This week I returned to the place of my birth, Worcestershire, it’s a trip I don’t make very often these days. My life now is in London, it is home, but driving along the motorway towards Worcester brought back many memories of the past. The closer I came the greener the country became, finally arriving at a little church in the village of Kempsey, stepping out of the car and walking into the church grounds the green of the grasses, the trees, the wild flowers was an explosion of colour and life, it was as though living in the urbanity of London had dulled my senses and that here nature and life was everywhere, an assault on the senses, given the circumstances of the reason for my trip was to attend my Aunt Pam’s funeral it felt ironic to be in the presence of such a vivid shouting display of life, but then life has a way of telling you things when you least expect them.
My Aunt was one of the most inspiring people I have met, born in the 30’s in a provincial city to working class parents she carved out quite a life. Her parents were simple people, her Dad was a Butcher, her mother a Housewife, there was little in the way of expectation for a girl back then, that a girl would marry, that careers were not really important, the woman was expected to be a mother and a homemaker. Pam wanted more, she got a place at the Girl’s Grammar School, a scholarship to a Drama & Teaching college, against her mother’s wishes who thought it too much. She took herself off to College, became a teacher and spent her working life in education, teaching for nigh on fifty years. Pam was the first female headmistress in the state system in the City, she worked well beyond retirement age and loved children. She had a feel for people, a deep wiseness about her, you know the way that some people just look into your eyes, that it feels like they can read your mind, understand you and how you tick, Pam was one of those people.
She had a joy of life, a laugh out loud sense of humour, a zest, but life often takes no prisoners, Pam was faced with challenges in her life that really people don’t deserve. Her son was killed in an car accident in his early twenties. I remember vividly that time, I was fifteen years old, my cousin was a few years older than me, he was full of life and had his life in front of him, then one sunday afternoon on a little back road it was snuffed out. For his mother and family it was a cruel and shocking loss. I cannot imagine the pain that she went through, I cannot imagine the strength it took for her to cope with that loss, but somehow she did. One day not long after her son’s death I bumped into my Aunt in the high street, I asked her if she would like to go for a coffee, I insisted on paying with my pocket money. We talked a lot, I could not understand the fairness of life, it all seemed deeply wrong, that was the time in my life when I decided that I did not believe in God, would not believe in God. Pam’s husband Mac was a fantastic chap, he was also one of life’s real characters, loud, in your face, the sort of man that wouldn’t suffer fools gladly, if he wanted to say something he would say it, no messing. They had a life-long love affair together. Pam’s husband was taken by Cancer, another hole left in her life, but she went on. My father, her brother died as a result of alcoholism, she did her best to help him, but as is often the case it was not possible. The fates dealt another deeply cruel blow when Pam’s grandson who she was particularly close to was taken by a virulent form of Lukaemia in less than a week. There is nothing more shocking than a young life taken so abruptly, it has no sense, it is just unfathomable and so disturbing. Pam once said, I don’t know what it is about me, but all the men in my life seem to leave me, those words touched me very much.
Pam weathered all the storms that life threw at her, she loved life, she loved people. I visited her in an Hospice, just a few days before she died, I sat next to her bed, we chatted. She had a kind of sereneness about her, she smiled, she was calm. We talked about the old days, about children, we talked about my Son. I asked her how she felt, she said she was happy, she knew that very soon she would be with her men again, her Husband, her Son, her Grandson. That’s perfect she said, together again, me and my men.
I’ve been worried about you, she said to me, are you all right? I said I was fine, she fixed me one of her deep stares and said, You know, you always have to be positive in life, always positive. Promise me you will sort yourself out. And find yourself a good woman. Will you do that? The Schoolmistress had spoken and I could do nothing other than promise that I would indeed sort myself out.
In life sometimes we are lucky enough to spend time with the most special people. Pam was one of those people who lived life to the full and never gave up, she knew how to love, I will miss her.