January 29, 2014

I can’t believe its more than three weeks since Mabel died. More than two weeks since her funeral. Since then I’ve been throwing myself into other projects, forgetting about a dental appointment, taking Dad out every second day in the car as usual while trying not to think too much about what and who is missing from the car.


Last night, I came across a photo of Mum that I’d taken a day or two before her death. She’s lying on her side, eyes shut, skin glowing, looking the picture of serenity. Then when I woke up this morning I realised I should write a post-death blog, though I haven’t given such a thing a thought since I wrote the last one.

The lovely woman, Yna, who comes in to help Ian get started his day, used to do the same thing for Mabel before Mum went to the care home five years ago. Indeed, Yna’s known Mabel for over ten years, from the time that Mabel used to visit her sister Jean in her care home. Yna told Ian and me that a day before Mabel died she’d dreamed about her. Mabel was in Jean’s room at the home organising her sister’s cupboard. When Yna asked Mabel what she was doing, Mum told her that she was sorting everything out because she had to go away. I was moved by this story, basically cheered by the fact that Mabel had indeed managed to sort everything out before she moved on.

When I went to Mum’s home to clear out her stuff I tried to do it in a brisk, businesslike way. Leaving the clothes that might be used by other residents, packing the personal items into boxes and plastic bags and putting them in the boot. Before I left, one of the residents who was sitting smoking outside the building called me over and offered her condolences. I started to say how I would miss my visits to the home, but had to stop after a few words, realising that I would indeed miss the place. That the little room I’d just cleared out was where Mabel had lived about 6 percent of her life and had taken her final steps and her last breaths there. And so, in the car, I embraced sorrow and let the tears flow.

After that I was pretty calm. In a composed way I read out extracts from Mabel’s diaries at her funeral. A few entries from 1943 focussing on Mabel the feisty film critic. Even then, as an 18-year-old, aware of Ian sitting elsewhere in the cinema. And entries from 1956, the year Mabel and Ian got engaged, culminating in ‘THE DAY’, of her marriage, and feeling that she was ‘HOME’ on returning from honeymoon.

My brother read out diary entries as well, which I’d selected. John got all the laughs as the entries he read were from the party era in Hamilton, repeatedly coming back to Mabel writing how she’d been feeling fabulous at 4am on the Saturday night but was then dead tired all the next day. I felt proud seeing him standing up there in front of our mother’s coffin, standing up for her as an individual and the family life that Mum, together with Dad, had created. Mabel would have been pleased to see her sons looking composed and smartly - if independently - dressed, on the day of her funeral. She would have been pleased to see that the funeral service was signed by a man from Deaf Action, so that my cousin Janet, who Mabel had always had a special concern for as she’d been born profoundly deaf, got the most out of the service.

I’d feared that there would be almost no-one at the funeral, because Mum’s dementia meant she’d been unable to be involved much with people outside the immediate family those last years. But there were about 30 folk there, so that felt fine. The care home was well represented and that wasn’t because the carers had felt obliged to attend. It was obvious the individuals wanted to be there, to pay their last respects.

A couple of days before the funeral - the day that a bouquet of flowers arrived at the house addressed to Ian and me, sent from the staff at Saga who have been involved with this blog - I made cards for the carers who had been involved with looking after Mabel in her last months. Along with each card went a £20 note, accounting for £400 cash that I drew out of Mabel’s account a few days after she died. £20 is not much, even for a worker on close to the minimum wage, but it is a gesture of goodwill and thanks, and I know Mum would have liked the fact that I was making it on her behalf.

There were quite a few cakes left at the end of the reception that immediately followed the funeral service, so my brother and I took them up to the home. The carers who hadn’t been able to go to Mum’s funeral because they were working were able to offer their condolences. I learned that one of the £20 notes had been used by a worker, actually one of the kitchen staff, to take a resident for an afternoon out in the car, right up Glenshee where they had lunch together. I was delighted to hear that, because it’s on a hill up Glenshee called Gulabin that half of Mabel’s ashes are to be scattered in recognition of the joy she got from her ski-ing days in her early twenties. The other half will be placed in a half-layer that Ian has ordered in Blairgowrie cemetery. I’d told him a month or two ago that I wasn’t feeling happy about there being no place I could go in the future to ‘be’ with my parents. And so he’d taken that on board and it feels right. Ian’s parents are buried in that cemetery and so are Mabel’s. Yes, it feels right.

But basically I’ve moved on. Before Mum died, I feel that she must have visited me in the night and tidied up my wardrobe. Before she passed away, she made sure that I would be moving on, in clean clothes and in sunshine.