Monday, 7 May 2012
I’ve been trying to write a piece about my aunt, who died last week, but, re-reading the first drafts, it is obvious how contrived it is and how badly it scans, so I’ve put it aside.
The central Jubilee conceit of the piece was that the new young Queen’s expressions of sympathy at the time of the Harrow Rail Disaster bound her to a sixty year task of repeatedly expressing her nation’s grief for Aberfan and Zeebrugge and all the places in between, while the loss there of her husband of sixteen months (an earlier Peter Mullins) set my aunt on a parallel sixty years of working out the implications of such losses in active widowhood; that she would have been widowed that long come October takes some comprehending.
But ‘active’ is by far the more important word than 'widowhood' - from many years of district nursing to commitment to her large local church in Bexhill including such things coordinating its pastoral care scheme. During over twenty years of retirement in South Petherton she has continued at the same pace - for example, the Community of St Francis (who until recently had a house near by at Compton Durville) has been remembering ‘her support, friendship and her wise and practical help’.
By good fortune we were able to call on her only three weeks ago when we were staying at Malmesbury, and we noticed then again a subtle Franciscan virtue: knowing for some years that she must be near the end of her life, she continued to divest herself of her possessions. On a previous visit I came away with her husband’s childhood photo albums. This time quite a bit of the best furniture had clearly vanished from her tiny bungalow (she spoke with affection of the person to whom one piece had gone) and we were given to take away a book stand he had made and a brass pot which had been my grandmother’s.
We give thanks for every remembrance of her. There will be much sadness, story telling and rejoicing over the next few weeks of funeral and thanksgiving services. I'm sorry I can't capture more of it in what I write.