Monthly Archives: August 2011

How we said Goodbye

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I dreamt of Mum last night. It wasn’t a good dream. I was at her funeral but it all went horribly wrong. The undertakers were casual and silly, there were mourners there who had come to say bad things, I got left behind when everyone went to the burial. People were giving out flowers and children were singing but it was all muddled up.

So I didn’t sleep that well and today I am tired. First day back at work today, although I only have to go in for the afternoon thankfully. Perhaps it will do me good to get back into a more normal routine. I have spent a lot of this last week since the funeral just sleeping, reading with occasional walks. I reckon that my body just said rest and recuperate so that’s what I’ve done. I know that grief makes you tired. I think the whole family has felt the same. As its holiday season for students no=one has been up early round here, but I think I have been the most adolescent in my sleeping-in! My healthy eating plan has also fallen by the wayside I have to say. Old habits etc, That’s another reason to be grateful for the containment and order of a return to ordinary life. Having routines helps.

I have found it hard to write about her this week. She is in my thoughts all the time. I don’t think I’m in denial but its hard to believe she has gone. I think if I go to visit Rowan Court there she will be sitting in her chair asleep, glasses round her neck, blue crocs on her feet, and it will be as usual a nice surprise that I’ve turned up again. But last week we cleared out her room, so I know she doesn’t live there anymore.

Her real funeral, not my nightmare one was beautiful. We said goodbye in all the ways we wanted to with hymns and readings and poems. I wrote the words I wanted to be said and the Missus read them out. The boys each wrote their own words to remember their nana. Son 1 read his own words and son 3’s. Son 2 wrote and read a wonderful poem, it blew us all away. I will share it another day. Son 4 wrote of how they would all do Nana proud and the missus read those too. She was laid to rest in a beautiful wicker coffin. Green leaves were wound round the sides and the top was decorated with flowers in blues and pinks and white. The strong blue of cornflowers, not pastels for Mum. Old friends and family joined us of course and we cried and laughed and enjoyed the memories and the company. We had a photo of her from a holiday a few years ago at CenterParcs. She looks so happy in the sunshine. We put it up over the fireplace at the hotel whilst we had tea and now it is on top of the radiator in our kitchen by the table until we decide where to put it up properly. I can see her now smiling at me as I write.

What is dying?

A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon, and someone says, “she is gone”.

Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large as when I saw her…

The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone says “she is gone”, there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, “there she comes!”…

and that is dying. 

Bishop Brent

Weekly Photo Challenge – Up

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Looking up at the Segrada Familia, Barcelona

The Vatican, Rome

Is there something about churches that makes me want to look up? The decoration of each tiny part reflecting the worship of hundreds of hands and hearts. A special sort of stillness, the sense of decades of prayerful meditation. I like the simple in everyday spirituality. The branches of a tree reaching into a winter’s sky , the touch of a hand, the beauty of the earth. Sometimes the words of the Psalm, “Mine eyes look up to the hills, from whence cometh my help”  resonate. I don’t know that I fully understand their meaning but sometimes words convey a hidden depth that comforts without it being necessary to take them apart.

Today I am looking up and seeing grey skies, but inside it is warm with the scent of homemade rhubarb crumble baking in the oven. The sound of music coming from upstairs. Papers on the kitchen table I have sorted for tomorrow. A mug of tea. Blessings in the ordinary.

Peveril of the Peaks and Singing in the Rain(bow)

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Manchester, England on a wet Monday August Bank Holiday. We dropped son 4 at the airport for a trip to meet his dad and other family in France for a weeks holiday. After a brunch there ( gasp at prices) we waved him off through the departures gate. Looking cool, his main possessions a phone charger and iPod on his first solo flight. I was 40 when I made my first solo flight. Kids nowadays eh? Cue, grumpy old woman music.

The missus and I set off solo together for the bright lights of the city centre. Its Manchester Pride weekend. We had skipped the drama and show of the Parade on Saturday. Clubbing and partying is not our thing either. but its fun to be there and to celebrate everyone’s right to love and be loved. We had a great lunch in Velvet on Canal Street. We waved at the narrowboats ( bit of a theme that this weekend!). We wandered round the stalls, put umbrellas up and down and said ‘Hi” to some of the people on the charity stalls, mental health, Quakers, Metropolitan City Church, Lesbian Community Group to name a few. And then we went and rocked out with the Lesbian and Gay Chorus singing their hearts out in the rain. A great, big, bad sound it made me smile. Proms in the Park was good, it would have been a LOT better on a sunny summer day. I had fantasies of sitting on the grass, the sun on my face music to sing along to. By this time the missus was cold. Well I did ask her if she was taking a jacket, but oh no. Who’s the smarty pants now then? If it had stayed sunny an evening of Toyah Wilcox, 4 Poofs and a Piano and the Original Bucks Fizz beckoned. I think you probably have to be from the UK to understand any of these or even have heard of them at all!

On the way home we passed a pub that I had spotted on the way in. It sits like a little beacon of old town in the middle of sky-scraper buildings. Coming from Stoke-on-Trent the home of The Potteries I can’t pass a Minton tile without oohing and aaahhhing in admiration. This little gem has been beautifully preserved. It’s also For Sale. Brief moment of landlady bubble comes out of my head. Nah. But someone please keep this little treasure alive.

Of course I had to Google it when I got home. This place seems to have stood still in time. One of Manchester’s oldest and certainly most distinctive pubs, here is a little review I found which sort of sums it up

Look at it!

Not only is it distanced architecturally from its surroundings, but it also happens to sit quite proudly on its own little concrete island. Aw, bless it. And look at it! Appears to be made out of ceramic, with a lovely green little roof garden awash with foliage.

I bet it’s haunted. I just hope it’s haunted. Truly they are missing a trick in not offering candelit all-nighters round Hallowe’en time. I cannot think of anything better.

As it stands, though, it stands proud. It feels like the city – and the world – has grown up around it; ol’ Peveril standing resilient, defiant. You can imagine the place emerging from the fog after hours of hostile travelling on foot or horseback – a glowing, warming, welcoming beacon for the weariest of souls.

Well, it still glows. When the sun shines, Peveril reflects it right back. Now it offers respite from the pace of the modern world. It feels like the heart of Manchester and, at times – when you’re surrounded by friends and cold drinks – it feels as though it beats for you.

http://www.yelp.co.uk/biz/peveril-of-the-peak-manchester

Sunday pleasures

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It has been a quiet time. Needing to sleep. Wanting to cry. Laughing at memories and finding ourselves about to say, we could do this or that with Mum. I haven’t felt like writing much. Or talking. It’s been good having family and friends who are undemanding. We have eaten easy comfort food this week. Scrambled egg on toast, pasta bake, sausages with roast veg and sweet potatoes.

This afternoon we went for a walk with a good friend. Easy and relaxed. Understanding about yawning. We walked round the lake then had tea and cake in the cafe and watched the water, shoppy in the wind. And the sun went in and out. After the skies were blue again so we walked along the canal. it goes through the centre of our ribbon of towns. Industrial heritage of pottery industry melts into hedgerows of sloes and the old/new industry of canal narrowboats for holidays or a life of slow meandering. It was good to be outside, to see the world from a different place. We saw the ice cream van at the end and thought of her, of course.

 

No Sunday voices please

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Mum adored Joyce Grenfell and this was her favourite. When I was a young Mum with four boys she used to say I sounded just like her. This reminds me of her sense of fun, her being a teacher and of being a Nana.

This poem also by Grenfell says it well for both of us:

If I should die before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone
Nor, when I’m gone, speak in a Sunday voice,
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must
Parting is hell.
But life goes on.
So sing as well.   Joyce Grenfell

Mum and the Reindeer Ears

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I am writing an eulogy. Summing up a life. Remembering moments. Telling stories. Collecting memories. Anyone who has ever written one will know how hard it is. My mind keeps going completely blank. I tell myself that I have been writing about Mum for months, sharing every day gems and the joys and sorrows. And still it is hard to do. I  keep starting again. The boys are writing their own words to join with mine. Everyone has been thinking about it today and  you can feel it in the house.

I have looked up other words from more famous or clever people. I talked to my sister from my other mum and she told me how she had written a letter to her Dad. I understand that no-one wants a CV, especially one that is dry as dust. It could be like one of those awful courses you go on with work where everyone is supposed to introduce themselves with their name and place of work. It becomes a competition to see who can be the most experienced/cleverest/highest earner. Then again no-one wants to hear of sainthood. The best eulogies seem to combine affection, humour and somehow capture the essence of the person who is gone.

I have been searching for a quote, a few pithy words, a poem, a line. And yet in the end it will be what it has always been – an act of love, speaking words that come from our hearts, raising a smile. In the meantime these few words have made me smile or seem to catch a glimpse of what I want to say.

Death is simply a shedding of the physical body like the butterfly shedding its cocoon. It is a transition to a higher state of consciousness where you continue to perceive, to understand, to laugh, and to be able to grow.
–E. Kubler-Ross

“Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” ~ Eskimo Legend

“The highest result of education is tolerance.” Helen Keller

“The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.”

–Lucille Ball

Oh and then there are the reindeer ears. This story must be told. At Christmas time on our regular trip to the garden centre Mum found these ears. They play music too. She insisted on wearing them all the way round the shop. One or two people looked askance. Most smiled with us. “They can use me for advertising” she said. We brought the ears home this week. They still make me grin.

Congratulations and Celebrations

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It’s a happy day. Son 3 got the ‘A’ Level results he needed to get into the University of his choice. How proud are we? as his dad said, ‘On a scale of 1-10, at least 12’. The poignancy of the moment struck us all. Nana would have been first on the list to be called after us.

We have a chocolate caterpillar cake, like you do. We got together this evening for a toast and congratulations those of us who were around.The boy is going out tonight to celebrate. Watch out town as several hundred 18 year olds go partying or drowning their sorrows!

It has been good to have a day of celebration. A true reminder of life going on in the best way possible.

I went to get my hair cut this week. When it came time to re-book for 6 weeks time I realised that would be after he has left for Uni. Whoa. Now I have to get my head round the boy leaving home!

And life goes on …

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I think everyone knows who should do.

The funeral is arranged.

The notices are in the papers.  

Cards and messages and flowers, hugs and kind words surround us.

Tomorrow is A level results day. Son 3 is waiting . It will be a happy day I am sure. We are proud of him. This will be the first family moment that Nana is not here for. But she knew already he will do well, whatever happens.

I catch myself thinking to tell her things or noticing little moments of loss. My colleagues gave me a beautiful orchid today.Mum always managed to keep them growing beautifully. She gave me several. I killed all of them. Maybe she’ll help me keep this one!