Monday 20 June 2011


Now, Liz's duty is to amuse. However, life with three score and more than ten years on the clock will be bound to have dents and bumps and a few scratches on the bodywork and, more important, -no: important is correct. I refuse to adverbise it - on the inner workings. Yesterday, Sunday, a dear friend, whom I have known for fifty one years, slipped quietly away from this life. We had a conversation last Wednesday which I ended by telling her I was sending her some love. Thus, the last thing she ever said to me was "Oh! Then it will cross with mine on the way". She lived some distance from me and, at her daughter's suggestion, I went to see her on Saturday afternoon. It's unlikely she was aware of this, but I was grateful for the chance to say Goodbye and spoke to her as if in no doubt she could hear and understand. It brought to mind a story, told by another dear friend, of her husband's last days. His oldest friend was sitting at the end of his bed chuntering on about nothing much, simply keeping him company. He was trying to remember the name of a lady golfer who had them in stitches with her far from appropriate apparel and behaviour at a time when such things mattered and were noted."Was it Molly, Millie; what was it?" "Maudie" came a voice from the prone figure on the bed that had been silent for three days. So, we can't be sure of the degree of consciousness of those preparing for a journey we are obliged to let them take without us. What we can be sure of is the sense of loss, of the piece that is missing from the jigsaw of our own lives. In this case, the image is of a child's jigsaw with ginormous pieces. One would certainly be missed, may even spoil the sense of the picture. In a grown-up jigsaw, it could even be possible to be less aware there was a piece missing. No, that's rubbish. One would have a feeling of dis-ease, at least, and be conscious of something less complete than it should be and was. What a number of incomplete jigsaws there must be in the life-cupboard of the elderly.
Lose, loss, love: powerful words to be linked by a letter. The significance of History may be
underlined by these words. To lose someone one has known for more than half a century means one has also lost the common history. The slice, wedge, of life shared with her is unique and irreplaceable. When the Father of my children and I, who had met at University, became friends some time after our separation, I had a physical sense of recovery. A part of me, a far from obvious part of me, had been taken away and was, without even having been consciously acknowledged as missing, restored. He who had known my parents, my homeland, my growth, my babies had taken the incontestable element of memory of those things with him. Without his affirmation, I could no longer be sure of them. I had rendered them contestable. Crazy isn't it? I wonder if this has a truth for you, too, out there at the other end of the computer. A few posts ago, I said that change was the second cousin once removed of loss. I think they must be closer relatives than that. All change involves letting go what was. That's also loss. And all loss involves change. I have been used to ringing my friend just about daily. That has changed. She is no longer there to answer. I am coming round to seeing loss and change not as twins, but certainly siblings, even if not very close in age.
There is, however, music. On Sunday I went to hear the farewell recital of a singer I have enjoyed for many decades. I was not sure how good an idea it was in the circumstances. It was a very good idea. The programme notes assured us she was not giving up singing, simply stopping the exposure of solo recitals. A sense of relief rather too great for the situation came over me. Some things were not going to end, then; changed but not lost. Great and sensible Irish lady: she finished her otherwise serious and very moving recital with three encores from the Emerald Isle. The last was "Phil the Fluter's Ball" which had us all in hoots, singing along and letting her go with laughter and shared joy. Nos da.

No comments: