This is the final episode.
My business is suffering a little at the moment, but it is to be expected – there are more important things to be doing this past month. I have been doing some old photographic repairs and enlargements for Monica. I love doing clean-ups of photographs and it is especially fascinating seeing old photos of the Haynes’ family. But for Monica, I would never have known much about the Haynes’ lot. I really wish I had written down some of Monica’s stories. But she doesn’t have long to go now. She is still putting on a brave face for visitors, but I think she is in a lot of pain and discomfort. Her legs are so swollen and heavy and she is almost confined to her bed and Morphine now. At least she is at home and has her family with her.
Today is Sunday 8th May. I have just been to see Monica again and I know it was the last visit. She is tired and ready to go now. She told me that she loves me and said “Goodbye Dawn”. I held her, saying my goodbyes and then left the room to sob. It is so difficult to see her go too. My last link with the Haynes’ family gone. Somehow, I am finding the thought of losing Monica worse than losing my own mum.
Monica has gone. Friday 13th May 2011. And she had the last laugh there too. Daddy would have stayed in bed on that day, as he was terribly superstitious about Friday 13th (unfortunately for Mum, her birthday, being 13th April, often fell on a Friday).
It feels very lonely – like the last of that generation is now gone and we have to step up and be the grown ups now. Monica’s funeral will be on 26th May, at St Mary’s church in Arnold. I wonder if I shall meet some more Haynes’s then?
Today was a beautiful sunny day for Monica’s funeral. There were other family members, whose names I knew, but that was all. I read the Gospel at the funeral, but I couldn’t stop the tears. After the service many of us went for refreshments and a family get-together.
Debbie has booked the burial of ashes for the 19th August on Graemsay. She is also considering being baptised, which is so exciting. I hope to persuade her to take the plunge during our Summer visit.
August 2011. We all went up to Orkney this time – on the train. I have now made the journey by plane, train, coach and car, over the years. The train was challenging, with many changes and timetables to keep – much more stressful than driving.
I was carrying the big, green plastic jar containing Mum’s ashes, a couple of books for Debbie, but very little else in my back-pack. The boys each had their own luggage. On one of the trains, I was chatting with a lady, telling her all about Orkney and how remote and beautiful it was… and she asked me “Where is your Mum now?” I bluntly pointed to my back-pack and said “She’s in there! We are taking her up to be buried.” The poor lady didn’t seem to know how to respond, so I laughed and apologised for being so direct, but explained that Mammy had been so poorly, was now at peace and we were fulfilling her desire to be buried next to her beloved. The lady relaxed then, but she wasn’t quite as chatty after that.
It was an arduous journey, as always, and I was very happy to arrive. Debbie now lives in a lovely house in the heart of Kirkwall.
The service is all set and the islanders on Graemsay are going to be at the Kirk, having prepared a spread for us all for afterwards.
Mine, Debbie’s and the Pastors’ family nearly filled the little boat to Graemsay. We dropped stuff off at the hut and continued our walk down to the Kirk. From the top of the hill, we could see the little patch dug out in preparation – the hills of Hoy creating a stunning backdrop. It felt strange to all be there together – the first time ever. The sun shone beautifully. We soaked in the serene tranquility as we waited to greet the islanders…
After the service, we went back up to the hut – I was driven there by a 12 year old. The folk on the island had many memories of Mammy, Roger and Monica to share. It was all such a fitting tribute and Mammy’s ashes are now lying next to Daddy’s, just as she wanted it to be.
Debbie’s baptism took place 2 days later – she was terrified of going into the sea and was nervous about giving her testimony, but I felt so privileged to be there. It was glorious and Debbie was so brave. She was glowing (and shivering) when she came back out of the water. Later we went out for dinner to celebrate a fantastic and momentous week.
I still have the other ashes to sort in Nottingham, a family to look after and a business to run.
Rest in Peace, Mammy.
Finally… March 2014. It is now nearly 3 years since Mum died.
The intention was always to have the remainder of Mum’s ashes deposited up at St John’s for easy access for Nottingham folk to remember her. I don’t suppose there will be many visitors up on Graemsay. As it happens Mum and Monica both had a collection of Dad’s ashes and they had all been left with me.
Last week, the 26h February, 2014, the final service occurred. I put Mum and Dad’s remaining ashes all into a sealed box and wrapped it in hearts, then we went up to St John’s for a short service. Debbie, Rachel, Olivia, Skye, Conor and cousin Pauline were present. I did a reading from Revelations 21 (about there being no more pain or tears and all things being made new) and placed the box in the pre-dug hole and it finished with a blessing and hugs all round.
I was surprised to find myself choked with emotion when I put the box in the ground. It had all seemed like a necessary formality, but I had not felt anything until that moment. It began to rain as we departed and the most beautiful rainbow then appeared and stretched over the expanse of sky in front of us as we made our way home. It was a sign of hope and promise to me.
Five days after the burial of Mum and Dad’s ashes, it was my 49th birthday. I realised then that Dad died 5 days before Mum’s 49th birthday. Just another one of those coincidences that has run throughout all these deaths and anniversaries.
I miss Mum, Monica, Little John, Roger, Pa, Pat and all the other friends that I have lost in these 7 years, but I am very grateful to have been able to know and love them all.
I am especially grateful to have been able to get to know my mother and have the privilege of caring for her when she most needed it. I still struggle with doubts and questions about choices along the way, but I have to remind myself that I did do my best for her with what was available to me.
This is all we can do – to trust God and accept responsibility for the choices we make and to do our best in love.
I would like to give my mother the last word: –
The article that Mum wrote in May 1996
I last saw the majority of my classmates in July 1962. I began work at Raleigh in August and 3 months later I left to have Debbie! She was born in May and in the July I married Dick – far too young and loads of problems, but absolutely no regrets. Dawn came in 1965 and completed our family.
After a house fire in 1969, we moved to Calverton, to a caravan in a lovely quiet and isolated spot – our first taste of ‘country living’. Four years later, the girls were growing and we moved to a house in Mapperley, where we spent the next 14 years. Dick was working as a motor mechanic and me running a little clothes shop called ‘Nine till Five’, on Woodborough Road. I learned a lot there and developed my knitting and designing skills.
The girls grew up and moved on and we once again thought about the ‘good life’ somewhere – an island to ourselves appealed to us! We didn’t find one, but got a close second with Graemsay, a small offshore island with 10 households – 27 people including ourselves – with a tiny Post Office and a one-roomed school which had 4 pupils at that time, but only one now. Clett is an old stone croft house with 8.5 acres stretching down to the shore. We look out to the Hoy Hills and across to Scapa Flow; the landscape changing constantly with the changing light and seasons. It’s generally mild, but quite wet and certainly windy! The summer sky doesn’t darken and the winter sky sometimes shows us the Aurora Borealis – a magnificent sight! There is no crime, no pollution, no hassle. I created gardens and sold my knitwear to local shops and Dick kept the island’s cars running.
On the 8th April 1995 my world fell apart when Dick died very suddenly, aged 49.
Debbie whisked me off to Spain where she lives with her husband and the grand-kids – Rachel 9, James 4 and Olivia, who was born just hours after Debbie heard of her Dad’s death. Spain is quite nice, but I couldn’t live there, nor in London where Dawn is with Eddie and their son Joshua, nearly 2, and another to come in October. Dawn is a teacher there.
I am getting my life back together again now with the help of Dick’s sister Monica, who has come to live here too. We have 10 sheep, 4 goats (2 adults and 2 mischievous kids) and a cat. My job as Postmistress keeps me busy for all of 4.5 hours a week and now we are planning a caravan park!?…
Appendix 2: Where to go for help:
Things to find out about:
- GP – for a referral to psycho-geriatric Consultant
- Lasting Power of Attorney – someone close and trustworthy should have it! (See next section)
3. Social Worker – for a needs assessment and help coordinating all levels of support.
4. Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance/Pension Credit (See next section)
5. Carers Allowance – not much, but it is for you, the carer.
6. Respite care – so that you can go away and have a break from caring, with peace of mind.
7. Day centres – where trained carers offer activities and company for your cared-for.
8. Volunteers – Alzheimer’s Society (Befrienders); Age Concern (Volunteers)
9. Trent Crossroads – ‘sitting service’: Your Social Worker can refer you for this.
10. Home help for the cared-for.
11. Carers’ groups: Social Services run these locally, according to need.
- Local Support Groups: eg.: ‘Take-a-Break’ in Nottingham.
I think your book is a brilliantly written and moving account of the time you had looking after your mammy. You should be so proud of what you have achieved in having it published and loved by all who have read it.
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Thank you for your encouragement throughout, Richard.
I love that the instalments ended on Week Fifty. I have loved re-reading my book and sharing it with you all and have loved finding photos to illustrate some of it for you, in a way I couldn’t in the book. I’ll go back and illustrate some of the earlier episodes now too. Thank you for reading – I hope you have taken something away from my journey through dementia too. Bless you all. Contact me if you would like a copy of the book. x
The last word from Avril is a fitting and lovely finale to the book. A fitting tribute indeed.
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