Sunday, June 02, 2013

I don’t remember this much fuss about the anniversary of the Coronation ten years ago. Let alone any other year. My sister-in-law, whose birthday we will celebrate in her absence today, was one of the ones who slept out on a London pavement in order to see the Queen go past. I had always believed that that happened on her 21st birthday, but elementary arithmetic reveals that it must have been the 22nd.

This sad birthday has brought memories of the last week of her life sharply back to the surface. She went into the Hospice on a Thursday or Friday. On Monday, we visited, and learned that C. had just been told that she had only a week or so to live, and could abandon her attempts to eat. She was weak, that day, but in good form. “And then..exit” I can hear her saying.

On Tuesday, Alexander came over from the west. It was a tearful farewell on both sides, he says. On Wednesday, we went again. My husband sat with her for a while. “See you later”, he said when he left. And she replied, “Alligator”. I then looked in, and found her surprised and rather agitated to see me. “I don’t understand,” she said. They were the last words she ever spoke to me.

On Thursday, our niece kept callers away in the hopes of rallying her mother’s strength for the family invasion at the weekend. On Friday, Greek Helen was there. She read some T.S. Eliot to her aunt, and left the room in tears. By then, C. was past speech, although conscious and aware. Again, I went in briefly before Helen and I left. Again, C. was agitated and even perhaps distressed to see me.

By the next day she was comatose. She died on Monday afternoon.

I looked back yesterday both at blog entries and at the emails I sent absent family at the time. The Wednesday visit is described, but there's nothing about my appearance at the bedside on Friday. Memory may distort. I will always wonder.

On her last substantial visit to us in Strathardle (in the spring of ’09, it must have been) she and I were talking about 1953 – Coronation year – as we drove back from Tesco’s in Blairgowrie one day.

I made an authoritative statement. She said, sharply, “Well, pardon me, I was there.” I said, “So was I”.

She didn't reply, and remained silent. I stumbled on for a few more sentences explaining my presence in GB in the summer of ’53 and my qualifications for saying what I had just said about the prevalence of television sets at that time. It’s one of those memories which attaches itself to the scene – I could show you, pretty closely, I think, where we were. Past Bridge of Cally, but we hadn’t yet reached Ballintuim.

Knitting: Relax2 continues well. My memory of Relax1 is that once I reach the underarm increases, the rest will knit itself. I doubt if that’s true, but separating front from back will certainly create an illusion of speed.


  1. Oh dear! What sad memories to have of C. I think, now that I have lost people, how significant someone's last words often appear, whereas they may actually be random. Would one have the strength to take care what one said in extremis? I wonder.

  2. I hope your birthday luncheon proves a healing one. I often am surprised at memories of events, especially in families. My sis ter and I might have been at different occasions when we compare notes.

  3. Anonymous6:17 PM

    It makes me sad that your sister-in-law treated you so unfairly/rudely for so many years. Since she raised your husband and they were so close, I think that she saw you (consciously or unconsciously) as competition for your husband/her brother's love.

    Mary G. in Texas

  4. here's hoping you find solace in providing your husband and family with a memorial luncheon. who knows why partner's siblings react the way they do.

  5. Anonymous4:34 AM

    Re: the prevelence of televisions then: I was 6 at the time, and we were all taken down to the gym of my elementery school (the whole school was about 150 students) to watch a television newsreel of the coronation...odd, since this was in Ohio. The screen was probably no more than 12", but since the first grade got to sit in front, I could see quite well. It's my first memory of an international news event.

    I'm a newcomer to this blog, so this is an odd way to introduce myself. There is no accounting for our relatives, I'm afraid, and especially inlaws. I'm sure you have done your best.