Thursday, 28 June 2012

The New Journey

A couple of days ago Mama embarked on the Journey. She’d been talking about it for a while, about the Train that she had to catch. But she hesitated for a long time on the platform. The idea of getting on board and leaving everything familiar behind must have been more than she could contemplate. Scary, because though you hold a ticket, you can’t read the destination that’s printed on it. Our material brain, wired for survival at all costs, fights the notion of embracing the unknown.

Rose, her sisters Tosia and Marynia 1928?

Children of Polish gentry in their daily garb

 Finally she opened the door and got on the train. In the preceding months, during her more lucid moments she talked more often about the coming journey.

 “Those are my things,” she said pointing to the chairs in the room, the photos on the wall, the dining table and the china plates hanging on the wall.

 “Yes,” I said.

 “I will not be taking them with me.

 “You won’t.”

 She looked at me steadily. “I won’t need them.”

 At another time she called me urgently to her side. She knew who I was.

 “Where is Theresa?”

 I told her that my elder sister was in Edinburgh. She’d be coming over in a few days.

 “And Munia?”

 “She’s in Ecuador.”

 “When is she coming?”

 “In mid July.”

 At that, Mama grew more agitated and said, “That’s far too late.”

 The conversation wasn’t a one off. She'd had it a few days earlier with Amber.

 Sometimes she opened the door of the train but then drew back. A month ago, dehydrated from not drinking enough she was admitted to hospital. She had a bad infection. The doctor felt that she only had days to live. We called Munia and asked her to fly over from Ecuador.

 I felt that Mama needed to be aware of what was going on. While she lay in the hospital bed, smiling at me, I said, “Mama, you are seriously ill. You’re dying.”

“No,” she said, emphatically, adding silently that I was talking nonsense. Imagining some rubbish.

 “You ARE dying,” I said.

 She gave me a wave of her hand to say, “Oh rubbish. There you go again, you silly."

 Did she know something the rest of us didn’t know?

 A few days later she staged, yet again, a miraculous recovery. Started eating and drinking. The doctors were left scratching their heads. She didn’t talk much after that, lay quietly looking at another world. Sometimes she’d return, smile at us, and even say something briefly.

 She always reacted to Father Jim MacManus who visited her when he was in town. She greeted him with the broadest of smiles and reached out to him. Her last words to him were, “I am very, very happy.”

Munia, Mama and the great grandchildren

 And so on Monday morning while Munia recited a few prayers to her, Mama took a last breath. She got onto the train. The door closed behind her. When Amber and I reached her house, we saw her lying on her bed, apparently asleep. A beautiful aura filled the room, a feeling of blessedness that did not appear to emanate from a human source. The oppressive atmosphere of fear and anxiety that had hung around her bed in previous weeks was gone. I sat beside her as before and drank in that benediction.


  1. Mark Archibald28 June 2012 at 05:43

    Well said, Uncle Paul. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

  2. As one who dabbles in genealogy and has read many obituaries, I have never read as beautiful a tribute to a departed loved one as the one that you have written. Your mother was blessed to have a beautiful family that took such loving care of her and her family was likewise blessed to have her. I'm sure that she is charming her fellow passengers and that the Conductor is taking good care of her in her Fist Class car. The minute she steps off the train, she will be welcomed into the loving arms of all who knew her here. May your memories of her bring all of you peace. Love, Barbara & Larry

  3. Prayers for you and yours. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman. Beautiful tribute.

  4. Beautiful..... Yous' are in our thoughts and in our hearts.

    Kazik and Jacqui.

  5. Many thanks Kazik, Mark, Barbara and Linda for your good wishes. Amber and I are doing well, enjoying a welcome glimpse of summer sun, and hoping that by Tuesday, the funeral, a few of our Canterbury bells may be open.

  6. A beautiful tribute to your mum Paul take care .our thoughts are with you and Amber .
    Fiona and Charlie

  7. Paul what a lovely tribute to your mother and retelling of her last moments with you all.From my own experience I think that you will find wonderful things happening to you and decions easier to make etc now that your mother is able to show her love and gratitude to you and Amber in a different way!