A Different Death

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.

Mother and Son


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.

13 thoughts on “A Different Death

  1. Good that you were able to share such a lovely photo. Sorry this has come so quickly and that I won’t be in London to look after Bosun. Do hope you can get to the funeral – for your sake and Uncle Bill’s. Thinking of you all.

  2. As sad as the death is, it is amazing they had sixty beautiful years together! Wow! Imgine all the things in the world they have seen come in to invention! 97 years, another amazing feat. They sound like wonderful people. I bet theyr eally appreciated that photo!

    • He says he’s feeling dazed. It’s the months to come when the reality starts to sink in that will be hardest. I think we’re all a bit anxious about how he’ll cope.

  3. What Sophie said. Take care of the living (including yourself) and give those departed a good send-off whether you are at the funeral in presence or in spirit.

    • I understand she died in her sleep. She was on morphine by that point and had been unresponsive that day. I have been anticipating meeting my relatives. It suddenly dawned on me that I don’t know how many of her siblings are alive, and I know nothing of her nieces and nephews.

  4. I hope you can make it to the service. All of my aunts and uncles have passed and I long to sit and chat with them – an opportunity that is long past. It seems like memorial services are now our best opportunity to get together with cousins. Sending you comfort in your loss.

    • I am on my way to the airport now. My flight has been delayed so I hope it isn’t too late when I arrive, though it would be worse if it were cancelled!

    • I gave the hard copy to my cousin this morning. It was serendipitous that I come across it earlier that day when in fact I was looking for photos of Cat.

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