annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


Funeral - long post - you are excused

I've come upstairs early to write about the funeral before I forget, but I'm so tired. It's like it's come in stages - before she died I was exhausted, then I fell even lower and now I'm on the floor, but on we go, on we go.

I was incredibly anxious about the funeral, being the person in charge, making all the decisions and not feeling remotely up to it, brain not able to compute anything, even without all the unknowns, like how many people are coming, and the feelings, man the feelings. I am such a jumble of emotions and then I go back to being numb, which is where I am now. People are so sorry for me, losing a child, against the natural order, all that kind of thing and I can see what they mean - I imagine if Younger Daughter or Son were to suddenly die it would be truly devastating, unthinkable, unbearable, but my poor darling Elder Daughter, my Sam - I've been grieving the loss of her forever it seems and this feels like how it's always been.

Anyway, there was all kinds of shit with the eulogies and the timing - YD wouldn't have it that it mattered if we went over the time a bit - the thirty minutes slot - despite Funeral Guy being quite explicit, and on Monday night, even without her piece we were five minutes over. She went home in a strop, everyone else went to bed (Son and Bloke) and luckily one of my Glasto pals who'd driven here for the funeral called and told me that she'd been at a funeral where they were ordered out before the ceremony was over, because they'd over run and they refused to have a queue forming. There just aren't enough crematoria and that's the way it is. And I'm not having that, so I stayed up till gone one, on the night before, furiously cutting and cutting to get the eulogies all down to  a total of twenty six minutes, leaving four minutes for YD. Using those precis skills I'd had drummed into me at grammar school, half a century ago. It was awful but OK as well - I knew YD was being difficult because she didn't want to be going to her sister's funeral and nor did I and we were all stressed out and it was terrible, terrible.

Bloke has been an absolute fucker. He kept saying he would do things and forgetting: picking up my prescription, ordering the flowers, actually putting the photo files on the USB stick I took to the photo place - ach, I could expand this list but I won't - I withdrew from him completely on the day before as he felt too dangerous to trust. On the day itself I barely spoke to him. I don't know what to do about it - get out is my instinct but I don't have the energy, the money or the mental capacity so I'll have to stay put and shut up. For now.

It was lovely though. There were loads of people - masses of my friends, ones who knew Sammie as a child and ones just there to support me, who hadn't known her. Friends of YD and Son. Grandson's mates. Deadbeat ex-husbands by the bucketload, mine and Sammie's. Family, of course, all of them on both sides. Care home staff, rows and rows of them - God knows who was running the care home. It was good. We filled the large chapel. I felt embraced and held and so glad my darling was getting her due - I couldn't bear the thought of everyone having forgotten her - though God knows why as I bang on about her on Facebook all the time.

We started with a song, then J read out a piece I'd put together of words about Sam by various friends and family, then I read my bit, which was this:

"Warning. There will be swearing.

I wish I’d listened to Sam more when she could talk. I can’t believe how often I drifted off, how much it turned out I didn’t know about her because she really did talk all the time and I really did stop listening, very often, and I’m so sorry because suddenly she stopped talking, she absolutely stopped – and it was the most terrible thing. I’ve missed her for so long – that bright, funny, gobby, kind daughter since she first had to go into Care Home One, in 2013, that was when we started grieving for the life she had lost, the future she wouldn’t have. I crashed for quite a few months back then, grieving for my dear broken daughter but then it kind of passed because the truth is you can’t sustain that level of emotion indefinitely and when I emerged Sam was still with us, so on we went.

And I want to say as well, that Sam wasn’t a heroic warrior battling against MS – that’s a comforting stereotype beloved of the popular press. Sam was a young woman bitterly angry, resentful and scared about losing control over her life, about never knowing what would disappear next, about what would happen to her darling son. She needed coaxing to have a go at things and constant reassurance, but with those in place she was up for a laugh and good to go.

From CH1, the care home in Bucks, I’d ask Sam where she’d like to go and she mostly said to the beach, but no, the options were woods or town. Black Park or Uxbridge. Neither were that great. Black Park had a lake you could walk round but the café was shite and Uxbridge well… but it had bustle and busy-ness which was sometimes what she wanted. Then we discovered the town of Marlow - we first went there one bitter winter afternoon and had to stop in the Oxfam shop to get more clothes for her – hat gloves scarf blankets – before setting off along the riverbank in a freezing wind, chased by hordes of ducks and geese. What were we thinking? But often chaos made her laugh and she loved a bit of jeopardy – she demanded to be hauled out of her wheelchair and strapped into Stealth at Thorpe Park, and she shrieked with laughter when I almost lost control of the wheelchair going downhill across country, raising her arms in the air and shouting ‘That was fucking amazing!’

She was a good swearer. When she first got to CH1 she was quite rightly angry, and swore a lot, getting into trouble for upsetting the other, elderly residents so she started saying ‘expletive deleted’. As in I’m ‘expletive deleted’ bored, or that woman over there is an ‘expletive deleted’. Good girl.

Her finest sweary moment in that horrible place was when Hayley, the very nice activities manager taught her a tongue twister. Sam recited to me the whole of the one beginning, “I am not a pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s son” without mishap, then when I asked her to repeat it not half an hour later to Tony and Sam she quite deliberately and loudly in front of everyone said ‘I am not a pleasant Fucker’ and laughed and laughed.

I was so glad to get her down here and into the lovely CH2 care home. And so lucky that they had a vacancy when we were looking. I have been moved beyond words at how Sam (and I) were looked after by the CH2 staff, right up to the very end and beyond, as here they are, with us now.

It was bliss, bliss I tell you to be able to drive a couple of miles to the home and wheel her across the road to the prom and down to the end of the pier. On her first night we went to the prom via the chip shop, throwing the leftover chips in the air to the crowd of squawking seagulls - a proper homecoming.  We went out in all weathers, wrapped up warm under her waterproof poncho, battling the wind. And to all kinds of gigs – open air Shakespeare in the rain, David Baddiel, Japanese drumming, Heather Small, loads of things.

But she gradually lost more and more capacities, including most of her movement and vision. Soon she only communicated by blinking for yes, and there we were in that silence – her godawful silence that also silenced me. Who would have believed me and Sam with nothing to say to each other – we’d spoken on the phone most days since she left home, blethering on about nothing, but here we were. It seemed that we sat speechlessly holding hands for ever.

I had no idea what she wanted to do or where she wanted to go.  All I could think was to give her a range of different sensory experiences, as much variety as can be found in and around Our Town. Waves crashing on the beach, wind and rain in our faces on the end of the pier, the sound of children playing in the park, overheard conversations on benches round town, the echoey spaciousness of Public School college chapel, the clanking of the goods lift taking us upstairs in Boots, birdsong at the nature reserve.

She liked the Small Batch coffee shop where they played cool music and made us very welcome. I’d drink my coffee and whisper to her about what the other, hipster customers were doing.

But gradually Sam lost the use of the muscles in her face and that was it for the laughter and the smiles. This last time has been shockingly bad – never knowing if she was enjoying anything, if she could still enjoy things or if she was just wishing we’d leave her in peace. I kept alternating between telling myself she was OK and would still be glad to go out and the sick feeling inside that told me she really wasn’t.

She narrowly missed being dragged to see John Cooper Clarke next week.


But poetry was one of our favourite things, especially this one which brought a wistful, peaceful look to Sam’s face, especially when read at the end of the pier."


Sea Fever


I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.


I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.


I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over


So that was my bit and now I'm going to bed. I hope to write about the rest of it tomorrow as I don't want to forget. I was so grateful for the support, from you guys as well as from Real Life People. When someone you know is bereaved, tell them you're sorry for their loss if nothing else. Send them a card as well. Go to the funeral. Stand with them. There are no magic words to make it better, but you can make it a little less lonely.

Laters xx


10:39 p.m. - 19.09.19


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