Monday, 31 December 2007

Mother's photograph

Actually, my mother would have hated that photo. In fact, I never knew her to be pleased with any photo of herself. I'm similar to her in that respect. I think I could count on the fingers of one hand the photos of myself that I like. But then, we never see ourselves as others do. As Robert Burns wrote:
"O wad some Power the gift tae gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"

The outward persona bears little resemblance to the inner person, that part of us which is truly ourselves. Physically, we're not the same person were were a week ago, let alone 90 or so years. The skin has sloughed off and been renewed. Bones bend, joints creak, we're less agile that we were, less able to remember, less resistant to illness. Yet inside, the me that is me is daily striving to develop, to learn, to expand, to accept newness and change. That's why, at 94, my mother was looking forward to attending computer classes in her new housing complex, so that she could use her computer "properly." As it was, until 6 months or so ago, she was quite able to send e-mails, though she didn't have full control over punctuation, capital letters or the italic key, which made some of her mails a bit of a challenge to read.

As with every death, part of the past disappears from living memory into history. I am amazed that one of her earliest memories was of seeing a German Zeppelin bomb London during the First World War. For me, that image is restricted to a flickering and jerky black & white movie. For her it was in full colour and surround sound. That world has long since gone, and now it is one more step removed.

So we have the practicalities of farewell and disposal. Today will see arrangements being finalised, now that the various offices and departments are once again open prior to another day off for New Year. We will be taking her back to Heathfield in East Sussex where she lived very happily for almost 20 years, and to a service in the old parish church. Then the "wake" will be held in nearby Burwash, in the "Kipling Room" at "The Bear". An appropriate closing of the circle, for it was in the 1930's that she nursed Rudyard Kipling's widow, Carrie, at their Burwash home, "Batemans". I think she would have been (will be?) pleased.

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