Saturday, June 16, 2007

Occurremus Hilariter in Caelum

My friend Margot is dead.

This picture was taken the last time I saw her. She and her son Tom (eldest of seven) came here to Edinburgh two years ago to march in favour of Making Poverty History. She told me then that she had had cancer, and I gather it turned up again. The final episode involved an infection. It sounds unpleasant, but mercifully brief, and included “morphine intolerance”. That’s a new one to me. I thought we all had morphine, at least, to look forward to.

Margot and I go back a long way, to Glasgow in the early 60’s, when one or the other of us was pretty well constantly pregnant. It was Margot who rang us up on November 22, 1963, to say “Kennedy’s dead. Somebody shot him.”

Our paths diverged; we both left Glasgow, but by a very kind twist of fate, wound up living as near each other as before, in Birmingham.

I would like to go to Birmingham for the funeral. I don’t know, yet, when and where exactly it will be. I don’t like leaving my husband overnight, and the trains from here to there seem to be remarkably slow. I’ll enquire about flights today.

The American practice – I have no idea how common it is – of removing a corpse directly from death-bed to crematorium in anticipation of a later Memorial Service, has not yet caught on here, although no doubt it will, like all things American. It’s a mistake, I think. A relationship needs to be rounded off by a proper funeral, which can be a happy and inspiriting occasion in its strange way. I am sure Margot’s will be. I’d like to be there.

The Latin title today is St Thomas More’s motto. It was mis-spelled on the board outside St Thomas More’s primary school in Leicester, which all four of our children attended in the late 60’s. I wonder if anybody ever told them.

It means, “We shall meet merrily in heaven”.

I think I’ll leave knitting for tomorrow.


  1. Anonymous8:30 AM

    I am sorry to hear this sad news, Jean. Sending good thoughts to you.

  2. Sympathy - losing friends is a hard task. I'm glad her passing wasn't drawn out.

  3. Anonymous9:45 AM

    She looks like a fabulously vibrant lady.
    The MPH march was one of those "Where were you when...?" events. Perhaps I marched next to her, who knows?

  4. I'm so sorry for your lost. Losing a dear friend is always a sad thing.

  5. Anonymous1:22 PM

    What a lovely tribute you've written to her. My sympathies on the loss of your friend.

  6. Anonymous1:44 PM

    My thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Ron in Mexico

  7. Anonymous1:50 PM

    She sounds like a wonderful person and a true friend. I hope you get to go and say a proper goodbye to her.

  8. My sympathies on the loss of your friend. It's never easy, but it sounds like you have many good memories of her to help you through. Hope you make the funeral with minimal fuss.


  9. Your post about your friend Margot really touched me, she was very lucky to have such a good friend. It just proves that you don't need to live on someones doorstep to maintain a friendship. You've inspired me to make a few phone calls to some of my old friends.

  10. Even through your sadness you have managed to convey what a wonderful friend Margot was to you, and you to her. I hope you are able to attend her funeral, and celebrate her life. Friendships that withstand the test of time are those that inspire me.

  11. Anonymous5:02 PM

    I'd like to think the American practice of rushing the body off is for some practical purpose but what I really think is that it's because death interferes with our fantasy of omnipotence and disrupts our schedules. Some of us (American families) still practice 'the old way' of wakes and proper funerals but it's getting rarer. Taking the time to say goodbye by celebrating and remembering the whole life is comforting. I'm very sorry for your loss.

  12. Im sorry to hear about your friend passing Jean. She sounds like a wonderful person.

    I have only attended two funerals in my life, and one memorial here in Canada, I found the funerals to be rather traumatic, but I was very young for one, and both were for my grandfathers, so I don't really have much to say about either way of doing things.

    Where about's in birmingham did you live?
    I grew up near Birmingham. can't say I miss the place though.

    My thoughts are with you Jean.

  13. Anonymous7:06 PM

    My sympathy in the loss of your dear friend.

    I'm thankful the rush to the crematorium is not common among my friends/acquaintances. I think it might be more common on the Coasts than here in the Midwest where we still do a visitation and proper funeral with a meal served to the family afterwards. Perhaps the rushing practice has grown from the very scattered families of a lot of Americans. The body can be dealt with by whoever is local and then a proper memorial arranged when everyone can travel to attend it.


  14. Anonymous7:48 PM

    So sorry to hear of your loss. A good friend is a great treasure, which makes it hard when you lose one.

  15. Anonymous8:47 PM

    Jean, I'm truly sorry for the loss of your friend. I do hope you get to Birmingham for the services.

  16. It is very sad to say goodbye to friends, but it is lovely to have a lifetime of memories. I hope you manage to get to the funeral, to say your goodbyes.

  17. Anonymous1:51 AM

    I'm very sorry for your loss. Losing someone you care about is always sad. I am thinking good thoughts for you.

  18. Anonymous1:51 PM

    I just wanted to add my condolences, losing a friend is always hard. I am glad you will be able to go to the funeral, so that you can honour her in the company of her loved ones and have time to remember what you shared together.

    So sorry,

  19. My sympathy to you on the loss of your friend. May happy memories sustain you.

  20. for some reason, this post just made it to my bloglines feed today.
    death is so hard for the living. it does really feel like the world should stop, doesn't it? Can't everyone feel this pain at this moment, just as i am feeling it? But they cannot, and i suppose that is how it should be as otherwise none of us would make it through a single day.
    What i am trying to say here is that i am sorry for your loss. A good friend is hard to find and harder to lose.

    I enjoy wakes - threw a memorial for my late partner, and found joy during one of the saddest times of my life, and certainly the darkest time so far. I dislike viewings, but i love hearing stories about people and wishing i had always been able to see them through someone else's eyes.

    Take care!
    holly (xmasberry)