Monthly Archives: December 2015

Sad Endings and New Beginnings

It has been, as they say, a strange old time of late. A time of endings and new beginnings, of sadness but acceptance and of getting on with life without someone, my wife’s mum Nancy, who has been such a part of it for nearly three decades. Her funeral service was a celebratory affair with much reminiscing of a long life from among her family and friends, stretching back four generations. As, in a more intimate setting, was the wake afterwards in the house to which she and her husband, Don, moved 17 years ago. It was where she wanted to spend her last day as, indeed, she did. These things can never be anything but sad occasions; they can, however, be positive ones as this one certainly was. In this it reflected Nancy’s own unending positivity.

Her family did what families do on this occasion; that is to get the house ready for visitors and sort out Nancy’s effects. Getting on with the practical things  which help you to put the emotions to the back of the mind. However, as Gaynor, my wife, described it, these come in waves over which you have no control. They do subside only to return, unbidden, when the mind had nothing to occupy it. The effect is to leave you very tired, drained in fact. The whole thing is somewhat surreal as the rest of the world carries on unaware. In this I am reminded of a favourite Skeeter Davis song that can always bring me to tears with its lyric:

I wake up in the morning and I wonder
Why everything’s the same as it was.
I can’t understand, no, I can’t understand
How life goes on the way it does.

As indeed, it does. Amid the usual hurly burly, however, there must be the time to grieve for those directly affected. Much of the time, as we all do, they will manage. Those nearest and dearest to them, though, will need to watch out for the little signs of those waves building up. Not always easy when those concerned are doing their best not to show their feelings. Fortunately, I’ve discovered empathy over the last few years so I’m now much more aware than the male version of Saga Noren that I tended to act as if I was.

On the positive side where Nancy always lived, Xmas is almost upon us and a new year beckons. One in which Gaynor and I plan to take our work in new directions and in which our daughter will be hoping to start her MA. So there are new beginnings that we can all look forward to and that’s surely no bad thing.


Eulogy to a Determined Lady

My wife’s mum died recently and the funeral took place last Friday. I was one of those who talked about her life at the church service, so I’m posting this today.

Nancy was my mother in law, a very English lady with all that that epitomises; that is she was very correct and polite on the surface but with a glint of feistiness underneath and a backbone of steel.  This latter amply demonstrated that first summer after her husband, Don, died. We went on holiday together and, when we got to the cottage that we had booked in the Lake District, Nancy immediately changed into her walking shoes, picked up her stick and went for a walk. On her own. She had to get on with this new life and the sooner she showed herself that she could do that, the better. That determination and her desire to always look on the bright side stayed with her until the end.  I like to think that, when it did finally leave, with her family around her in the house she and Don loved, she quietly decided to go with it.

Those of you who knew her during the 17 years she lived in Eyam will have known someone who was very active in the village and as a friend who was also a wife, mother, grand and, even, great grandmother. Yet I always felt that  her life might have had another string to it. As Gaynor has mentioned, Nancy was one of the first women to go to Oxford after the war where she studied English. Indeed, one of her oldest friends recently told me that they all expected her to have an academic career.

So, it was with great delight that I found something in one of the many notebooks in which she had written down her thoughts throughout much of her life. The subject was the satisfaction of not being tidy! Intriguing as that matter may have been for those who knew Nancy in her adult life, it was as nothing compared to the quality of the writing from what was then a mere 16 year old. Fortunately that love of the written word has passed onto her children and grand children; two of the latter of whom who are now at university studying just that subject. Something that Nancy was delighted about.

We now need to do what Nancy was good at and has, it seems, passed on to the rest of her family; that is to get on with the rest of our lives. So, with that in mind, I’d like to end with something we found recently among Nancy’s effects. It’s a quotation from St Francis de Sales

“Do not look forward to what may happen. The same everlasting father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or give you the strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

Thank you for the unfailing kindness you always showed me, Nancy, and rest in peace in the village you loved.

November Repeats Itself

I have previously written about the travails of the month of November and, perhaps I should have taken account of the fact that Friday 13th wasn’t supposed to be a lucky day. As, indeed, it would prove not to be for my wife’s family. The phone call, from Rachel, a neighbour who cared for Nancy, Gaynor’s mum, was to the effect that her memory had got worse and that she was extremely confused. Thirteen days later, she died, peacefully, at home, just after the vicar had left, with her family around her. Perhaps there is something to that idea that people need permission to die or, at least, that there is a right time to do this. Such was last Thursday evening. If I may interject with a little humour, she even chose half time during the football that I was watching when I received Gaynor’s phone call. Consideration that was typical of Nancy.

So we now prepare ourselves for a funeral and a service at the church in Eyam where she was a regular member of the congregation. It will be a sad occasion but also a celebration of a life, as these services are meant to be. The fact that the  church and the, then, vicar were central to the events at the time of the plague in the 1660’s for which the village is best known, add a sense of history that such passings mark. She will be buried in the churchyard alongside Don, her husband and a gentleman of the first order. Appropriate, then, that she was a lady.

We will then try to get on with the rest of our lives. Easier for me, certainly, than for  her children who will, likely, take some time to get used to the absence of the person who gave birth to them over half a century ago and was such a central part of their lives. We, the rest of the family, will be there for the support that they need, albeit cognisant of the fact that our hearts have not actually been broken. That support will need to be on their terms, not ours; something that is quite difficult for many of us. It is, however, what we must do to complete the process of grieving.

So thank you, Nancy, for your unfailing personal kindness; it wasn’t unappreciated. In return, I know you appreciated the humour that was often my response. Rest in peace.