Thursday, 24 September 2015

Nearly there

I think funerals are normally a little quicker but we are getting there, it is scheduled for this coming Tuesday.  I think it is going to be a fairly busy event too - 90, maybe even 100 or so people which is a pretty good turnout for an 84 year old, the last in her family, most of whose friends live miles away.  Not that I'm surprised of course, Mum made great friends and everyone loves Dad and wants to support him

My sister and I have made most of the arrangements with lots of help from my brother and his wife and my Dad of course.  He has been amazing, so strong.  Endless phone calls to friends and family, talking about his feelings and Mum's preferences.

We started off going for a crematorium service and committal.  This then changed (on discovering that the music would be canned) to a church service followed by a crematorium committal with close family.  Dad then slept on it (actually he said he barely slept a wink) and thought about what Mum had wanted (even though it wasn't really what he wanted).  So, all change in the morning and now we're on a church service in lovely Coleby Church followed by a burial in the cemetary at the bottom of the village with a wake at the local pub we have been going to for decades.  It is the right choice but funny how it evolved like that over 24 hours!

My niece and nephew are each reading a short poem (one was my choice - "Success" by Ralph Waldo Emerson).  My sister, brother and I are sharing the eulogy which is going to be hard but has GOT to be done.  I haven't worked out what I'm going to say yet although have lots of thoughts jotted down.  My eldest niece Liz is determined to sing during the ceremony.  I wouldn't have the guts but she is adamant that she want to do it and she has done a lot of public performing so fingers crossed she will manage it without breaking down.  I doubt I'll make it through the hymns to be honest.  

We've gone for "Tell out my soul" (my favourite and my sister's); "Oh Lord, my God (how sweet thou art)" (chosen by the nieces) and "The day thou gavest us, Lord, has ended" (Dad's nod to tradition).  Some proper tearjerkers there....gulp.

I'm sorting the flowers, both the spray to go on top of the coffin and in the church and have decided to go with my gut.  Mum was not a pale "English" sort of woman.  She always looked best in bright colours and I think of (and inherited) her love for the African flowers from our gardens in Kano, northern Nigeria where we lived for so long.

So I've not chosen pretty creams, pinks and purples but gone for lush green foliage and brights reds, pinks and oranges in bold tropical blooms with an African theme - proteas, leucadendrons, pinheads, deep red calla lilies and amaryllis.  I'm taking more of the same to the church on Saturday and a collection of village ladies who knew my mum are going to help me deck it out in suitably tropical style.   The florist and the village ladies are all excited by the different style I've gone for and have been so kind and keen to do this for Mum and the family.

We've prepared some cork boards of photographs from Mum's life going right back to her Grimsby back garden as a child in the early  1930s.  I found pics of her looking drop dead gorgeous aged 17 in short shorts on a beach holiday with her friend Nadine who is going to be at the funeral.  Some amazing pics of their first tour in Nigeria in 1955 - the mud hut they lived in, her in a cool 1950's frock with a giant python draped around her neck, one showing her with a sheep, captioned "Mary had a little lamb, which made good chop"  (chop being food!).

So, as you can tell, we have been busy.  It hasn't really been very sad.  Sad moments, yes but many good times looking back over her loving and loved life.

We were up in Newcastle yesterday and today for a match (which Wednesday won!) and had a great time.  It had been booked and paid for weeks ago so we decided still to go and I'm so glad we did.  We went shopping before catching the train home this lunchtime and found a couple of dresses  which I can choose from for the funeral.  I shed a few tears after buying them, thinking about how happy Mum would have been at the fantastic sale bargains I'd picked up and also just because I felt happy while buying something to wear for my Mum's funeral.  A strange contradiction.  A big hug from Rich in the store and then onwards.....

That's how it's going to be I think - good times, with the odd sad, emotional moments.

Friday, 11 September 2015

From good news to sad news

Well, we got mum to the nursing home shortly after my last post and it WAS a lot better.  Dad could visit her twice a day without the long drive and spend proper time with her not on a hospital ward.  We were still worried as she seemed to have lost/be losing the will to or memory of how to get herself up and walk so was spending most of her days either in bed or in a wheelchair.  This was worrying for the future - would she ever come home?  She was so sleepy all the time and no longer interested in eating some days, although fine others.

I came over for the day a few days after her transfer and dad and I were heartened when the staff met us at the door excited with news that mum had got up and walked all the way the corridor, with assistance of course and that was how it was - some days good news and progress, other days steps in the opposite direction.

Then the home was stricken with the norovirus so no visits for a few days.  Dad got it but I must have dodged it, as did mum (our constitutions of iron!).  Once things were better and dad had recovered, he and my sister visited mum twice on Tuesday and they said she was up and about, awake, alert(ish) and eating okay. Which is why it was such a shock when the home called him that night to tell him that mum had died in her sleep.

We don't know what caused it as, medically speaking, mum was fine.  My sister (a GP) suspects a embolism, possibly caused by her fall.  (If it was the latter then surely the hospital should have caught it as they knew she had had a head injury?)  So now poor mum is with the coroner and my sister and I and various parts of her family are with my father trying to make sense of it all.

In fact the house is deserted just now which is why I'm taking the opportunity to type this post and get it all out. Hilary and dad are off picking up my brother and his wife from the airport.  They have travelled over from Malaysia and I think Graham is intending on staying for a year to do a course so that will be good for all of us.

Dad rang me on Tuesday night in a terrible state.  I had been at the cricket all day in Manchester but luckily was not too well-oiled.  Would hate to think that I heard of my mother's death while pissed.  Still, it was pretty awful.  I had felt my phone vibrating in the taxi but knew we would lose signal and just assumed it was Rich calling to say goodnight from his golf trip to Wales.  As I was letting myself into the house I heard the house phone ring so ran for it in the dark with dogs going crazy greeting me.  And then it wasn't Richard, it was my dad sounding devastated.

Of course I knew what had happened but such a weird shock.  Standing in the dark, then sitting with Minty on my lap licking my tears (she does that) listening to him pour it all out. I knew how he felt as we were both alone in dark houses missing mum.

Wednesday was hard of course.  Planning: work, dogs, what to take, who to tell, driving, hugging, talking, cooking, sorting out beds, endless phone calls and dissection, trying to persuade dad to eat a bit. Thursday was better. Dad had a good sleep and was much, much brighter.  Hilary and I had a day of funeral related chores but although a gloomy topic getting the ball rolling can be quite jolly once you get going.

Graham and Hadi have just arrive so I'm going close now as the house has suddenly filled up!

I'm heading home this evening as there are so many people around.  Then going to go to the football with Rich and our friends.  Sounds weird I know but hey, I just fancy a day of normality before getting back into the fray of organising flowers, eulogies, music and endlessly thinking about feeding people.  I also want to see Richard as I haven't seen him since crack of dawn on Monday morning and I need a hug!!

So, dieting NOT a priority at the moment but we're so busy that all is not lost.  It will not be off the agenda for long.