I have sat where you are sitting so many times before in this same building grieving for someone I loved.
There was always one constant beside me and that was that my auntie Margaret was always there supporting me, holding my hand, a physical presence that gave me the strength to face the pain of loss and grief, when my loved ones died, my dad Brian, my grandparents Jack and Doris, my mum Sheila, my beloved Seth and so many others too.
Auntie Margaret was a magnificent woman, kind, caring, forthright, determined, and strong.
A woman with a distinctive shock of red hair.
My earliest memories of her were when I was young spending Sundays with her. She worked hard all week in her shop, but Sunday was no day for rest it was a day for housework laundry and traditional Sunday lunch. She taught me at an early age how to prepare the vegetables for dinner, how to fold sheets, to do housework – life skills.
When I was a little older, I worked in her shop on a Saturday on the sweets and cakes counter, fruit salads, black jacks, flying saucers, making up 10p mixtures and serving loose sweets from glass jars in quarter bags.
She always took the time to really get to know people and she understood the needs of the families from the mining community, who were the customers at her shop.
She would sell wool so mothers could knit jumpers for the children, and she would hold all the wool they needed and let them buy the wool as and when they could afford it from their housekeeping.
Christmas in the shop was always special a cornucopia of toys, gifts, cards, decorations, and boxes of chocolates with those special painted scenes of landscapes and pretty thatched cottages that were so popular in the distant past. She would let people pay for their Christmas week by week, saving their presents for them until they had paid the last instalment on the Christmas club.
I learned so much from her about how to deal with people, interpersonal skills – life skills,
When I was 11 years old, she took me to her hairdressers the place where she got that amazing shock of red hair. She had her hair done by Jim and mine was done by his son Nigel. 48 years later I still go to the same hairdresser, and so did she, although Nigel took charge of flame red colour after his dad died.
More recently with her illness and stay in hospital, some of the inevitable grey hair of 92 years started to show through. However, one of the most comforting things is that at Christmas we were able to get her hair dyed to its flame red colour and as she leaves us today…. she leaves with her distinctive shock of red hair.
Later in life after the death of her beloved Son Anthony I learned the impact of loss and grief and saw a determined woman who took on a life she hadn’t planned for. She taught me the life skills needed to live well with the pain of loss.
In later years after the death of her partner Jim and my husband Seth we went on regular cruise holidays Norway, Greece, Spain, and the med we had such fun and she was always gregarious taking part in activities, making friends with people, and becoming slightly obsessed with Pina Coladas.
On one of those trips, she went off to the spa for a treatment and I arranged to meet her outside the coffee shop a couple of hours later. I sat reading a book waiting, waiting, I went to look for her on this huge cruise ship. Despite following a couple of people wearing red baseball caps mistaken for her red hair I failed to find her. Eventually I went to wait in the cabin, she turned up hours later and when I asked her where she has been she said the spa, sundeck, lunch, and cinema. When I asked her why she had left me waiting she said I thought you said you wanted some time on your own, it turned out she didn’t put in her hearing aids that day and misheard what I said …she laughed about for days.
As time moved forward as she grew older and less mobile our holidays focussed on cottage holidays in the UK, Wales, Northumberland, Yorkshire and on many occasions she terrified people with a hired mobility scooter and she was so happy spending time with my dog Gertie…. they both adored each other.
There was something distinctive and delightfully different about my auntie Margaret her appearance, her strength, her commitment, her presence.
She was a glorious and magnificent woman.
I am so grateful that for the 59 years of my life she was always there, supporting, caring being my role model, teaching me the life skills I have needed.
I am so sad that her magnificence was dulled by Alzheimer’s especially in the last 12 months and that she is no longer here with us physically.
There is one thing I do know is that her love, spirit, determination will live on through the people who loved her, her presence will be with me until its my turn to lie my coffin in this crematorium.
Auntie Margaret thank you for being you, thank you for all you taught me, for all the laughs for the life skills and for being my role model.
When I was a young child, I asked what she would like for Christmas, and she said “just a bit of peace of quiet” I thought it was a strange thing to ask for.
Now she has what she asked for all those years ago. Rest well I will miss you …. thanks for being the magnificent constant in my life.