Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Life and Death

Seems like far longer than a week has passed, but that is probably because it has been so busy. Jane and Chris arrived from Australia on Saturday. In preparation for their arrival we had to re-arrange a couple of rooms as we don't normally have guest accommodation other than the couch and a blanket. We went for a big food shop on Friday, the first really since the holidays.

Bill was busy notifying people and institutions about Ella's death. I went with him to the funeral home where the undertaker walked us through a long list of decisions. I chose to go on the basis that I might have to know how to do this one day and experience stands one in good stead. There's not a great deal of difference other than having a lot of runaround to get the death certificate sorted and registered. I was once again reminded that convenience is not part of British culture. Notices of death are considered in good taste, I gather, a biographical obituary is not. If the service is not in a church, there is no leaflet given out with pictures or poetry. The main difference I noticed was that the funeral service staff were quite chipper and cheerful, not at all the grave, lugubrious type you get in the States.

Once Jane arrived she began accompanying Bill on such business. This left me to keep Chris company. That is a whole other story. If you know Chris, you'll know just what I mean.

Bill and Jane are both doing pretty well. They have their sad moments, like when Bill went to buy music for the service (Mozart) and the song playing in the store was one his Dad used to often sing. Another was the last moment in Ella's room at Abbeyfield.

The weather has been gorgeous for a change. Not terrifically warm, in the 60's maybe, but with beautiful sunshine and, after a night of howling East wind, very soft breezes. Jane and Chris keep exclaiming about all the crocuses and daffodils, as those don't grow well in Sydney and they are actually a stereotypical idea of spring in England. My daffs that I planted in pots 2 years ago have actually bloomed this year in spite of being abused and ignored all these months.

We've made several trips to Abbeyfield to remove Ella's things. I took the opportunity to take some pictures, mainly because I always thought Ella very lucky to live in such a pretty place with really nice staff. She had moved from her big house in West Denton to a 2-bedroomed ground floor flat

in North Shields for several years, to one room, with a sink that allowed for tea-making and a half bath at Abbeyfield in North Shields and then to Abbeyfield in Gosforth. She has gradually shed her possessions with each of those moves, but it still took 4 car loads to shift her things here.

There are several pieces of furniture we have shoehorned into an already packed house, but will enjoy: a card table with a top that swivels to reveal the box underneath. I associate this piece of furniture with Ella the most, as the most time I spent in her company was drinking tea or coffee and there was a certain routine she had of getting things out of that table. There is a gate leg table that has seen better days but is quite quaint: folded down it is a small rectangular shape, but lift the wings, move the legs and hey-presto, you have an oval shaped table at which two people could have a meal.

The main thing, though, is a bureau that Bill often pointed out to me, saying "That will be mine one day." It is beautiful wood and has housed Ella's keepsakes for a very long time. I suggested locating it next to my usual chair as Bill would normally sit across and could look up at it. Fortunately it comes apart and is relatively easy to move, unlike my Grandmother's china cabinet. It has drawers, a fold out desk with all the usual cubby holes and drawers, and the shelves behind lovely glass doors. I think it gave Bill a bittersweet satisfaction to clean and polish the bureau and to select and place the keepsakes on the shelves.

Jane and Chris are gone today on a day trip to Durham, which is probably beautiful just now. It's always pleasant and peaceful to walk along the River Wear in the spring. I'm sitting down to do this blog and Bill is no doubt playing Spider on his laptop downstairs.

Tomorrow will be a day of tidying and cooking for the clan that will gather here after the funeral service on Friday. Saturday is Bill's birthday and Sunday is Mothering Sunday -- the British version of

Mother's Day. The timing is both unfortunate and positive: Bill's children normally just send him birthday cards, but they will all be staying over and spending Saturday with him and he is looking forward to that.

1 comment:

Rick Stone said...

You both have our deepest sympathy during this time. Losing a parent is hard, as you have known and as Jo has with losing her dad. My folks are both 90 and we will probably have to deal with this ourselves before too much longer.