14 December 2020

E-Mail

When she was a girl in Rawmarsh in The West Riding of Yorkshire,
Mum loved to dance. Why should we remember the dead as they were
just before they died? Picture taken around 1930.

Old e-mails now give evidence of  times past just as documents in dusty files use to do. Looking back through my hotmail library I stumbled across a message I wrote to my late brother Paul on September 2nd 2007. I did not even remember writing it.

Our mother died just eleven days after I wrote that e-mail more than thirteen years ago now and Paul himself was to die less than three years later.  Though no longer alive, they are still with me. Do loved ones  ever truly die? We hold them in our hearts long after they have left us.

I am glad that I didn't delete the e-mail years ago. It brought memories of that sad time rushing back. Here's what I wrote:-

___________________________________

We all went over to see mum in Beverley today - me, Shirley, Ian and Frances. We had Sunday lunch in "The Rose and Crown" - it scored a measly five out of ten on my pub food scale.

Mum was asleep when we got to her room - lying on her new bed which has sides and electronic vibration through a super-duper hospital mattress. This is for her painful bed sores and especially her painful feet. She's probably drugged up too. I doubt that she is ever out of that bed now and wonder if she will ever make it to her chair again. Her Sunday Express was unread like Saturday's Daily Express. She lives in a kind of slumber - fading away with only occasional flashes of her old spirit.

As on previous visits she asked me how old she is. She had no recollection of Katie's visit in mid-August and was surprised that Shirley and I had been to France. We bought her a little souvenir in Lourdes but getting it out of the little paper bag seemed like a test in the Krypton Factor. In the end we had to get it out for her and she stared for a moment at the back of it as if not realising where the front of it was. I put a new picture on her wall of some bluebell woods and rather sweetly she said it reminded her of her childhood in Rawmarsh when she would walk to her bluebell wood past the "fever hospital".

I asked her about "When you have passed away" and she confirmed - no religion - just a simple ceremony at the crematorium. I think I am going to get in touch with the British Humanist Society who will conduct funeral ceremonies now. Maybe one of their reps might visit mum in Westwood Park and get to know her a little before the inevitable end.

She was very thirsty when we were there and seemed to appreciate the non-alcoholic drinks we plied her with. I don't think the staff have time to persuade and cajole residents to eat and drink. It's very nearly twenty eight years since Dad died - Sept 14th 1979. If there were a heaven I would think that Mum will be meeting up with him again before this year is out. She's so weak and thin and sleepy.

42 comments:

  1. For heaven's sake. You have me blubbering as if she were my mother. Very poignant.

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  2. That email would pack a punch as it is so honest about last days. We always remember lost ones on their birthdays and days of their death. Now one thing I wonder about memory. My sister died in 1953. What happens in a few years when all the people who knew her are gone?

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    1. I suppose tat at that point she will be truly dead Keith.

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  3. A great post topic YP. We only age on the outside. Inside we are still the dancing girl but most people who meet us when we are old see only our aged body unless they have the patience or curiosity to inquire about our past.
    My Dad was only 55 when he died suddenly from pneumonia in '77. As each one of his 7 surviving children passes that age and heads towards retirement and a pension we see him as unlike us "forever young". No grey hair or aching limbs, no repetitive stories or lapses of memory to irritate our children. In our minds he is still that vigorous, hard working family man who loved to dance and sing.
    Mum also died suddenly but at 84 and her last years were blighted by physical pain and depression. I prefer to look further back for my memories of her to the days when she tramped the hills and mountains and bravely forged a new life as a young widow. None of us children knows if we will reach that age or what condition we'll be in if we do. So it would be unfair to remember her only from those last few years.
    Our ancestors stay with us if we continue to speak their names and see ourselves reflected in photos of them or the mannerisms we have inherited.
    What great memories you will have to pass on to your grandchild, the next link in the great chain.
    Merry Christmas from the warm South Island. Hope you are able to gather together as a family. Adele

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    1. Thanks for calling by Adele and for leaving such a lovely, thoughtful response. But was there really any need to add the adjective "warm" to South Island? Have a splendid Christmas in The Land of the Long White Cloud or as it is otherwise known The World Before Covid.

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    2. Perhaps I should also have added the adjectives "windy and wildfire wary" as a more complete reflection of our climate. We may be keeping Covid at bay but nothing can stop all that Aussie hot air one from crossing the Tasman!

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    3. Why are you letting Australian politicians in?

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  4. Bittersweet memories. Oh to be fit late into your life an just not wake up one morning. Of late I have seen rather too many old people who do not have a good quality of life, my own mother included.

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    1. Paul (my brother) died unexpectedly in his sleep. His phone alarm went off to tell him to get up for work but he never did. That was in June 2010. He was 62.

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    2. Scarily young, a year younger than I am.

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  5. How sad and how much your words remind me of my mother's last days which were over 30 years ago now. I am glad you have saved some emails. I save many of mine on an external hard drive and I have also saved letters from before the email days. Our letters and emails are our history. I believe they are important.

    That is a beautiful and happy picture of your Mum. We should remember the dead as they were when they lived and they were full of life. Of course we will always hold our final memories of them before they died. However, we do them an injustice if we do not remember the spark in their eyes when they laughed or the love in their face when they greeted their children or grandchildren.

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    1. Your sentence - "We should remember the dead as they were when they lived and they were full of life" belongs in a book of wise quotations Bonnie.

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  6. A very touching post, Neil, same goes for some of the commnts here so far.
    For me, the complete (as complete as it can be) picture of a person I have lost means I remember "everything" about them; their voice, their gait, their facial expressions, their good & funny moments as well as their bad ones. It's all part of life's rich fabric.
    I do wish I had a recording of Steve's voice. His voice was crucial in making me fall in love with him originally.

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    1. A couple of years ago I heard a recording of my father's voice. How the years came flooding back. I heard some of myself in him. I am sorry that you will never hear Steve again.

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    2. Interesting to see the comment about remembering everything about those who have gone.
      My mother regularly used to panic and become very distressed because she couldn't remember the sound of my father's voice, or what he really looked like. She thought that any photos of him were not a true likeness.

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    3. I feel that hearing my father's voice was a more intimate and "real" way of recalling him.

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  7. As with the previous commenters, your very touching post has revived memories of the last days of my own beloved father. He was suffering from advanced lung cancer and vascular dementia, caused by a series of strokes, so he was not in a good way at the end. Like you, I prefer to remember him when he was a young, tall, strong, handsome man and not the confused, shrunken person he became.
    You were indeed fortunate to have had such a lovely woman as your mother and many good memories to treasure.

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    1. A tragic way for a much loved father to depart putting memories in his daughters' minds that are at odds with who he really was when he loved you and guided both of you selflessly to adulthood. To play the role of both mother and father in one is a big ask for any man.

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  8. Very moving YP. Wish I could write an email to Heaven and communicate with my mum and dad.

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    1. You could do it in a blogpost Northsider. It could be a vehicle for your deepest feelings about and your memories of them.

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    2. Good idea YP. I will think of something similar. Hmmmmm🤔?

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  9. I think it is good to keep such letters and emails, because when you are in the moment of something tragic, it's not easy to remember details afterwards. I often discover a copy of a letter I wrote and can't remember writing it or the detail therein.

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    1. It is impossible to remember everything.

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  10. Though a sad memory, I think it is good to look back on those times with clear eyes when one is not overwhelmed by the moment of loss. The one thing I clearly remember about the day in 1984 when my father died (at 72) is how pain shot through my hands--they ached and ached for days as though knowing they would never hold his hands again. Never hug him again.

    Glad you have this little bit of history to remind you of those you love and who loved you--with sorrow, yes--but with gratitude, too, for all they meant to you, as well.

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    1. I never heard of that before - that unexpected pain in the hands. You must have loved him very much Mary.

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  11. When I think of my last visits to my mother, there is little sweetness.
    For which I feel great guilt.

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    1. How sad that your last memories of her are laced with that feeling but as they say it takes two to tango.

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  12. It's like a poignant time capsule. Just the other day I was combing through some of my archived e-mails as well. It's amazing what's there -- evidence of people and incidents I don't even remember!

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    1. And so much precious historical evidence is being deleted as we speak. Especially in The White House...

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  13. I think the last days of those close to us, when what is going to happen begins to seem inevitable, leave intense memories. My dad's diary of my mum's last few days are almost too painful to read.

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  14. It was both interesting and moving to read your thoughts at the time.

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    1. When I wrote those words I never thought that thirteen years later I would put them in a blogpost.

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  15. What a sad day to remember. Makes me sad just to think of her full, happy life coming to that painful end. My cousin, John, from Long Island, died ten days ago after living with MS for 22 years. We had become very close in the las twelve years. Talked through Facebook a lot. When he lost the use of his last few fingers that would work and lost his voice till it was just a whisper, he did what he knew all along that he would someday. He refused any food. He took control of his ending.

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    1. Rest in Peace John and kudos to you for your chosen ending.

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  16. You moved me with this YP
    I needed to say that

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  18. All of my communications with my siblings are by phone or short messages so your email strikes me as something I would never write. The way you have written it is so different to anything we would say by phone, more considered, less fraught. Without the kind of "white noise" effect of more immediate communications, it highlights the depth of the experience and emotion.
    I'm struggling to getthe right words here but I thinkI'm trying to say it is poignant rather than anguished

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