News and Comment from Roy Lilley
I can smile at the old days,
I was beautiful then.
I remember what happiness was
Let the memory live again…
Memories are fickle. When someone dies, it’s said they live on for as long as they are remembered.
Have you noticed how quickly memories fade? Once so vivid, like the green leaves of summer.
Next, they turn to copper and gold and seem to be burnished onto our mind’s eye, forever.
Look away and next time, they are gone. Just bare branches.
When The Duchess died, as the only child, I had the job of clearing away a lifetime of memories. She’d kept everything. Even my first shoes… little white, dinky things!
Pictures of me with long hair, curly hair, short hair and later, no hair! Pictures of her wedding to my Dad. Wartime pictures of uniforms and jeeps and strange places. Pictures with my Gran and Grandad, Aunts and Uncles.
Neighbours, flats, houses, parks, beaches, swings, high streets, cliff-tops and at the bottom of the stairs. Boxes of pictures. Black and white, colour, framed, in folders and dog-eared.
She’d been born into a gas lamp world, with horses and carts in the street. At a time when policemen knew the first names of all the kids, teachers were revered and respect for shop-keepers was the name of the game.
Was life was simpler then? I don’t know. People are complex now and I doubt any-the-less complicated then.
She saw war and peace, rationing and plenty and lived well into her 90’s, to order her shopping on an iPad and FaceTime me all around the world.
I knew my Mum and her story but somehow there was something missing. We were friends and had an intimacy that grew with the years.
The fulcrum point of dependency shifted… she cared for me and then, it was my turn to care for her.
I may have the box of pictures and countless images on my iPhone but there is something. Something missing, a hole.
I’m missing her story. Her real story. Her narrative.
What did she really, really think? I thought I knew but now, I’m not so sure. Now, I understand that everyone has secrets. Not sinister secrets but confidences that go unsaid, for fear of hurting someone, or embarrassment, or just the story disappears as the pages of memory are turned and forgotten, as a new chapter is begun.
If only there was a way to really remember. Really know. To hear her voice.
Am I mad or maudlin? I still have the answer phone tape of her inviting callers to leave a message.
If there was a better way? I’m pleased to say, there is…
Hospice Biographers is a new charity that trains professional journalist to talk to people at the end of their lives. To record their recollections, collate their memories and gather their stories.
It’s a way for families to remember the real person and for posterity to know, first hand what it must have been like to give birth, before the NHS, without a midwife… as my Mum did, when I was born.
What did she really think when, on a fateful Sunday morning, The Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, announced our nation was at war with Germany. The fear when the family stepped out of the air-raid shelter to find their home in ruins.
What it was like to be widowed. What she really thought.
Have a look at Hospice Biographers, they are doing great work to remember love, life, war and peace with an intimacy that perhaps only an impartial, persuasive, trained stranger can coax.
There are moments when I can see The Duchess and others when I can’t quite remember. Times when I delight in the memories and times when I’m full of regret at not doing more.
The death of a loved one touches us all, young or old, rich or poor. Go to the website, see the YouTube from David Suchet and young Ed Sheeran, talking about his Gran.
Memories are precious and as fragile as the wings of a moth…
It was so easy to leave me,
All alone with the memory
Of the days in the sun…
Contact Roy – please use this e-address – firstname.lastname@example.org
Know something I don’t – email me in confidence.
Reproduced at TrainingPrimaryCare.com by kind permission of Roy Lilley.