Earlier this week we lost my wonderful Aunt, and I am desperately sad.
Right back at the start of all this my first proper post was about Auntie M. It is not really possible to tell you how important she was in my life. She was, quite simply, always there for me and for WeeSis. Looking after us when we were small, letting us stay up late on Eurovision nights (when Eurovision was still cool), worrying about every tiny thing in the way that only she could, taking joy in our happy days and fretting over our sad days. When she married my Singing Uncle and moved south their home was our base for hot, sunny holidays exploring the South Downs. And when they moved back to Edinburgh it was just in time to start all over again with Boys 1, 2 and 3 (of 3). She was wonderfully generous, always proper (but not prim), and a little bit anachronistic. She never met any men or women, only ever gentlemen and ladies. She apologised if it rained. And she thanked everyone for everything at least three times. There are not many left like her in the world.
When she had her first stroke, almost five years ago, it was a pretty massive one and when her neighbour and I found her I did not really expect her to make it through. But I was magnificently wrong. She fought so hard to get back and, though there were other strokes in the time since, she faced up to failing health, increasingly frequent sojourns in various hospitals and just the struggle of coping with daily life.
There was lots of help from carers, doctors, nurses, therapists and all of the various bits of the public and private sector that we could muster. And there was support too from wonderful neighbours and good friends, and from all of us who loved her most. But the strength and determination, and sometimes the sheer bloody mindedness of that little old lady was a real lesson. Despite that, the last year had been really tough and in the autumn we finally took the decision to move her across town to live with the Mater. It was a big decision and took some persuading, but we all hoped it might offer a move for the better. Sadly, that was not to be.
And so we have a lot to deal with now. The funeral arrangements of course, and lawyers, and clearing a house which is brim-full of her life. But most of all, we have to deal with her just not being here any more.
And I cannot pass on from this without marking, too, the passing in January of my other uncle. Though he spent much of his time in far flung places, and lived latterly in the south of England, and though he does not feature in these here pages it would be wrong to assume that geographical distance equates to any lack of closeness. Though we did not see him often I have so many good memories of him and, though he was three weeks short of his 91st birthday, the fact that more than 100 people attended his funeral tells you all you need to know about the sort of man he was, and the affection so many had for him.
For me, I will simply remember that he always, right up to our last conversation, called me “son”, and that he always referred to the Mater as “the Bairn”. As for the Bairn herself, she has lost her only brother and her only sister in the space of two months, and that is hard in anyone’s book.