Never Grow Up

Watching and reading the news yesterday about the suicide bomber who had killed 22 (mostly) young people in Manchester, I was struck by how incredibly sad it all was. The images of those who had been killed or were missing included so many who were children and teenagers. The youngest victim so far identified publicly was only 8 years old, and seeing pictures of her adorable face was heartbreaking.

It brought back for me the memories of the first pop concert my daughters went to. It was 29 March 1998, when Katy had just turned 12 and Ruth was 6. They went with their Mum to see the boyband 911 at Wembley Arena and, as in those days I worked near to the Wembley complex, I drove them up there and we had a pre-show picnic in my office. I have two abiding memories of the day: Ruth taking great delight from the open plan offices in a square building and running laps around the desks, and the way both girls were so vibrant, buzzing with delight when I picked them up after the show. The date is an easy one to check, as it was the day Chelsea played Middlesbrough in the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, adjacent to the Arena. I hadn’t realised that on big match days the short road linking our office to the Stadium became one way only, away from the Stadium, to help clear 80,000 supporters as quickly as possible. So, what was meant to be a two minute journey became an absolute nightmare with three very impatient passengers getting ever more nervous as we inched forward in heavy traffic going the long way round and the concert start time approached. In the end they had to do the last two hundred yards on foot, as it was far quicker, but at least they didn’t miss anything. I took Katy to a couple of other concerts there, but we didn’t have anything like the drama of that first one. Given the ages of those we know about from Monday, I suspect that for some of them it would have been their first pop concert, and they will have been going through all the anticipation and excitement that our two enjoyed leading up to their first show. But their parents won’t have been able to share in the after-show excitement, like I did, even though I didn’t actually go to it myself. My memories of that are stored away in my treasure chest of happy moments, and the victims’ parents have been robbed of that.

Somehow, as the memories came back, this song came into my head, and I couldn’t shift it:

As you can see from the lyrics, the song is about how we have moments when we wish that youngsters could be preserved exactly as they are, in their innocence and beauty. Sadly, many went to a pop concert – a joyful event – and a cruel murderer decided that their lives would go no further. Taylor Swift may not be to everyone’s taste and she often gets a bad press, but the simple beauty of that song is, I think, a fitting tribute to those whose lives were torn away from them in such a horrible manner. They will never grow up, and all that their parents, families and friends will have are memories of moments like those in the song. That can never be enough to make up for the terrible hurt they must be feeling now, and which will stay with them forever, but I hope it will help them. Time passes, and memories fade, but I’m sure they can hold onto as many as possible and will treasure them. That is the least they deserve, to try to fill the huge void in their lives. None of us who has children can begin to understand how those poor families are feeling, and it would be wrong of me to guess – it’s not something any parent should ever have to deal with. I just hope they have happy memories of those ‘never grow up’ moments.

Dementia Awareness

This post is dedicated to the memory of my Mum, who died nine years ago this week, on 15th May 2008.

This Sunday was celebrated in many countries around the world as Mothers’ Day, although not here in the UK, as we mark the occasion on the fourth Sunday in Lent, which in effect means we do it in March. I’m rather grateful for this, as it would be too poignant a memory for me if we were celebrating around the time of Mum’s passing. It is also a poignant time of year for another reason, and so I’ve decided to rework and update a post I originally wrote in 2013.

Following closely on last week’s Mental Health Awareness Week – which I wrote about in Feeling Good? – is another aimed at raising awareness of a condition that affects many. From 14th to 20th May it is Dementia Awareness Week, which is run here in the UK by the Alzheimer’s Society. The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Unite Against Dementia’ and as usual there will be activities and events across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Society’s hope is that people will be encouraged to take part and, by so doing, learn more about dementia, as the longer we all live the more of us will be affected by it – either ourselves or in a loved one. It is therefore important that we all know more about the condition, so that we can recognise the signs and will know how to cope if a loved one is diagnosed with dementia in any of its forms. In the Society’s words ‘The more we know about dementia, the more prepared we’ll be to face it.’

As you’ve probably guessed from the rather large clue in the dedication for this post, I have first hand experience of a loved one with dementia. Mum lived an independent life for many years but there came that awful time when we realised that she needed round the clock support, the kind that can only be given in a nursing home. The one we found was a good one and they looked after Mum very well, even when she was shouting that they were trying to murder her when they put her in the hoist to get her out of bed! But in her last year her decline from dementia was noticeable – she still recognised my sister and me when we visited her until the very late stages of her life, and could hold a perfectly sensible conversation for quite a while. But over time she became less able to converse, and the standard symptoms of memory loss began to show. She was taken into hospital as she wasn’t feeding well, and they told us that there was nothing they could really do for her. In effect, her dementia had affected her brain’s working so much that it wasn’t telling her body how to function – it had ‘forgotten’ how to eat and drink, so Mum had to be given this via a drip. Within a week of being discharged back to the nursing home she slipped peacefully away.

I’m telling you this partly, I suspect, because it helps me to set it down – especially this close to the anniversary – but because I know what the Alzheimer’s Society means when it talks about how the illness can affect others, not just the sufferer. It isn’t a preventable disease in the sense that medicine will stop it taking hold, but there are ways to live with it and enjoy a satisfying life. But you need to be ready, and you need to be aware. That’s why I’m supporting Dementia Awareness Week, and hope that you will too.

If you want to find out more, the Alzheimer’s Society’s dedicated page has all that you need to know about the week. Their site also has links to some very helpful literature for downloading – there is a wealth of useful information here, though you may have to search! They also tell you about the various ways you can get involved, either by organising or taking part in events or by uniting with someone against dementia and posting your picture on their wall.

As is my usual custom with my Dates To Note pieces if I’m giving you the link to the NHS website for more information. It is well worth a look if you want to find out more about this pernicious disease.

If you know someone you fear may be suffering but has not yet been diagnosed, this would be a good time to follow up on the advice I’ve linked you to. Only about 45% of sufferers are diagnosed and treated appropriately, and even though the Government has recognised the need to do more they have yet to demonstrate any real commitment to doing something about it. Maybe, once the dust has settled on our election, they will take some real, much needed action – but I’m not holding my breath.

Be aware. Get involved. Please.