This is an unashamedly personal post. Thursday is the first anniversary of the death of my partner Andy, an anniversary which is far more personally significant, meaningful, and painful than the anniversary of any political defeat. This time last year, as the independence referendum campaign was reaching its end, the saltires waved and hope was in the air and YES posters plastered windaes, the centre of my life was torn away from me. After a long illness in which each piece of him was removed one by one, the teetering tower of blocks which supported his life finally fell away, and came tumbling down leaving me in the rubble of a life lived together.
Andy’s death was a peaceful one. I was with him at the end and had a chance to make my goodbyes, to bid him farewell, to wish him a safe journey. He passed without leaving me with regrets, without anger, without rancour. That was his final gift to me.
This time last year I was terrified. I’d been with Andy for almost 25 years, and for the previous few years I’d devoted myself to his care. He was the centre of my solar system and without him I was hurtling through the dark depths of deep space, alone and unlit. His death was not unexpected, it came as no surprise, but however much you brace yourself for impact you are still rocked and shocked when it occurs. It still stuns.
The inevitable had happened, the dread day had arrived. Cold, afraid, I suddenly found myself confronted with a life alone. How could I build a life without him? Could I fly solo, could I walk through the darkness unaccompanied, how was I going to make a living, what purpose did I have any more. Where would the centre lie, how to anchor myself, adrift in the vastness of loss. I’d been with him so long, how could I learn to be me without him. Those are the fears that overwhelm, that stalk the nightmares of loneliness.
I started this blog because I was trapped indoors caring for Andy. He suffered from vascular dementia and could not be left unattended. His illness meant that he slowly lost all those parts of himself that had made me fall in love with him all those years ago. I never stopped loving him, but our relationship changed, I ceased to be his partner, and became his carer.
However as I watched him slowly lose his personhood, his gifts and skills, and grieved for him while he still lived, I came to realise that I was losing myself too. Carers give everything, they give of themselves until there’s nothing left. So I started this blog, it gave me a wee island where I could be myself, and I’d sit on the sofa and type on the laptop while Andy sat beside me. Typing for my sanity, typing for myself, typing for a Scotland that lived only in dreams and hopes. What I never realised, lost as I was in the concern of a carer, and then lost in the grief of loss, was that this blog touches others.
One year on and Andy’s loss still hurts, but the raw and bleeding edges of the hole in my heart have scarred and hardened. I miss him, I miss who I used to be be when we were together. But the loss has become a part of me, and I’m learning to live with it. As I wept on that day, dazed and devastated, uncomprehending in the magnitude of grief, I slowly came to realise that there could still be hope, and that’s what kept me going. I can live and love again. I can hope, and I can still dream.
And I have you to thank for that, the readers of this blog, the kind strangers who showed me that there was still a reason to hope, to fight, to go on. You gave me a reason to get up in the mornings, you gave me a purpose. You showed me that a country is a community, a community of care and compassion. With people like you in it, Scotland’s future is assured.
And here we are, a year on, a referendum lost but a country gained. We’re still here, still fighting, still persuading, still arguing, still being. With every word, with every day, we show that another Scotland is possible.
We don’t all agree. After a year it’s clear that the independence movement was always broad coalition of diverse views, distinct voices, and different opinions. We have disagreements, but that’s a good and healthy thing. We are a nation not a political party, but we remain united in the belief that power rests with the people of Scotland, that the best people to decide on the future of this land are those who live here and love here. We remained united in the knowledge that our country’s many problems and issues can only be tackled successfully when we as a nation take collective responsiblity into our own hands and we stand before the world as an equal.
The referendum was not the end, it was only the beginning. One year on and an opinion poll for STV shows that 53% support independence. Once don’t knows are omitted, that rises to 55%. The cause of independence continues to make ground. We’re not there yet, we need to have support consistently over 60% over the course of a few opinion polls before we push for another independence referendum.
But one thing is clearer now than it ever was, our day is coming, the confidence of a people grows, the realisation is made in more and more minds that Scotland unleashed and unchained can only grow and flourish. Scotland is no longer submerged, we’ve come to the surface and we’re breathing the fresh clean air again.
We do this for Andy, we do this for Margo MacDonald, we do for all those who believed in Scotland but are no longer here. We carry them in our memories and we will never forget. We’ll carry them to the independent Scotland that they believed in and fought for. And we do this for our children, we do this for ourselves. It’s happening. We are not afraid any more.
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