Tag Archives: death

1880. No bucket list

How pathetic is that? Caleb had been given six months by the specialist, and he didn’t want to make a bucket list. How backward is that? It’s not as if he was incapacitated. It would be a while before that happened. The disease would slowly work its way towards completion. There was plenty of time to write a bucket list and see the list come true. Provided it was practical.

But no! Caleb would have none of it. “Why on earth would I want a bucket list?” he said to his wife, Leticia. Leticia had been the one who carped the most about his creating such a list.

Why don’t you climb that mountain? You’ve always wanted to.
Why don’t you go to visit the Soda Factory Museum? You’ve always wanted to.
Why don’t you take up golf? You’ve always wanted to.

It seemed that Leticia had made out a bucket list for him. Of course, it was her way of coping with the impending doom that waited down the track. She was doing her best, and perhaps some of these things on the list they could do together – and for the last time. Perhaps they could make a few more memories.

In the end, Leticia won the day! Together they climbed the mountain, both physically and figuratively. “It was very satisfying,” said Leticia. “We’re both feeling pleased with ourselves! The view from the top was stunning. And such a happy memory!”

Together they went to the Soda Factory Museum. “We’ve always wanted to do it,” said Leticia. “It’s so silly really, because the Museum is just down the road. Only twenty minutes away by car. So at last we’ve done it and it was fascinating to understand the history of soda manufacturing.”

Together they played golf. In fact Caleb and Leticia went to the golf course once a week. It was a measure of Caleb’s health and strength. At first they played eighteen holes; later, fifteen holes was enough. Still later it was nine holes; then four. After that, they never went again. “But it was such fun,” said Leticia. “It was something we did together that we both enjoyed.”

The sad day arrived. Caleb passed on. No matter how prepared one is for the death of a spouse, it’s never at all like one imagined.

Cleaning out his things Leticia came across a small piece of paper tucked away as a bookmark:

My bucket list:
To make Leticia happy.

1876. Cosmos seed heads

You see those white cosmos flowers stuck in a little blue bottle? That’s the last of the cosmos in the garden. My wife planted them back in late autumn. She didn’t exactly plant them; she scattered the seed heads in a bare patch in the vegetable garden. They grew apace. Cosmos usually do. And when they began to flower they were all white. No pinks or any other shade. Just lovely white.

Wilmott had collected the seed heads when we went for a walk in the botanical gardens. That would almost be a year ago now. Usually the staff at the botanical gardens don’t leave plants in for long enough to develop into the seed stage. Perhaps they left these plants because they wanted to save the seeds. Anyway, Wilmott took just half a dozen heads. The gardeners wouldn’t know they were missing because there were hundreds of seed heads in the garden plot. That’s why we didn’t realize that the flowers would be all white. We never saw the cosmos in flower earlier on.

It’s quite illegal to take seeds or cuttings (or plants for that matter) from the botanical gardens. Imagine if everyone came along with their secateurs. The place would be denuded. I don’t know what would happen if we had been caught. Wilmott simply snapped the heads off with her fingers and quietly dropped them into the pocket of her cardigan. “We’ll find out what colour these are in the late spring,” she said.

When we got home (we usually went for a longish walk each day) Wilmott scattered the seeds in the garden, as I said earlier. She did that even before we went inside. And when we went inside she died. Suddenly. It was heart.

So you see those white cosmos flowers stuck in a little blue bottle? That’s the last of the cosmos in the garden. I could save the seed heads and begin the cycle again. Earlier I had decided I would do that, but now I think, goodness me, I can’t not move on forever.

1873. A sympathetic response

Hi Doozy Suzie. I really love your blog. What I especially like was the photo you put in your header of your dog. I have a dog and it is very special. Every day we go for a walk and he greets everyone he meets. He would be useless as a guard dog because he wouldn’t bark but run up to the thief for a pat!!!

He is a Xoloitzcuintle, also known as a Mexican Hairless Dog, and his name is Buffy. He got that name because when he was born he didn’t have any fur and my grandmother said “He’s in the buff” so after that he was called Buffy.

I don’t know how you think of things to put on your blog every day. Your posting today was really interesting – all about your mother dying yesterday. The blow by blow account of her last hours I couldn’t stop reading. I don’t know, as I say, how you manage to think of something different every day to blog about.

Your posting last week of how your baby sister died of the flu was quite exciting, although I don’t really understand what that has got to do with your header of a dog. Was your baby sister and the dog good friends? Or was it something else?

I showed the picture of your dog to my grandmother – not the one who named Buffy but the other one – and she read what you wrote and said from what you say your mother would have been “a mean old hag”. (These were her words, not mine). My grandmother said the world is better off when people like that are not stealing the air we breathe.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I like the picture of your dog. You never said what its name was. If we get a cat my grandmother said we should call it Fluffy – to go with Buffy. I suppose your grandmother hasn’t suggested you get a cat because she’s dead.

1842. A garden makeover

It was possibly the most exciting thing that had happened to Clarence in a long time. It had been a terrible year; a terrible, terrible year. And now this happened! How wonderful!

In January his wife had died after a long and painful illness. He had nursed her over the weeks. It had brought him to the edge of life. The only thing that kept him going was the thought that if he went there would be no one left to care for his wife. Their only child, a daughter, had long disappeared overseas in pursuit of an alternative lifestyle.

It’s amazing how sometimes lifelong friends abandon you in times of need. Only a few came to her funeral. Friends over the years had drifted away during his wife’s illness and proved themselves no friends at all. That hurt Clarence more than anything. In fact he had trouble drumming up enough pallbearers to carry the coffin.

Clarence thought that the only solace would be in his garden, but that had gone to wilderness during his wife’s illness. Somehow, after the funeral, the heart had gone out of the garden. Clarence tried to tidy it up a bit but he didn’t make much progress. And then he entered a competition for a free garden makeover. There were a number of conditions; the garden had to be substantial in size; the owner had to go away (all expenses paid) for a whole week while the garden got its makeover; the owner had to trust the garden designer’s ability to come up with a creative concept. Clarence thought he fulfilled all the conditions.

The phone went. It was the television company. They were to record the makeover. Clarence’s garden was on the shortlist. Would he mind the television cameras coming to film the garden before anything was done?

Next, a garden designer visited in person. She interviewed Clarence. What would Clarence like to see in the garden? Did he want a water feature? A patio/barbecue area? Trees to block out not the sun but the neighbour’s prying eyes?

Clarence said he’d like to be surprised. They could do with the garden whatever was creative, whatever would make it lovely. He had just the one request; his late wife’s name was Iris. Would it be possible to have a garden bed of irises in her memory? Of course it was! What a fantastic idea!

Anyway, Clarence’s garden wasn’t selected in the final choice, so none of the above mattered.

1827. A dear husband’s passing

John always ate like a pig. He’d stuff food in his mouth and swallow it with barely a chew. That’s why after forty-two years of marriage Bernadine wasn’t the slightest bit sad when he choked to death on a pork sausage.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Bernadine mourned his passing. Her sobs at the funeral practically drowned out the droning of the vicar. At the graveside they had to hold her back from throwing herself into the hole. At the attorney’s office where the will was publicly read, Bernadine became hysterical with anguish. As one of her friends remarked to another of her friends, “It’s exhausting being around Bernadine these days as she becomes the living embodiment of grief.”

On the evening of the day of the funeral Bernadine nonchalantly dropped a delectable-looking pie into the trash. “Saved by the seat of my trousers,” she thought. “I just hope the pie doesn’t poison too many rats in the town landfill.”

1815. Cause for celebration

Roderick and David ran a smallish undertakers business. They barely made enough to live on. As Roderick joked, “The new doctor in town is not good for business.”

Then the coronavirus arrived. People were dying all over the place. Business was booming.

“At last we will be able to live it up a little,” said David lyrically. “A better quality wine! Cheeses! The finest cuts of meat! Homemade carrot cake all over the place!” Roderick and David were excellent cooks.

Sadly they both caught the virus and died.

1806. Alleluia! the cat

Christina and Florrie lived in the same house and shared a pet cat. They called their cat “Alleluia!” because it brought such joy. The exclamation mark in the Alleluia! is an important part of the name, Florrie told the vet. Our cat is not simply “Alleluia” but “Alleluia!”

There were many other things that Christina and Florrie shared besides the cat. They shared cooking and meals, for example, and cleaning the house. They shared a glass of wine before the evening meal. They shared the rent. They had shared like this for thirty-two years. It was not only companionship; it saved money. How much cheaper it is to heat a single house rather than two.

Every day the cat would curl up at wine-time on the mat between Florrie and Christina’s armchairs. It was part of the daily ritual. Alleluia! was now seventeen years old, as far as they knew. It had adopted Florrie and Christiana. They had no idea where it came from. They advertised with photographs but no one came forward. Alleluia! was there to stay.

And then, very suddenly, just as they were one evening pouring a wine, Christina had a stroke and died. Florrie had to make all the arrangements for Christiana’s funeral, while she herself was devastated. Admittedly it gave something for Florrie to do, something to occupy her mind, but she never imagined that such feelings of grief were possible.

When all was over, Florrie still had Alleluia! It was a connection, a support. The cat was a living link. In fact, Alleluia! had taken over Christiana’s armchair in the evenings. It might sound silly, but Alleluia! was always there for Florrie to talk to.

And then Alleluia! took ill and Florrie had to have it put down.

1797. Funeral demands

(Please note that this story and subsequent stories for the next number of weeks were composed and scheduled before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. So my apologies if aspects offend certain sensibilities. Thanks)

Neralie was adamant; when she died she was not to be buried but cremated. Sure, waking up in a coffin in the middle of a cremation would be a horrifying experience, but to wake up in the coffin and be in a hole six feet down and covered in dirt… oh the panic! The fear! The claustrophobia! Cremation did it quickly and once and for all; if you hadn’t died but had simply entered into some temporal comatose state, then cremation was the way to.

Not to be buried was simply one of the many stipulations Neralie made about the post-demise behaviour of her relatives and friends. Everyone was welcome to bring flowers, but nothing purchased. Only cut flowers from the garden. And they had to be either deep red or pure white or a mixture of both. Red would stand for the suffering she had experienced throughout her life; white would stand for light and relief and the promise of an eternal future freed from all her suffering. Oh! All the suffering! “You’ve no idea how I’ve suffered” was one of Neralie’s catch phrases.

Then there was the music to be played at her funeral. None of this namby-pamby pop stuff – she demanded the Kyrie from Mozart’s Requiem. And if some people found it too long, then bully for them. They should show some respect.

The six pallbearers should dress as befits a funeral. None of this open-neck shirt stuff; no coloured garments; black with a bit of white – perhaps a white shirt. Well ironed.

Neralie’s list of demands went on and on. It was gigantic – like she didn’t have anything better to do in the last five years of her life. And sing! Sing the chosen hymn full throttle. None of this singing into ones beard like a wimp.

And then she died.

No one came to the funeral of the lonely imperious decrepit martinet. They stayed away in droves.

The undertaker had Neralie buried.

1786. Good Friday

Tommy had sat for three days next to his wife’s bed. Sometimes he held her hand. Sometimes he dabbed her brow with a cool flannel. Her breathing was a little laboured. The liver cancer had hit fast, but these last three days of waiting were slow.

She seemed to settle for the night; another long night.

And then the breathing changed.

And then a stillness came.

Tommy sat for an hour before phoning anyone.

1771. Breakfast announcement

Children! Children! Continue to eat you breakfast but listen while I’m talking.

Johnny Sunderland! Get back to your place and eat you cornflakes and stop messing around.

As you know, this institution is called an orphanage although not everyone here is an orphan. Some of you have parents but you’ve ended up here for different reasons. Some of your parents are on drugs; some of you are here because your parents didn’t like you; some of you are here simply because your parents are too sick to take proper care of you.

That is the case for Johnny Sunderland. His mother was dying of cancer so Johnny came here to be cared for properly. Johnny Sunderland! Would you sit down and stop messing around. Listen, because this announcement concerns you.

I want you to be particularly nice to Johnny today because his mother died last night. Johnny Sunderland, sit down! I will see you in my office after you’ve finished breakfast.