My mother, Margaret, was born on the 6th June, 1929. She would have been 84 today and as proud a great-grandmother as I am a grandfather to Florence. I always remember her birthday as it was the same day as D-Day, the epic invasion of Normandy that was a turning point of Word War II.
She died in December 1982, aged 53. At the time, I was 29 years old, a husband and a father of two boys of 3 years and 18 months, life was not easy and I worked at two jobs. To my lasting shame , I could not face visiting my mother in the last 2 years of her life that she spent in a ward of Springfield , a mental health hospital with a Dickensian appearance and reputation. The effects of Alzheimers , a disease little understood or even known as a condition a generation ago, had left her not knowing her own family. I sometimes justify my cowardice by thinking that the disease had taken her away before she was committed to Springfield.
I recently thought about her on a bank holiday day out in May to Worcestershire and its famous Spring Blossom trail. We visited the small town of Pershore in the Vale of Evesham. Our childhood holiday journeys to Cornwall in the Sixties were always punctuated as we passed through Worcestershire by my mother’s memories of her time there as a Land Girl at the end of the War . She joined up to be of service at around 18 years old.
Losing a parent when relatively young is hard and the pain takes a long time to dissipate and recede. One salve comes in the form of making your own family, watching them grow and have children of their own. It is hurtful to remember that my mother never knew my children as her dementia took her away from us all at least two years before her death .
I feel sorry now both for her and my own sons that they never experienced the pleasures of knowing each other.
It is the natural way of things for people to die; each generation passes. Sadder yet though to outlive your children. My grandmother, Edith, on my mothers side, buried all three of her children, each of whom died in middle age. She had brought them up as a widow after losing her husband Arthur, my maternal grandfather who I never knew, aged 51 in 1945.
All you can do is to accept that people pass on and to take comfort in the joys of raising your own family and watch as they grow and have families of their own.
Today the final lines of Christina Rossetti’s Remember (full text here) seem relevant:
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
( The photos above can clicked on to see a larger image, the better to appreciate her beauty!)