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The Old Lady on The Train


I wrote this article last year. Its words mean so much more to me now. Its about growth through loss. Its about love and letting go


“A couple of weeks ago I was travelling back from North Wales on a packed Virgin train. It was crammed with the usual assortment of hungover post hen/stag do people plus university and army people returning to their digs or barracks. I had spent the weekend at my little brother Dave’s second stag do and hadn’t slept for two days. As I boarded the train I managed to find the last free seat on the whole train. I desperately looked forward to catching up on two hours sleep on the way back to London

As I sat down I said hi to the elderly lady in the seat next to me. That was my first mistake. She was a talker, and by Crewe we were deep in conversation. For the first 20 minutes it was politeness that kept my eyes open. And then things changed . I told her about my life as a yoga teacher. I told her about how when I was 30 I stopped trying to accumulate money and became more interested in experiencing life and learning new things.

She was born on the beautiful island of Anglesey but had moved to the South of England with her childhood sweetheart. They married at 20 and set up a thriving florist business. They were inseparable. When she described him she glowed. At 80 she looked radiant and beautiful. After 25 years of blissful marriage he died suddenly in her arms in their little shop. She has spent the last 30 years asking why.

I had started the conversation by telling her about what yoga teachers do and what positive psychology was all about. As the conversation proceeded I soaked up her wisdom and my tiredness drained away. Her lesson was so beautiful:

– tell the people you love that you love them, never miss an opportunity for cuddles

– move on quickly – life proceeds in one direction – the people who loved you unconditionally would want you to find new love

– build love inside of you, be happy with your company, don’t be too attached to things or people. Work on self love. Feeling good is an attractive trait and brings good people and things into your life

– fear of change is natural but you have attracted love and positive things into your life in the past and you will do the same in the future

– be who you are now – speak your truth, tell people what makes you happy as well as what you fear.

– be true to yourself and be true to other people – 80 or 90 years on this planet and so many people pretend to be something they are not

– enjoy your career – find the thing you love and just do it

After three happy hours on the train I helped her with her bags and we gave each other a big hug. She was a talker. I’m a talker. I also cry easily so we both had happy tears flowing down our cheeks. We connected as two souls in a moment in time. We both joked that we were terrible with names but neither of us cared about that. I felt her goodness, her energy and her wide eyed curiosity in the world. I turned 45 last Saturday and I want to keep being like that.

I don’t know her name but she was beautiful. ”

Since then

I wrote that piece back in July 2013 shortly before my brothers wedding. In February 2014 my mum passed away suddenly and unexpectedly . One minute she was playing tennis, baking cakes and getting excited about the arrival of her third grand child and then she was gone

The things that I wrote about in July I have come to experience in my blood and my heart. I feel humbled by the loss of mum. I don’t know where she has gone. My mind plays tricks and I often think that I need to phone my mum. Loss has made me feel vulnerable and often sad but its also done something very profound.

I feel so grateful to be alive. I live in the moment far more often. I don’t feel work stress any more. I prioritise my leisure time.

When mum passed away I was very lucky to be in the company of a very wise friend. Matthew comforted me and told me of his experience when his dad passed away unexpectedly . He said that because mum was no longer around in physical form that her kindness, strength and loving energy would come through me. I often think , what would mum do now? And as I try to follow her loving nature it reminds me of her and makes me feel that she is close. Her sudden passing has left a terrible void in my family but I feel its brought us even closer together. Terrible loss has made me feel more vulnerable than I used to but I also feel stronger, calmer and a happier person. Matthew’s words have come back to me again and again.

I am so grateful of the loving friends and family in my life

David, Michael, Jane, Chris, Kate and Pete I love you very dearly