As it turned out, by the end of yesterday evening it wasn’t Cat’s life and death I was thinking about, but my Aunt Ella’s. I got the call around 10.30 to say she had died earlier in the evening. An expected death, but not expected quite this soon. Tonight I spoke to her husband, my Uncle Bill, Mother’s favourite sibling and the last one surviving. He’ll be 97 in the autumn. I don’t know how old Aunt Ella was, but I’m guessing around the same.
We spoke the other night after I had spent some time over the weekend with his daughter-in-law who was in London for a few days. It was she who told me Ella had widespread cancer and the doctors were talking about weeks, at the most, months. Yesterday afternoon I sent this picture to her of her then infant husband with his mother Ella.
It turns out my cousin didn’t know the picture, and he and his younger daughter loved it. His other daughter may well love it too, but she’s currently studying in England, so hasn’t seen it yet. I hope now it brings them some comfort in these difficult times. His younger brother, who lives in Australia with his wife and children, is flying back to Belfast for the funeral. I’m WhatsApping Cousin who is currently also in Australia, but due home on Friday. Can I get to the funeral? I don’t know. Probably, though it would be a quick turn around after work on Sunday, and I need to see if Celia might be able to keep an eye on MasterB for a few days. Do I want to go? Yes. Uncle Bill has said he would be very pleased to see me there, and although as a family we are fairly spread out, we are in some ways pretty close. My cousin Tom, though now officially retired as a minister in the Church of Ireland, is going to conduct the service. There’ll be a gathering of the cousins.
Mother always had mixed feelings about Ella. No one, in her eyes, was good enough for her brother Bill, but there was also the unfortunate time when Ella, always slender, unthinkingly remarked to Mother that she could never imagine her slim. Mother starved herself for weeks before our next visit to Ireland. My own feelings are less complicated. Aunt Ella is someone I have known all my life; in recent years I have enjoyed meeting her and Uncle Bill for a pub lunch when I have been in Northern Ireland; knowing I made calendars of Cat and MasterB and sent one to my Aunt Nessa, Aunt Ella pointed out to me that she also liked cats. Another calendar went to Belfast.
For Uncle Bill, married for over six decades to Ella, I cannot imagine what this time is like. He says he’s feeling dazed, that it’s all unreal, that although he knew there was not going to be a happy outcome, he had hoped for more time.
I am hoping for a lot more time with Uncle Bill.