The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th July, 2022, What Survives of Us is Love

Helena’s mother Sheila died this afternoon. It was expected. Last week Helena was with Sheila at the hospital as end of life plans were agreed. It’s been fast. The projected months turned into weeks then days. Helena and her brother were there when Sheila died.

The death of a parent is hard. It’s disorientating, devastating and it hurts so much it can be a pain so great it goes beyond feeling to numbness. You know it will happen, but nothing can really prepare you for its finality.

Or maybe finality is the wrong word. Helena loved her mother and showed it in so many ways, including supporting her through her cancer diagnosis, treatment, recurrence, as well as humour, company and honesty. I knew Sheila a little. We marched side by side to protest against Brexit. Citizen Sheila, Helena called her. Sheila carried an anti-Brexit banner home after one of those marches. I expect it’s still in her house.

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Street of Ghosts

After a month of not posting here, I was planning to write about a wonderful day Celia and I spent in Margate last weekend. The prospect of five years of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, the abandonment of safety nets for vulnerable refugees, the exclusion of Parliament from the final Brexit arrangements, all these combined with the worst cold and cough I have had in years meant I was, and to an extent remain, low in spirits.

But the wonderful day will have to wait.

Today we are a neighbourhood in shock and mourning. An elderly, frail neighbour died in a house fire this morning. Two weeks ago, her neighbour who lived in the property across the road died in her sleep. I can’t say I knew either woman well. The one who died today I would nod hello to, she sometimes nodded back. I had noted her decline over the last few years and knew friends of mine who live next door were supporting her. The manner of her death is the stuff of nightmares. Continue reading

Postcards to Myself

I have been thinking for a while that so often when I am blogging it is about putting a post-it note on a thought, a place or an event, a memory alert: something that can take me back to a moment, a feeling or an observation I might otherwise forget. Post-it notes tend to be small, so postcards might be more appropriate, or, on occasion, letters.

I was making lunch, and while the lentils cooked with the onions and mushrooms, I thought to use the time to check out some poems for Tuesday’s poetry group meeting. I have a long list of tasks today, and this seemed a good way of maximising the time.

The theme this month is weather. There is a striking number of poems about snow, which doesn’t seem appropriate in August. I found one in a collection by Christopher Reid called Flowers in Wrong Weather, which I thought, to begin with, was about the unseasonal blooming of plants in winter, only to be caught in the last stanza when it became clear the poem is about loss and death. My heart lurched.

I turned the pages, pausing now and then to stir the saucepan’s contents. Continue reading

Stolen Time

I have been having some time away from work following Mother’s death. It has been good. I have had some time to reflect, to mourn, to cry. I know that this process is going to continue for a long time, and I suspect that my thoughts will be defaulting to Mother when the day, which is very soon, dawns when I need to go back to work. Already, I can feel the stress building up, and so today I decided to tackle some of those tasks that I know will be waiting for me, with early deadlines adding no little pressure. Continue reading

Work Hurts

I’ll be glad when the week ends.I didn’t anticipate that work would be easy, but it has been more of a strain than I thought. Just getting there each morning has seemed a major achievement. This morning two occasional workers came in. Unknowing of my situation, one of them began to talk about how dental problems could lead to dementia. They both laughed and expressed horror. I sat mute and tried not to cry. It felt like they were being disrespectful of Mother. They weren’t, but that’s how it felt. I was reminded of Maria’s comment about wearing black to remind others that you might not be quite normal, maybe a bit touchy, a bit vacant. I wanted an armband.
Correction: I want an armband. Continue reading