Tag Archives: Bereavement

Plum

16 Jul

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Seen through the eyes of a child kites are wishes on a string. This picture made me think about how insignificant I have seemed. I will be 60 soon and it is time to take stock.

“We are nothing but a fart in eternity” my mother used to say.

Just this weekend my neice, Wren (above) and nephew, Cole played host, supported by their parents Anna and Nathan Littlewood and Nanna, Mollie Littlewood. They had arranged a family get together in their new home near Bristol.

As a result, I enjoyed one of my best extra birthday parties ever.

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We enjoyed a tasty barbecue made by The Dad (Nathan), lovely food and drink provided by The Mum (Anna), followed by pass the parcel and dancing statues, kite flying, colouring in and driving Cole and Wren around in Bertha (the Hilux) plus lots of easy chats, swapping news, sharing views.

Here Aunty Clare is baking cakes with Wren and Cole.

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It got me thinking about my father, David Stuart Littlewood, the founding father of our little clan, his singular achievements and his legacy.

A couple of years ago I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he said,

“To wake up son”. Sadly he will not be waking up any more.

Both my parents have passed away now and it reminds me of what my wife said when both her parents passed in the same year:

“I’m an orphan now!”. I laughed, insensitively, and said “Don’t be ridiculous!”

I’m not laughing now. Sorry, Clare.

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In 2000 after suffering years of crippling, cyclical depression I almost succeeded in throwing in the towel, predeceasing my parents.

Six months later, after regular visits to a psychiatrist and copious intake of Lophepramine (a powerful tricyclic antidepressant) I was alive, though I could barely function.

My father said “I’d like you to paint me a picture, for Christmas son”.

The picture above is the result. Nathan returned it to me yesterday. I called it ‘Bonsai replanted’ and copied a Haiku by Basho on the reverse:

Even a Black Bull

Will sing a song of Spring

Under this flowering Plum Tree

In my picture the moon is waning, and one can’t be sure whether the tree is alive or not. One of the hills looks like a tidal wave is rolling in. The only redeeming feature is that Orion is prominently represented in white chalk dots (I always think of Dad when I see Orion, The Hunter). Dad kept it alongside a portrait of The Golden Gate Bridge by Simon, our youngest brother. I understand it had a spell in Australia with Nathan and his family.

I never realised until I grew up how much I was loved.

 

We, under Orion

Sing and dance and Love

So many flowering Plums

 

For my Family

x HL 16.07.2018

 

 

Fólkvangr

24 Sep

Shrine 4

High above the Goyt Valley in the Peak District lies a shrine. A tiny stone round house built as a memorial to a Spanish School Teacher by the owners of the estate where she taught. It lies on the steep slopes of a hill behind Err Wood, the ancestral seat of the the Grimshawe family a walk away from the ruins of their home, Errwood Hall. My friend, Dave and I chose to walk together around the valley in golden autumn sunshine yesterday in deference to our mutual interest in sandwiches, conversation and rambling (both the talking and the walking kind).

Goyt Valley

Shrine Err Wood

Upon entering the shrine we were met by St. Joseph depicted in ceramic tiles holding the infant Jesus and this Spanish inscription:

Munca se le Invoca evano a San Jose prueba de gratitud’ which translates to – No one asks in vain of St Joseph, a token of gratitude.

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Underneath St. Joseph is pictured holding the infant Jesus, and below them on the tiny votive alter are many tokens of gratitude. Candles, coins, a toffee, postcards memorialising deceased grandparent and a beloved husband. All of them asked for our prayers for the deceased.

Joseph, being the patron saint of the working class, meant that neither Dave nor I had any difficulty leaving our tokens of gratitude to the man who, like those of us who work with our hands, had quite literally carried the King.

I am not a religious man in the conventional sense, but I am no atheist either. Agnosticism is the only defensible position for a skeptic, for in the absence of hard evidence, it is just as ludicrous to me to believe that there is no God as it is to believe in a particular version of God.

This tranquil little sanctuary suspended above the flooded Goyt valley fairly hums with sadness and loss and yet, as Dave and I read the the quiet requests for our prayers which had been faithfully left behind, we were uplifted.

In old Norse the ‘House of the Slain’ or Valhalla is ruled over by Odin, half of those slain in battle are chosen to reside here, the other half go to an eternal meadow called Fólkvangr (field of the host) ruled over by Frey- the Norse god of love . Fólkvangr is poorly understood, but since Frey traditionally has the first pick of fallen warriors – men and women who have died a noble death – I am tempted to suggest that it is this hall and meadow where the most effective dead champions are to be found. We are familiar with the concept of Valhalla – beer, more beer, singing, boasting, fighting, getting very drunk and so on, but not the alternative Norse Heaven. I know which I prefer, and I am glad that I discovered it.

Dolores’ sits in Fólkvangr.

Fólkvangr

In Memoriam

27 Mar

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I will always be grateful for the Rangers who constructed this lovely memorial bench for my half sister Anna who passed away nearly five years ago. Anna’s very good friend, Helen and I got our heads together at her funeral to try to think of a way to commemorate this wonderfully complex, infuriating and brilliant young woman.

Anna was born, Abigail – one of my favourite names – which became for her a heavy burden literally ‘A-Big-Girl’ – a bullying taunt which affected her relationship with food her whole adult life. She changed her name by deed poll to Anna Beth Iona Wilde, thus retaining the ABI in her initials. Only 35 when she passed away – a brilliant and much loved veterinary surgeon she had saved many pets, farm animals and owners’ heartache through diligent application of her skill and empathy. She was forever rescuing ancient moggies who were duly resurrected, Lazarus-like to become (in my words) Frankencat. I really loved Anna she always reminded me a bit of Dame Margaret Rutherford – an eccentric and slightly dotty Duchess.

I’m thinking of her on the day I leave my job as a Ranger for Sheffield City council, a job which has sustained me by employing my love of teaching, my fascination with natural history and passionate belief in the importance of connecting people with and protecting the environment. What would she say at my decision to take redundancy and move on?

I think she’d approve. As Grandmother Annie Wilde (the Irish inspiration for Anna’s name) said to my dad when he began his apprenticeship as a carpenter at the Co-op in Huddersfiled:

“Well son, if it’s good enough for the Son of God, it’s good enough for you”

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What I particularly like about Anna’s Seat in Fingle Glen, Devon is that the Rangers went to the trouble of building a stone apron in front of the simple oak seat to make it easy to maintain and to define it. A ‘proper job’ as we Yorkshire Rangers would say.

If you are ever down Drewsteignton way in darkest Devon, pop in to the Fingle Bridge Pub, have a pint and then walk up stream on the right hand bank for a quarter of a mile and find the peaceful spot where Anna is fondly remembered.