By on Mar 12, 2018 in Blog Posts, Cancer | 5 comments

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“You came to me at 4am on Thursday.” Rose is my most spiritually evolved friend. On the day Josh died, she called me before she could possibly have heard the news to tell me that she’d felt Josh leaving us in the early morning. I don’t understand her gift. It doesn’t fit in with my worldview and yet, I can’t deny that she her knowledge is uncanny.

Yesterday, Rose and Shannon and I sat together in a bench watching her golden retriever play in a local park. It was a peaceful moment, made more peaceful by the calm “real-deal” aura that surrounds my friend.

The moment she was talking about was when I woke up, heart pounding, breath strangled in my throat, my mind filled with the first real memory of Josh I have had since he died.

Let me explain:

It’s been almost two months since Josh died and in that time I have been able to recall stories about Josh and photos of Josh but not actual memories. Sometimes, in my mind, I hear the faintest of echoes of his voice or laugh. From the corner of my mind’s eye I see his smile but when I tune in the memories are elusive – they drift away and the form is lost like smoke in a breeze. My plight is, apparently, called temporary dissociative disorder and is pretty common in stressful situations. It’s less alarming and more annoying than it sounds.

I want my memories back. In the past few weeks I’ve devoted a lot of, fruitless, time to the endeavour. I’ve sought out quiet spaces. I’ve sat in his room, played with his dog, fiddled with his things. I have imagined steam coming from my ears from the sheer effort of it. It has not been successful.

So I should have been happy on Thursday morning when I woke with image of Joshua’s shin front and centre of my mind. I was hoping for something maybe a little more significant than a shin memory but a shin is what I got.

The shin that I could see was the shin of Josh in the last few months before he died. He was thin: his limbs seemed impossibly long and fawn-like. At times I worried they couldn’t possibly hold him up. Months of immobility had left the hairs (and there were a lot of them, much to Josh’s displeasure) dark. His skin was pale.

And with the shins cames the memory of watching Josh step into the bath.

His pelvis hung, like a bony bow below his spine. A big, rough, darkened patch of skin had developed at the base of his spine, where it rubbed on his clothes and bedding with no flesh to protect it. I held his hand to support him as he stepped, wobbling, into the tub. Then I handed him two facecloths: one to protect his modesty and the other I folded and slipped beneath him to pad his fleshless bones from the hard bath-bottom. He reminded me of pictures I’d seen of holocaust victims. I hid my face to protect him from my tears.

And that’s it. That’s all I have.

“It’ll come. As Josh’s energy and yours untangle themselves,” Rose told me. She smiled and squeezed my hand.

This is Josh's shin, but not actually the image I remembered. This picture was taken near the end when Joshua's blood had stopped clotting properly. The injury was from a minor bump and wouldn't have been a big deal at any other time but ended up in being another trip to casualty when the bruise grew and grew.


  1. Jacqui Culshaw

    12th March 2018

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    My heart breaks for you and your Family Penny. Josh was so young to have this vile cruel disease, why is life so cruel? My Husband was diagnosed just after his 52nd birthday and our GP told us he was young to get this disease, apart from a baby I heard who was born with it, Josh is the youngest. I wish I knew the course of it but we were told they didn’t know. I’m sure your memories of Josh will return soon and you will start to remember him looking well again. Wayne also looked really thin and malnourished when he passed away but now I remember him as my fit strong husband who looked after his Family.
    Big hugs to you, sending you lots of strength to get you through the bad times. xxx

    • Penny Castle

      12th March 2018

      Post a Reply

      Thanks Jacqui. There just doesn’t seem to be a reason or a “typical” candidate for this beast to attack anymore. I hope you are holding up – I never know if the speed of CC is a blessing or a curse.

  2. Terri

    12th March 2018

    Post a Reply

    Hi Penny. What a sad memory. I know that there are lots of happy memories that you have of Joshua and I am hoping that with time those will all come back and make you smile and laugh out loud. Hugs from me xxx

  3. Renee

    12th March 2018

    Post a Reply

    All my love Penny and a huge hug too. Right now I would love to go for a long meandering park walk with you!

    • Penny Castle

      13th March 2018

      Post a Reply

      I think about our day walking in Cologne so often. I really regret not drinking more hot chocolate!!!

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