Funerals, Memories, and Facing My Fears

My last post was all happy and Christmassy and short. Very short. When I read it I remember the emotions so clearly, because at the time we were going through a dark period and I needed happy and cheerful and fake fake fake.

You see, my mother-in-law (MIL) passed away a week before that post, after we watched her deteriorate for 6 months. The last month or two before she died had already been hard on us, with my kids watching their granny become a stranger in a hospital bed, and my husband seeing his mom become a shadow of herself. Despite that, the 3 a.m. call still caught us off guard, and everything went dark for a while.

Front page of my mother-in-law's tribute.

Front page of my mother-in-law’s tribute. It was designed to be folded in half to become an A5 booklet that wrap around the funeral letter.

I threw myself into creating a tribute worthy of my MIL, fuelled by love and obligation, and probably some guilt and regrets. I was working against the clock to have it ready for her funeral, spending too many days immersed in memories while the pain was still too raw, all while trying to keep it together for my family. I remember making that cheery Christmas card, and having the distinct impression that maybe, if I fake it hard enough, maybe, eventually, things will get better.

Inside of the tribute.

Inside of the tribute. It shows highlights of her life.

Grief, like a giant black hole, swallowed Christmas and New Years and I can’t even remember coming up for air before April.

That’s when I got sick. I had excruciating pain for weeks and had to have an extensive operation that put me in bed for another month to fully recover. The worst part was being away from my kids, and my 2-year old took it especially hard. Then, just as things got better, something else went wrong. I had terrible pain in my arm, so much so I couldn’t use it at all, which directly affected my kids again. It got worse before it got better—more than a month, and I still haven’t regained full use of my arm, although it is getting better.

Amid all of this I was having an existential crisis. I looked back and thought, my MIL was in a good place before things went south. Things were great for her, in fact, and then she had a small accident. Nothing life threatening at all. Except it was. She never knew that the last time she read a book for Linnae or played peek-a-boo with Aiden was the last time she would read a book for Linnae or play peek-a-boo with Aiden.

What if that was me? I was healthy and fine, until I wasn’t.

Front page of the tribute I made for my father-in-law’s funeral 4 years ago.

Of course, once I went down that rabbit hole I couldn’t stop. I never shared my father-in-law’s (FIL) tribute 4 years ago when he died. It was a big shock when we heard the news—he was healthier than many people half his age. The worst of it was that he died less than a month before his very first grandchild, my daughter Linnae, was born. He also had no way of knowing that the last time he’d be fixing a gate for friends would be the last time he’d be doing anything. He was making plans, being excited about the future, and just marking time while he waited for Linnae to come. Isn’t that what we all do? Banking on all the lovely things we’ll do in the future while missing today? I know I did.

That’s what went through my head when I was lying in bed, unable to let my kids sit on my lap, or cuddle them, or just hold them. The last time I held my son could well have been the last time I held my son, ever.

As I was struggling to come to terms with my fragility, I kept thinking of all the scrapbook pages I haven’t done, the baby albums I never completed, all the photos I printed with the best of intentions that are gathering dust in a closet.

A strange truth dawned on me, one that took weeks to truly come into focus: Keeping memories overwhelm me. Sometimes, it bloody well scares me. As a designer and writer, I always assumed that scrapbooking would be easy for me. Well, hello 15 years of struggling. How does one even deal with something like this?

Luckily this was not the sum total of my realisation. But that is a story for a different day. 

Header for Daddy's Girl scrapbook page

Hallo Beautiful! Scrapbook page

Digital scrapbook page titled Daddy's Girl

Say hello to my beautiful little girl Linnae! She’s 6 months old in these photos, and she’s the most precious, lovely, sweetest little baby on the planet, hands down. No, don’t argue, I know what I’m talking about: I’m the mother.

Speaking of beautiful, isn’t this digital kit pretty? I discovered a very nice online digital scrapbook shop, Pixels and Company, where I bought this kit called “Happy Days” and I love it! I’m a long time Shabby Princess fan and has a lot of her stuff, but the other day when I needed my digital scrapbook supplies, I couldn’t find the external hard drive I store it on so I had to look for alternatives. Well, I love this, although I’m still a Shabby Princess gal – her stuff is just top notch. Even her free stuff are better than a lot of the kits you have to pay good money for.

Recipe:

Cute and easy digital brag book

A few months ago we travelled to the other side of the country to visit my parents, because my sister came all the way from Australia with her little boy to visit and we just had to meet Connor for the first time. To commemorate that special occasion, I decided to make a Brag Book for my parents, since these are their only two grandchildren.

Click on any image to browse as a gallery. Supplies at end of post.

I wanted to put it together quickly, so I:

  1. reused the page templates for the boy and girl sections by simply swapping out the papers and elements,
  2. didn’t add any journalling or descriptions, and
  3. made the album jumbo size (4×6″ / 10×15 cm) which is a standard photo size and thus simple to print anywhere.

I used two Shabby Princess digital kits: HopScotch for the boy pages, and The Penelope Collection for the girlie side. I really love Shabby Princess kits! They are beautiful and their attention to detail always leaves me giddy — I love working with digital supplies that look “real”.

A death in the family

My granny passed away on Wednesday. She has been ill for a long time and it was not unexpected, yet it still caught us all off guard (as Death always does). I will be MIA for a bit till things are back to normal.

Ouma Lulu funeral letterGranny Lulu’s “wall of remembrance”

Granny Lulu never liked photo albums – she wanted to see her photos! So she would stick all her favourate photos on the walls of her bedroom with Prestik, and over the years her display has grown quite a bit 🙂 One of her favourate things to do was to point to a photo on the wall and tell you all about the special memory associated with it. She was also always writing down Bible verses, quotes, lists and thoughts on bits of paper and in small notebooks. That yellow piece of paper is just one of many.

This layout is basically a small “wall of remembrance” in memory of her, and it will go on the cover of her funeral letter.

Elmi

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“Special Moments” fridge magnet

"Special Moments" fridge magnet
This is a fridge magnet I made for the “Make a mobile/magnet” class. I really like how it came out, but apologise for the slight blue tinge in the photo… once again it looks much better IRL than on the photo 🙂

I wanted a vintage feel, so I printed the photo with a slight sepia tint, then sponged around the edge with ‘tea dye’ distress ink. I punched a flower from corrugated cardboard which I inked with ‘vintage photo’ and ‘tea dye’ distress inks. I also inked the silver frame with dark brown StazOn.

Elmi

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“Merry Christmas from us”

Personalised Christmas cardPersonalised Christmas card

This is a card example for the “Make a mobile/magnet” class, and it happens to be based on Laura’s sketch (from 2Sketches4You), made for the Scrapbook News and Reviews‘ celebration of WCMD — see, I did manage to make a card (eventually)!

Close-up of Christmas cardIt is meant to be simple and easy to mass-produce as a personalized Christmas card. The photo is of my husband and I, wearing popped santa hat clip art 😀 [it cracks me up every time I read that sentence!] Neither of us are fans of “Christmas fluff“* (like those Santa hats for example), but I just couldn’t help myself — it works so well on this card! I used liquid pearls to make the woolly parts of the hats look 3D.

SUPPLIES:
• card stock: textured white Royal Quadrant (Grafton Paper Products)
• paper: bright red (unknown)
• stamp: ‘Falala’ clear stamp Christmas (Making Memories)
• ink: ruby CatEye pigment ink (ColorBox)
• other: white opal liquid pearls (Ranger), santa hat clip art
• tools: Making Memories Tag Maker circle rim and tool, large scalloped scissor (Creative Papercraft magazine), embossing stylus, foam squares (Chiswick)

* Christmas fluff: The commercialized part of Christmas that has nothing to do with the real reason for it, namely the birth of Jesus Christ.

View all the examples I made for the class:

Aquila Scrapbook Convention

Wow, did I have an amazing, scrapful weekend!!! The short and sweet of it is that we were +- 100 ladies who spent 3 whole days in the company of Jeri (BoBunny USA), Andria (Reminisce USA) and Erika (Aquila SA, representing Hot Off The Press), making AMAZING paper-thingies! 😉

And here is the layout I made especially for the convention competition – it got third place:

"Precious" scrapbook layout“Precious” (click image to enlarge)
[photos © Appel Photography]

The only rules were that your papers and stickers had to be from one of the 3 represented companies. I used Hot Off The Press papers (and BoBunny ribbon, because it’s gorgeous). The rest are from all over, and mostly from my existing stash. The only stuff I specially bought for this layout were the flowers, blue brads and blue card stock. The list of supplies are at the bottom of this post.

And here’s me with the really awesome teachers:

Me and Andrea (from Reminisce)Me and Jeri (from BoBunny)

Me and Andrea (from Reminisce)Me and Andrea (from Reminisce)

We made a LOT of scrapbook layouts, as well as cards, mini-albums, chipboard books, and then some! I have not made that many ‘things’ in such a short time! The most hilarious part was how fascinated these Americans were with Afrikaans (which was spoken by 98% of the attendees) and the South African culture. It gave them hours of amusement making lists of the differences between their English and ours – all the “strange words” we use for common objects (like calling traffic lights “robots”… yeah, weird I know) [Andria even made a game out of this on her blog!] But it went both ways – they kept us amused by learning some Afrikaans words and then using them in the classes – Jeri quickly got “sakkie” (pocket) because she could remember the Japanese word Saki, and eventually also managed “strepe” (stripes)… but everything else kinda got lost in translation and laughter :-p Not to mention Andria’s attempts to try and make sense of rugby… (she has my fullest sympathy)

Well, that was a long post, but it was the highlight of my year so I’m not apologizing!

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"Mamma"

I made this layout to tell my mom how much she means to me. I gave it to her as a birthday present in 2006.
{This is a digital layout}

Translation: My mom is the softest and strongest person I know. She is my example of how to give and love unconditionally, of patience and self control, of being a woman and especially of being a mom. From her I learned how to give my everything, I learned of true happiness and sorrow, and how deep a woman’s heart can be. She taught me to look for the good in everything, and that a soft spirit is the best weapon to fight with. Her deeds spoke stronger than a thousand sermons ever could. She is our super glue, our pillow, our pillar of strength, our encouragement. She is my pride and joy. Mom, I love you.

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