What is it about a journey that makes me emotional? Driving up from London, I was, for fairly obvious reasons, thinking about Aunt quite a lot. Ten miles from her home, I began to feel tearful; two villages away from my destination I was weeping. Stopping to buy eggs, I took deep breaths before resuming the road. Only too clearly I could imagine her flat; going in, expecting to see her, her no longer there. I have come east three times to dead or dying relatives. The roads are dense with memories.
As it was, having MasterB with me made my arrival easier as I had to make sure he was alright, and that got me over the threshold and inside. And of course Aunt wasn’t there. But her bed was, just as when she last went to sleep in it.
Dismantling someone’s home after his or her death is a curious thing. In some ways it is very intimate, and there have been moments when I have felt that I am doing something sacrilegious, or least boorishly intrusive. But it has to be done.
So the first thing I did was strip the bed to render it less personal. Both Linda and Nial have been round, and it’s interesting how none of us feels comfortable about sitting in Aunt’s chair. Not that there has been a lot of sitting.
I had an email from the solicitor blithely assuming that by tomorrow the flat would be clear. I think my reply will disabuse her.
Some of the residents here have promised to write a few lines about Aunt to include in the order of service. I have been at pains to say that I am after real memories, not a picture of a plaster saint (which she wasn`t), and I hope they will be true to their word and come up with the goods. The scheme coordinator has already done so, and I found her words very moving, and also very recognisably Aunt.
I am struggling rather with the minister who seems to be intent on a very Baptist funeral where I have been saying the mourners will be a mixed bunch, various denominations of a broadly Christian outlook, and quite a few will have no religious beliefs at all. I want the service to be inclusive, accessible.
But her religion, her faith, was what gave Aunt strength. Over and over clearing out I have found the bible quotations she has written out; the prayer on her bedroom wall; the Christian affirmations that gave her worth. It is not difficult to see how this lonely, abused child found a solace in a god who loved her, and in whose sight she was precious. It was a faith that enabled her to survive, to love, to find joy.
On the way back from the seeing the undertaker and the florist today I saw the first snowdrops of the season. How Aunt would have loved that.
And today is the first anniversary of Aunt Kath’s death. Two aunts in my thoughts just now.