The Christian Orthodox church has a few thoughts about the soul and what happens to it, which I’ll try to explain in my capacity of, as dad always describes it, of a “superstitious atheist”. There are various dates after the passing which are important, mostly the 3rd, 9th and 40th after the death.
Day 1 – 3 (last Friday to Sunday): the soul hangs out in its favourite places. In this case, we imagine Mum to be going for a run between Hammersmith and Putney Bridge, or us cooking dinner at home, having a coffee in Fulham Palace. Maybe has a wander to Burgas and the sea, at sunrise.
Day 3 – 9: The soul goes up to check out heaven with the archangels. I picture this like house hunting with a hint of cloud: you peer around, make comments about the view, scope out the local restaurants and running routes.
Day 9 – 40: This is a Dante-style purgatory.
Today is Day 9, so we went to the Russian Orthodox church to order some prayers as mum’s soul goes through this tougher period. Gigi and I were somewhat unprepared – unlike Bulgarian churches, the Russian Orthodox ones expect you to cover your head. After feeling really quite awkward, we lit candles and reflected.
Hang in there, Mum – you’ll ace it like you ace everything!
Hamlet has distinguished himself with huge emotional intelligence – he’s been curling up next to Gigi every morning.
Meanwhile Andy has been enjoying being king of the flowers.
A wonderful card Gigi designed for Mother’s Day this year.
Mum founded U>Lead in summer 2012. She was so excited, and we spent the summer trying to support her.
Six months later, in January 2013, she was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (Stage 4). It felt then, and still does, horribly unfair. For someone who had jogged most days since age 14, practiced yoga, looked after herself, never smoked, we couldn’t understand. Later, the consultant told us how close she’d been to death around diagnosis.
Mum fought, with huge courage. In the following 2.5 years of what was really bonus time, extra time we got because she battled for it every day, she built a successful company. We always packed her laptop for hospital stays, she’d go to meetings after radiotherapy. She loved her work, and she lit up every time she had a coaching call – everything about the exciting people she met, all of it.
Photo taken just after she started the first round of chemotherapy. (Complete with ironing board.)
Mum, being her beautiful self.
Early last Friday, before things changed forever, Gigi and I had talked about making the lemon and pistachio cake mum liked (changing tenses is hard). On Saturday, we made this because she liked continuing with plans – and the lemon and pistachio cake.
Getting ready for a night at Mosimann’s…
Sadly, in the end our beautiful, brilliant wife and mother lost her battle with cancer on Friday 12th June.
Words have stopped being able to fit and mean enough to explain the grief and sadness of the last few days – nothing could explain how crushing it is to see a pair of lonely glasses the day after the hospital. Or to think about how she’ll never meet her future grandchildren, or be there for weddings, and won’t be there when we are home and no, this isn’t a business trip – it’s permanent.
We’re trying to hold on to the fact that at some point, we’ll be able to celebrate and remember the millions of wonderful moments with her with that pain slightly more numb. It’s been so inspiring to receive all the messages about how many people’s lives she’s touched and made better. People we’ve mostly heard of, but never met, who’ve reached out to us and shared their stories and reflections. She was wonderful.
We will always love you, Maria/mum.