I've heard it said a number of times during the last few days that the "Season Of Goodwill" is nearly here. It prompted me, tonight, to ask a couple of well-known internet search engines when exactly this season is. Not coming up with a definitive answer, I have concluded that ultimately, this just refers to Christmas.
It's a shame, in a way, this title. Does it mean that goodwill and human kindness does not exist for the rest of the year, then? I have been a fortunate recipient of "goodwill" many times throughout my life... from smaller random acts of kindness (a stranger picking up a dropped unnoticed toy, for example), that occur often, to some more specific huge, unprompted and incredible acts of goodwill.
It's our main experience of goodwill, an overwhelming and unexpected experience, that I am writing about today. One which goes to prove, I think, that there is no such thing as a "season" of kindness, but proves beyond any shadow of doubt that human kindness exists at all times of the year...and for which I, and my family were, and still remain, very, very grateful.
I'm going to write this post in parts. The first, is I suppose, to give a bit of background behind this particular story.
In February 2010, our beautiful little girl, Polly, was stillborn. The days which followed her birth were a haze of immense and all-consuming grief. A week to the day later, I decided to follow brave Andy's lead, and step outside our front door for the first time, to go with him to collect the twins from their morning at nursery.
As we made the short journey to nursery, we had a brief conversation of how we should try to focus on the positives and the good things around us, which obviously mainly involved the twins. We decided we would spend the summer with my Dad, who we all enjoyed spending time with, and who had been a huge and very vital support to us during the last few weeks of our pregnancy with Polly in particular. He had looked after the twins overnight for their first ever night away from us, when Polly had been born.
Fate/life, as it happens, had other ideas. As we arrived back home with the twins, our 'phone was ringing. My Dad had been taken to hospital & was seriously unwell. We needed to go there immediately. Andy's amazing Sister and Niece arrived, along with my wonderful best friend, and we were reassured that they'd look after the twins.
We were sent, with many hugs and kisses, on our 20 mile journey to Hereford, with sandwiches they'd prepared and a bottle of wine and a couple of plastic beakers. We ate the sandwiches en route, somehow, and drank the wine later on that evening...after we'd been to the hospital where a heavily pregnant doctor (the irony was not lost) confirmed what I'd known the moment we'd received the phonecall - my Dad could not be saved. He died, shortly after we arrived at the hospital.
It's difficult to put into words how heartbroken we were. At the best of times, Dad's death would've been devastating. But just a week after losing our little girl, and his death being completely unexpected, was beyond anything I could comprehend. Their funerals were held in our village Church 2 days apart - same time, same grave.
It took a while, after that, to gain the courage once again to face the "real world". We stayed at my Dad's house, with my brother, and huddled together, focusing only on getting through each day; each hour at times.
I started to think, a couple of weeks later, about sorting through some of my parents' things (my Dad had kept most of Mum's possessions from when she died, right down to her shoes, which remained by the back door, as though he had always been waiting, expecting her to come home.) It become a project, a new focus; I would bring boxes over from our home to Dad's, and sort through a few of his & Mum's things at the same time. We'd planned to move in properly over the course of several weeks, but finding a much-needed purpose, I started making the round-trips, bringing over our possessions, as often as possible, sometimes a couple of times a day. We were living and basing ourselves at my Dad's house, and with the exception of larger items which wouldn't fit in my car, things we didn't use at all, and the baby things which were purposefully left in our house as I couldn't face them, we had pretty much moved in.
Some 6 weeks or so later, Andy went away for the weekend. He'd been nervous to go, anxious to leave us, but I reassured him that we'd be fine. And we were.... to start off with. The weather was hot and sunny, and I took photo's of the twins playing in the garden. I felt, for the first time since Polly and Dad had died, some genuine optimism about the future.
What I didn't realise, but that two forensic teams later concurred, was that as I took the photo below of the twins eating their tea in the garden that night, a fire had started at the side of the house.
It wasn't a small fire; it would've started that way, but very quickly became a huge one. My Dad's home - our new home - was turned from this:
To be continued in a couple of days.....(please, don't be disheartened; this is, I promise, an incredibly positive story, and what followed next, in terms of the response from family and friends around us, completely blew us away - still does to this day).