Saying goodbye to my sister Margaret

Hello everyone!  On Friday was Margaret’s funeral in Northampton.  I had a quick appointment to see the nurse for my ECG results and the 24 hour BP check; the former was satisfactory and the latter was normal.  I then quickly went to the local shops for papers and bread, before driving over to my Sister Janet at Killinghall, as she and her husband Graham were driving me down.  I was so grateful to them, as it made it easier to go with them than on my own.  I had taken an apple cake and a few caramel shortbreads as a thank you.  I also got them a lunch en route as a thank you.  I found I was very easily weepy on the way to the funeral and over sensitive with my sister Janet.  After thinking we had got totally lost we arrived at the correct church in plenty of time, which helped Janet and Graham relax. 

The Service was well done.  I felt bereft as the journey was too much for Malcolm and I really needed his comfort; I was surprised that I could not stop crying, as I have never felt weepy before at a funeral and it was a release for Margaret from her suffering and increasingly isolated life as the tumour slowly sapped her life.  Yet I felt more upset and lost than I had realised I would. I had prayed for her release and now she was free and with our Lord.  Before the funeral Ruth, one of Margaret’s friends was so kind to me and held me and comforted me; she was very understanding.  It helped me so much and I said that Margaret had not always been easy to get on with; yet she was very good to me and I felt close to her as a person.  I took Fran’s arms to go into the service, as tears streamed down my face.

The Vicar, the Reverend Ian Lovell, welcomed us to the gathering. We then sang the hymn Margaret had chosen, and which was also Mother’s favourite, ‘My Song is love unknown.’   Margaret was born on June 13th 1938 in Bradford. My eldest brother, David then spoke about my sister’s life growing up at home, then her degree initially in architecture but changed after a year to English. She then taught for 3 years in Bournville, Birmingham before moving in 1964 to Kenya to each in a Kahuhia School for Girls.  She was greatly valued by her colleagues as a person and in her work.  She returned to England in 1969 teaching at Harrogate Ladies College, a private school for girls.  In 1973 she moved to Northampton and started teaching at the Girls High School.  After 2 years she suffered a brain tumour and though she recovered fairly well, it was not enough for her to teach again, so she had to retire.  She did not lose her faith but was a regular communicant at St Albans Church Northampton, for a time editing the church magazine and contributing to a regular column in it.  She never complained about her limitations but still coached people in English, studied poetry and went on courses. She also played chess working hard to keep her mind active.  She loved going to concerts and plays. She travelled the world, as far as possible by bus; always struggling with her damaged balance and double vision.  She had a tricycle she used to travel round Northampton to combat her difficulties with balance.  She was extremely independent and resented offers of help; even in the nursing home she was still hanging onto her independence as much as possible right up to August, when I last saw her; she folded her arms when she saw me surreptitiously putting food on her fork to help her eat!! 

She would hitch hike and as she hitch hiked she would always peel an apple with a knife when she had a lift, which gave her protection. My father apparently dropped her to get lifts and then hurried home to pray fervently for her protection!  She was after all 21 and did not need the permission of our parents!  She marched in support of CND.  David concluded his talk by describing Margaret as a person of spirit and character.  That she certainly was.

She was also very generous to me and Fran taking us on holiday to London and Robin Hood’s Bay; always wonderful youth hostelling with her. Fran continued to go on holiday with her and had great times.

The minister used an illustration from Alice through the Looking Glass; a chess match where Alice progresses from being a pawn to being a Queen; a young girl on the journey of life from childhood to adulthood.  It is also a novel of letting go.  Alice has forgotten who she is when she meets the fawn at the border of the square and she remembers. She has grown up. The book is a metaphor for the journey of life in which we encounter many different situations and very many people, and have to make choices and decisions.  The goal is not to stand still in this life but to keep moving on through our experiences and encounters to realise our potential.  He read from 1 Corinthians 15 in Alan T Dale’s translation which describes the journey of this life and the life to come. He stresses the understanding which comes from faith and hope in accepting what Jesus did in his life, death and resurrection for each of us.

Margaret he said had a great faith although through life she encountered many different challenges and people.  She was an accomplished and knowledgeable person.  She was also a very private person enjoying her garden, her poetry, reading and playing chess. She served as a Deanery Synod Representative on the PCC and attended the weekly Bible Study for a short time.  The brain tumour made her challenges more difficult and finally made her reluctantly let go of her independence and accepting the need to be cared for in a nursing home for the last three years of her life.  Now she has made it to the Kingdom of God with Jesus after we let her go free of her suffering.

Apparently so my brother said when Margaret arrived back home on her tricycle; the people nearby would watch her do a wide circle into her drive and hurtle down the steep drive to a sudden stop!  It proved entertaining for them. Prayers were then said for Margaret and us her relatives and friends.  We then sang the other hymn she had chosen: ‘Morning has broken;’ celebrating her release into new life.

My niece Christine read this poem called

‘Explorer’

 

Chooses somewhere unexplored

Goes without gear, walks alone

Into the white out. Storm drones

In her head, hoods her, sticks to

Her fingers. At her last ditch,

In the eye of despair, when

Blizzard encompasses, a

Blur, a brief silence, she is

There. Authorities after

Will tell her where she was,

What she did. She has turned

Her back on that, needs now

Another place,

Another way of going.

 

I found that profound and appropriate.  The commendation and farewell was led by the minister before he went to the crematorium for the committal. 

 

David had arranged a car but only I went with him in it; the others would follow they thought. However the crematorium was out at the back of beyond and most of the family got lost in the rush hour traffic!  I am glad that David and I were there for the committal to see goodbye to Margaret.

 

After a buffet tea and David giving us mementos from Margaret we set off in different directions.  Fran’s younger son Matthew drove me back home; we stopped for a snack en route; just a starter as we were not very hungry after the emotional experience.  It was good to be back with Malcolm as it made me feel better to be held by him.  I  was shattered and emotionally drained, although being with Fran we got the giggles, which did help me; Matthew kept saying we were all mad as a family!

 

On Saturday I was absolutely wrecked and shattered but felt comforted by my friends from my former chapel of Oatlands when we met at a coffee morning in aid of Medicins Sans Frontiers.  I then went for a massage which further helped relax and heal my sense of loss, before relaxing and watching films with my beloved comforted by his loving presence and his hugs.  I am still taking time to grieve the loss of my sister, even though she had already gone earlier.

 

  

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