Sunday 29 November 2009

Remembering on a Sunday

I knew before Sunday that my mother had been added to the list of deceased at the Anglican Church I attend and to which she came at various stages of her dementia, the last time sitting and only continuously going through the hymn book, and so I stayed sat down throughout the service too.

At the Unitarians this morning the service was taken by Stephanie Cage from Doncaster who gave a mention of my mother at the beginning, and then at the end Marie Penn, the widow of the long serving minister Ernest, gave some very kind words towards my mother, me and the family, for my mother had attended at the Hull Unitarians for many years both when in Hull and from New Holland. The Unitarian perspective cohered with her own nature-romanticist beliefs and also reasonably straightforward and rational outlook about the quality of things. If you think of classical music, think the pieces that were played by Richard Baker on Radio 4, the kinds that sometimes appeared on Classic FM later, and then extend that to an outlook on life. And she was herself, when thinking, a very sacrificial person who thought about others.

My sister negotiated with the funeral directors some service content, and then I came into this to actually conduct the funeral myself, to add a prayer, a biographical sermon and a benediction at the curtain closing. I shall also drive back to the area to collect the ashes, which I shall then dispose privately in a place of significance for my mother.

It just so happened that Stephanie today had prepared a service based on experience and had this reading from Phyllis McCormack. An elderly lady who had left little to show for her life died and yet the staff clearing up found a poem that once published in Northern Ireland indeed became her legacy. It is called:

Crabbit Old Woman.
What do you see nurse,
What do you see?
What are you thinking
When you look at me?
A crabbit old woman,
Not very wise,
Uncertain of habit
With far away eyes.

Who dribbles her food
And makes no reply;
Then you say in a loud voice,
"I do wish you'd try."
Who seems not to notice
The things that you do,
And forever is losing
A stocking or shoe.

Unresisting or not,
Lets you do as you will;
With bathing or feeding,
The long day to fill.
Is that what you're thinking,
Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes nurse,
You're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am,
As I sit here so still,
As I move at your bidding,
As I eat at your will.

I'm a small child of ten...
With a father and mother,
And brothers and sisters
Who love one another.

A girl of sixteen,
With wings on her feet;
Dreaming that soon,
A lover she'll meet.

A bride soon at twenty...
My heart gives a leap;
Remembering the vows
That I promised to keep.

At twenty-five,
I have young of my own,
Who need me to build
A secure and happy home.

A woman of thirty,
My young now grow fast,
Bound together with ties
That forever should last.

At forty, my young ones
Have grown up and gone;
But my man is beside me
To see I don't mourn.

At fifty, once more...
Babies play 'round my knees;
Again we know children,
My loved ones and me.

Dark days are upon me,
My husband is dead...
I look at the future,
I shudder with dread;
For my young are all rearing,
Young of their own,
And I think of the years
And the love I have known.

I am an old woman now,
Nature is cruel,
'Tis her jest to make old age
Look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles,
Grace and vigour depart,
There is now a stone
Where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass,
A young girl still dwells,
And now and again
My battered heart swells.

I remember the joys,
I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living
Life over again.

I think of the years...
All too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact
That nothing can last.

So open your eyes nurses,
Open and see...
Not a "Crabbit Old Woman,"
Look closer... see "Me".

1 comment:

Tim Goodbody said...

very moving. Thank you fro your candid post