Family

Shining Light on Those Who Have Impacted My 2017

On Friday, I reflected on my tumultuous 2017, highlighting the highs and lows that made it the year it was.  There was a lot to cover, which prevented me from being able to say thank you to people who played a big part in my year and were there for me through some of the struggles.  Now it’s time for me to shine a light on some of the individuals.

Of course, the person who was always by my side was my other half – my sister, Rhianna, who means the world to me.  She was excited for the good and supported during the bad, coming with me to the Croydon Civic Awards ceremony and talking to me through some of my depressive moments.  Always there with the advice and encouragement, life would not be the same without her.

My parents continued to be there for me this year, being extremely helpful on the day of the TCFT Croydon Pilot, which would not have run the same without them.  My dad was also my biggest champion this year, extremely proud of all that I achieved.  Another big champion of mine was my cousin Georgina, whose motivation and words of encouragement I valued on a lot of occasions this year.  And it was lovely to have my family around me as we mourned for the death of Uncle Dale – having the chance to meet so many of them and  to see many of them after a long time was a great source of comfort.

Despite feelings of loneliness and disconnect with a number of my friends this year, I am thankful for their presence in my life.  My best friend, Mells, has given me the gift of a gorgeous godson and I have enjoyed reconnecting with her.  My Textiles girlies touched my heart with a surprise cake and card for my birthday in August.  It meant a lot to have conversations with a number of faces I hadn’t seen in years at my church’s Youth Day.  I’m also grateful to my girls, Si-Ann and Ashan, as well as my cousin Naomi, for being part of the TCFT Croydon Pilot.

I couldn’t talk about the people in my life without mentioning my YPI family and TCFT family.  YPI would simply not exist without the individuals who are a part of it.  However, I have to give a special mention to the constants, individuals who have made a great effort to help me out this year and those who have played a big part in some way: Alana, Dre, Hakeem, Stephen, Paul, Joan, Randy, Jamal, Liam, Pekz, Unorthodox, Mary, Becky, Esi, Jack, Sid, Jennelle, Ashan, Daniel, Aaron, Melvis and Shannette.  Thank you for everything, and I’m sorry if I missed anyone out.

Then of course there are my beloved TCFT family.  Tina is a mentor and one of the greatest supports I have ever had – I could not have put on TCFT Croydon without her.  Nomes, my house sister and TCFT Croydon co-facilitator, who continued to bring me joy this year.  Ells, my other house sister, who I love so much.  The wonderful Rory, Amy, Geraldine, Robert and Cedoux, who were great helps during the TCFT Croydon planning and the day itself.  Then you’ve got the beautiful Josh, Richard, Rachel, Jaffer and Rachael, who came down with her daughter, to be part of the day.

At this point, I need to side track and thank the other beautiful people who helped me with TCFT Croydon.  Thank you to Humi, Daisy, Nikki, Liberty, Chimaine, Skye and Ian for facilitating workshops, taking photos and helping with tech, as well as all those at Turf Projects, Matthews Yard, Project B, Braithwaite Hall and the Croydon Council, who provided us with space.  A huge thank you also goes out to the volunteers, who helped to make the day a success.  And I also want to thank the lovely Mayor, Cllr Toni Letts, and her consort, Nick, for coming down for part of the day.

Back on track now to my TCFT family, who made a special impact on me in Sarteano this year.  There are too many names to put down, but I just want to give some special mentions to individuals who made significant impacts and helped my meals to be extra special: Sandra, Annie, Carina, Silvia, Eilis, Roberto, Ismir, Irina, Marko, Francesco, Laura, Naomi M, Anja, Luka, Mina, Ricky, Modou, Lamin, Darren, Tisch, Rosie, Susan, Alister, Miranda and Margarida.  Again, I could have named so many more, but the list would have been ridiculous.

I couldn’t write this without mentioning the beauties I have met at Queens Garden and the soup kitchen at my church.  They continuously make me smile and want to be better – I don’t think they realise the impact they have had on my life.  Special mention goes to my boy James, Cisco, Richard, Patrick, Graham, Mark, Miriam, Gamma, Santiago, Gabriel, Marius, Marek and Petr.  Again, there is likely to be more, but there are too many names I could mention.

I have to give a very special shout out to Jes, the amazing lady who trained me and helped my crowdfunding campaign to be a success, as well as the wonderful Kay, who approached me to write articles for the Stories of Success magazine, one of my favourite tasks of 2017.  I’m thankful to Paul and Paula for making me an ambassador for Croydon’s London Borough of Culture bid, as well as for Paula’s brilliant show of support for TCFT Croydon.  A huge thank you also has to be said to Neil, Katie, John and Tina, for nominating me for the Young Achiever of the Year award – I literally would not have won without you.

Thank you to the ridiculously talented Anthony Anaxagorou, Dan Tsu and Deanna Rodger for teaching me on the Political Poetry course at the Roundhouse, and I’m also thankful for the talented individuals who took the course with me.  Thank you to Donna for inviting me to speak at Another Night of Sisterhood, as well as encouraging me and believing in what I do.  And thank you to everyone who has given me the opportunity to be paid for doing what I love or helped me out with work opportunities.

But most of all, I have to thank God, the love of my life, who has blessed me with these beautiful people.  I love every single one of you.

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A Letter to My Aunty Joce

Aunty Joce,

I’m sitting here thinking that I cannot believe it’s been a whole year since you passed.  It’s been a whole year since I felt the shock of those six words, uttered from my mum’s mouth.  It’s been a whole year since you were cruelly taken away from us, without warning.  It’s been a whole year without you and it sucks.

The time has flown by and I guess that doesn’t make dealing with the pain any better.  It feels like you should still be here among us, making me laugh with your dry humour and many brilliant stories.  You should still be in the kitchen, whipping up food like it’s a sport.  You should still be out shopping for your bargains, leaving your reading glasses here and there, watching Judge Judy on TV.

You should also still be here to bring light to our family.  Seriously Aunty Joce, family gatherings and special occasions have not felt the same without you.  It’s like there is a big, gaping hole that will never, ever be filled.  I remember thinking how much you would have loved Uncle Selo and Aunty Doriel’s masquerade party.  There were numerous times when I thought about how you would have had me overflowing with laughter at grandma’s last birthday celebration – there were some wise cracks that only would have come from your mouth and I genuinely missed that.

Twelve months have passed, but that hasn’t stopped the pain I feel and I don’t think that pain will ever fully go away.  That pain feels especially raw now, as I mourn an uncle who was snatched away suddenly – not only am I reminded of the cruel way we lost you, but I don’t have your kind and supportive words to comfort me at this time.  I know that you would have sent me a message, because you were so wonderful like that.

August felt really raw as well, because you know, that’s our birthday month.  I didn’t get a lovely message from you and I wasn’t able to send a message to you either, which felt horrible.  I hate that a month that was so full of birthdays is now emptier without you in it.  However, knowing that we shared that bond will always make it extra special.

I still miss you so much Aunty Joce, but the many memories of you still remain and I hope they will never fade.  They bring a smile to my face as I remember you at your best, rather than the tears that spring to my eyes when I recall that you’ve passed.  I just live in hope that I’ll see you again on that great day when my Jesus returns.

I love you with all my heart, always and forever.

Shan x

I’ll Miss You Uncle Dale

I never imagined I’d be faced with death again so soon; like, this life is mad.  Actually mad.  How can you see someone one night and then the next day they’ve dropped dead – with no warning at all?

When I learned that my Uncle Dale had died yesterday, shock hit me like a slap in the face and I didn’t know how to feel.  Why was this happening to me again?  Why was I being faced with another shock death in just under a year?  Why, why, why?  I mean, I could not understand it, as I’d just seen him last night at another one of my uncles’ houses.

My Uncle Dale was full of laughter, jokes and conversation, with eyes that twinkled like my beloved grandad, whose own death last year continues to feel surreal to me.  Like my grandad, he also told the famous “Burton jokes” and had a kind heart.

Each year, he was one of my uncles who regularly remembered my birthday and gave me a card, or just some money, because he wanted to give me something.  Unfortunately, I think I took that for granted, but I appreciate it so much now that he’s gone.

My uncle also had a special place in my life because he was my mum’s “twin”.  Although there were three years between them, they happened to be born on the same day.  Imagine, ten children and two of them just happen to be born on the same day – how weird and amazing is that?  I’m so grateful for the time we were able to spend with him at our house this year when he and my mum celebrated their birthdays together, which was something we had done for the first time.  That is going to be a memory I’ll now cherish forever.

I’ll miss my Uncle Dale greeting me with, “Hello Shani” and a kiss on the cheek, asking how I am and engaging in conversation at times.  I’ll miss his generosity and I’ll miss his presence at family gatherings – he truly was unique.

Although I don’t understand and struggle to comprehend why he was taken so suddenly and so soon, God knows what He’s doing and I’ve just got to trust in that.  Now my Uncle Dale is soundly asleep, resting away from this cruel world, but I hope to see him on that great day when my Jesus comes again and I can embrace him and my grandad together.

I don’t think I told you this Uncle Dale when you were alive, but I love you and always will.  May you rest in peace.