106 – Jubilee Monday

Sometimes it’s easy to remember where you were on a certain date, what you were doing.  Kennedy’s assassination, Diana’s death, the twin towers – those big, shared experiences.  And some of the big royal occasions.  For a non-Royalist, how odd that big moments in my life seem to have been marked by the Queen’s jubilees.

I remember the silver jubilee in 1977 because I was a reporter on the Windsor, Slough and Eton Express and it was my first job.  Every local newspaper in the country was filled with Jubilee-fever but for us we had the added bonus of being the Queen’s own local.  As a junior I was sent round all the street parties, certainly not allowed anywhere near the Queen.  On her golden jubilee in 2002 I was in Shaftesbury, just settling into the home I thought I’d be in for the rest of my life, and spending the day dancing on Park Walk to a Beatles tribute band.  On the morning of the diamond jubilee, Monday 4th June 2012, I chatted to Mum and told her my plans for the day.  I needed to go to see my friend Margaret to deliver a jubilee mug and I’d already put it off from Saturday, then from Sunday, so really I needed to go that Monday, the Jubilee Monday.

The nurses had stopped me going on the Saturday, and on the Sunday.  I’d only be away a few hours, I’d explained, but their looks said I should stay.  Mum couldn’t tell me what she wanted me to do, so I did what the nurses thought I should do.  So I sat with her on the Saturday, and I sat with her on the Sunday.  But on the Monday I had to take my parcel to Margaret or the jubilee would be over.  So I told Mum what was going on and walked out of Abbey Room, the private room at the end of the corridor in Shaftesbury’s little hospital.  The nurses looked reproachful.

106-mum-aAnd finally Mum had the freedom she’d been waiting for.  I firmly believe people can control their own timing.  Did she seek to protect me from the saddest of moments?  Was she protecting herself from my reaction?  Did she think I would try to keep her beyond her time?  A mixture of these, probably.  Whatever it was, it took me 25 minutes to get to Margaret’s house and as the kettle went on, my mobile phone rang.  Before I could reach for it the signal cut out, as it usually did at Margaret’s house.  I took it outside and wedged myself between the trampoline and the chicken shed and called the ward to hear that I had become an orphan.  Expected, and shocking, all at the same time.

If I wasn’t to be beside Mum, there wasn’t any better place to be than in Margaret’s kitchen with a mug of tea.  Her brother and his girlfriend bounded in from their walk.  “This is Tamara” explained Margaret, waving towards the snivelling snotty mess of a person beneath a mountain of damp tissues.  “Her mum’s just died.”  You’ve got to respect their upbringing and their good nature – a mucousy hug, a second cup of tea, and they took over preparing the lunch, leaving Margaret to hold my hand and put me back together.

Bank Holiday Jubilee Monday.  No doctors to sign my mother’s death certificate.  Undertakers not in their office.  The duty undertaker, or rather the call centre, went through the script.  They were sorry for my loss and then asked if my “father” would be buried or cremated.  A tad insensitive but you can decide not to be bothered.

What do you do on the day you lose your Mum?  Nobody gives you an instruction leaflet.
I 106-jubileewatched the hordes of happy people on the television waving flags and felt very detached.  In the evening the Diamond Jubilee Concert filled some time, whilst failing to fill any of the gap that I began to feel opening up.  The nation was partying, but the only diamonds I saw were splashing down onto the hands clenched around my umpteenth hanky.

I think that by staying with her, I had inadvertently put pressure on her to keep going.  Five months later, a dear friend was begged by her husband – in the same Abbey Room – not to let him die alone.  He could express his wish, and she kept that promise to him as she had all other promises.  Mum couldn’t tell me what she wanted, but several days before when she whispered “I think I’ve had enough now” I had known she didn’t mean the water I was dripping onto her lips and tongue.  What I didn’t know was that she wanted me to get on with my day, my week, my life, even as hers was ending, so she could do things in her own time, on her own.

So in the end the date I will always remember, Jubilee Monday, 4th June 2012, was decided because I had to deliver a Diamond Jubilee mug to Margaret before the end of the jubilee holiday, despite the nurses’ reproachful looks.  Finally I got in the car and drove away from Abbey Room and along the winding top road to Blandford Forum.  And as soon as I had gone, so had she.      106-lemons

Outside, on my Andalucían patio, the lemon tree I planted for her is thriving.  This morning, 4th June 2014, new life peeped through the leaves.


©  Tamara Essex 2014



Lemons – limones
Lemon tree – limonero
Oranges – naranjas
Orange tree – naranjo

This last is important as the famous square in the centre of Marbella is actually called Plaza de los Naranjos (the square of the orange trees) but is mis-pronounced and mis-written by a majority of non-Spanish folks who assume it is the Plaza de las Naranjas.  The pretty tiled street-names DO correctly say los Naranjos but to little effect!

12 thoughts on “106 – Jubilee Monday

  1. A very moving story Tamara, it is amazing how we can go through the smallest detail at a time like this. I have often done that with the death of my mum and the memories are very clear.

  2. So moving Tamara. My sister and I were with our mum when she passed, but we’d stepped out of the room for a break and when I looked back in she was just about with us, I think she waited for us to give her permission to go. Our dad died on my sister’s birthday and although we were all at the hospital my sister had gone to get something to eat and wasn’t there, it haunts her still. My husband’s mum passed the night she went into a hospice and when he was on his way to the airport to take his sister for her flight back to Australia and I believe she waited for them to go.

    We had just arrived in Brisbane to visit John’s family on the 10 September 2001, woke up on the 11th to the terrible news of the twin towers. It was a dreadful day for everyone and was the beginning of a huge change in the world.

  3. Thanks for sharing your memories Tamara – time does not dilute the sorrow. My mother also died in June but many years ago, 1987 to be precise, on the 8th, in our local hospice. She was one of the first in-patients to be admitted there, just before her 65th birthday in April. Dad and I went to visit her during the morning of the 8th; during the afternoon I stayed at my parents’ home doing chores while Dad visited Mum – that’s when she died, but she did not want to leave us.

    The only other memorable thing about that date was it happened to be the birthday of my very first school boy “friend”, who Mum liked very much (a novelty!) The friendship petered out after time, but we made contact again when he came to attend Mum’s funeral.

  4. I love your honesty Tamara and what I think must be your wonderful personality shines through everything you write. It sounds like your Mum loved you very much.

  5. I can empathise with this totally – my sister-in-law’s mum passed away last week after ‘hanging on in there’ for far longer than anyone ever expected, and only when my SIL finally went home for a few hours respite. She is convinced that her mother had wanted to spare her the utter distressing finality especially as she was a very private lady. (She was 94)

  6. Thanks for sharing, the passing years don’t diminish those last memories, nor thankfully, all the wonderful memories of the precious times we spent with our mothers.

  7. Thanks ladies :-). Your comments are always appreciated, but especially on these more personal posts. I’m never sure if I should just stick to “had a lovely day, saw nice things” – that type of blog post. But here and elsewhere people have said how these posts trigger thoughts for them and sometimes even help a little, so with your support I shall continue as I have – a mixture, which pretty much reflects how life is.

  8. Very moving. It reminded me of my Dad’s passing 12 years ago. The fantastic nurse in the home encouraged my Mum to go home to collect a suit for my Dad’s laying out when he passed. My Mum didn’t want to leave but eventually agreed. He died about 5 minutes after I left with her. I’m convinced that he wanted her to go before he left us.

  9. Are you sure the nurses were reproachful, or did you ‘see’ that in your eyes because you felt guilty? You shouldn’t. My own father was taken off life support with no brain activity at all. He stubbornly refused to die though, and it was only 3 days later when we were asked to leave the hospital family room we had been staying in that he passed away. He waited until we were well clear of the hospital though. I am sure this was not a coincidence.

    You were a wonderful daughter. Your mother knew that.

  10. Pingback: 104 – All the Language Points in One Place | A Foot in Two Campos

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