking of her funny habit of always having a bag of dry roasted peanuts in her pocket, her off-key singing, the constant clicking of her knitting needles, the way her eyes crossed comically when she looked up from reading while she adjusted to her new bifocals, playing competitive cross words against her… so many good memories.

Cherish your memories Annie.

Sending you love, peace and light.



Copyright, 2015,
All rights reserved.

The Weekend (Part 1)

The icy southwestern wind stung her eyes as she gazed out across the Atlantic. The tears in her eyes were not simply a result of the biting wind. She knew she must return to the hotel room sooner or later, she had already been out for too long. The thoughts of going back brought a heavy, sinking feeling of nausea to her stomach. Hopelessness and despair seemed to be her default emotions, exhausting her, making her feel sick and tired every day.

Her eyes searched the grey horizon, the boundary between the overcast sky and the steely water almost imperceptible. The desire to flee, to simply not go back to the room, to run and catch the next bus to the train station and just leave, for anywhere, anywhere but here, was overwhelming. The knowledge that, if she had brought out her purse, she would almost do it scared her.

He was not a bad man. She loved him deeply but she hadn’t been in love with him for a very long time. She could not even remember when she had stopped being in love with him. It had crept up on her. The feelings slowly dying over time like a neglected houseplant. Over the years, he had simply stopped seeing her. She hadn’t felt like he really saw her as a woman for too long. She was his wife. She cooked, cleaned, made his life run easier, she looked after his needs. He unquestioningly provided her with anything she needed or wanted. Anything except affection, attention, interest.

The ache of loneliness she had lived with had reached an unbearable level. Sitting night after night with him, both watching television, unspeaking and silent, she felt completely alone. Wanting to share her thoughts and ideas with him, only to be met with a blank disinterested gaze, if he even bothered to look her way, crushed her spirit to the point she stopped trying to get his attention.

She couldn’t remember the last time he had touched her, apart from his brisk, dutiful kiss goodbye each morning. Her skin craved contact. She didn’t know if he had any sexual feelings anymore. He shut down any attempts she made to discuss it. She allowed the tears to come as she recalled her efforts at seducing him and the constant rejection they were met with. She was still an attractive woman, she thought. Her petite, curvy figure was toned, more so than many forty one year old women could claim to possess. Years of healthy habits had left her frequently mistaken for a decade younger than she was. Yet, he still never made her feel sexy or desired.

She could not go on like this. Her love for him, her unwillingness to throw away fifteen years of marriage, her loyalty and her memories of the deep love they once shared, had forced this last chance endeavour to salvage something in the relationship. But now, standing on the cold sand, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, wishing her life were different, she cried lonely tears of realization that the weekend will be fruitless.

Wiping her tears away, Emma wrapped her arms around herself and turned to face the short walk back to the hotel. Back to face her future. Whatever it turned out to be.


Copyright, 2014,

All rights reserved.

Top 10 Saddest Films (in no particular order)


Spoiler alerts!


Saving Private Ryan

From the opening sequence, this is a heartbreaking film. The scene featuring the mother in her Midwestern farmhouse, watching as the army car advances up her long driveway, bringing the priest to deliver the devastating news of the death of her three sons would bring a tear to anyone’s eye. We then follow the epic journey of the men, under the charge of the quietly heroic Captain John Miller, on their unwelcome rescue mission for the remaining Ryan brother, growing to feel a true sense of brotherhood with them along the way. The incredibly moving and emotionally charged final scene, with the much older, surviving James Francis Ryan paying tribute to his fallen brothers in arms was a perfect and deeply moving ending to a wonderful film.

Schindler’s List

I feel there is no need for me to even comment on why this is one of the saddest films you will ever watch. The portrayal of the sheer evil and cruelty of the Nazi regime is expertly depicted, and is even more compelling for it’s being shot in black and white. This brings a gravitas to the film, insofar as it is not mere “entertainment”, it is in fact a documentary of a bleak and tragic period in human history.

The Hurricane

Ah sweet mother of god where do I begin?! I find the true story of the unjust imprisonment of the boxer Ruben Carter for nearly twenty years and his fight for justice heartbreaking. The fact that an innocent man was deprived of his freedom for so many years, with all the loss that is associated with that situation leaves me incredibly sad and angry. The tears I cry at the end of this film are always a mixture of rage and deep sadness.
*it was with genuine sadness that I learned of his recent death today. I’m so glad he did get to enjoy his remaining years as a free man.

The Notebook (obviously!)

Unless you have been living under a rock since 2004, when this Nicholas Sparks book was adapted into a film, the phrase, “you’ve been notebooked” will be familiar to you. The highly melodramatic tale of star crossed lovers Noah and Allie is a very entertaining love story in itself, but it is the accompanying storyline of an old man reading to an old woman in a nursing home that really tests even the hardest of hearts.
If you haven’t watched it yet I will say no more, other than this… Stock up on tissues.

Blue Valentine

The sad tale of Dean and Cindy follows their relationship from the heady falling in love stage to the mundane drudgery of everyday married life. Disappointed and frustrated by Dean’s lack of drive and ambition, Cindy feels trapped in a marriage with a man she sees is not living up to his potential. Their opposing values eventually result in an irreconcilable situation. The reason I chose this film is that I found the portrayal of the demise of their loving relationship very realistic and the ending, with Dean walking away from his house and little girl was moving in it’s simplicity.

The Bridges of Madison County

When I watched this film I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest at one point.
The lonely farmers wife Francesca is left at home while her family visit a state fair when National Geographic photographer Robert drives up and asks her for directions. Over the course of four days, we watch her come out of her shell and the two strangers fall in love. The point when she chooses to remain with her family, despite the boredom and isolation she feels was my breaking point. Her secret love was hers alone until her death, when her adult children discover the journals she kept about the short lived affair. Their realisation of the sacrifices she made for her children is something we all eventually come to realise. Our parents are more than simply our parents, they had their own dreams and hopes and desires, just the way do.

Revolutionary Road

Another film depicting the slow painful death of a marriage. Perhaps it is because I am married and have, as we all do, struggled with a shared life that I find these films so very sad. But Frank and April’s story is particularly hard to watch, because we watch their youthful optimism and ambitions get smothered by everyday life. Attempts to rekindle their abandoned dreams are scuppered by April’s unwelcome pregnancy, which ultimately results in true tragedy. Leonardo’s broken and crumpled face will always stay with me!


If you can sit through the opening montage of Up with dry eyes I would question your humanity! Thank heavens it evolves into a genuinely funny and touching tale about following ones dreams and making beautiful friendships along the way.

The Way We Were

Another breaking up film! I don’t really need to say anything new in this section. It’s the age old girl meets boy, boys leaves, girl and boy reunite, marry, tensions lead to divorce. Oh how badly I wanted them to stay together! But it was not to be.

Aaaaaaaand finally…

The Fox and The Hound

No. Can’t even go there. Just no. Too sad. The end.

I hope you found this list of my personal saddest movies interesting.
I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with anything on it.

I will start working on a list of my happiest films now because, to be perfectly frank, I’m feeling a bit blue now after that!

I imagehope I haven’t brought you guys and gals down too!

Be happy!