Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday January 14 2009

The following will soon be appearing also in the “deaths” columns of the Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Staines and Egham News:

MICKLETHWAIT Philippa, aged 94, widow of Sir Robert.  Peacefully at home on 13th January 2009.  Much loved mother and grandmother.  Funeral 4th February.  Donations in lieu of flowers to designated charities.  Enquiries: 01784 432521.

The hard thing about funerals and all the associated etceteras of wills and lawyers and accountants - setting aside the matter of a loved one having just died - is the sheer number of tasks and decisions, many very trivial and easy but therefore all the more easily neglected, which together add up to a great swamp of thises and thats and the others that must immediately be waded into.  Luckily there are four of us doing this particular bit of wading, after a death which we at least could see coming.  My siblings and I have not had a shared task of any importance to perform together like this one, of seeing to our mother before and after her death since, well, ever really.  So although melancholy, the last few days have had their compensations.

As for the death itself, it went well, insofar as such a claim makes any sense and insofar as one can ever really know about such a thing.  It involved more suffering that you want to be close to, but a good deal less than we, including Mother herself, all feared.  She had made it unchallengeably clear that there would be no medical heroics and no forced feeding, and when the end came, it was the rapid yet dignified process that Mother had long made utterly clear she wanted - i.e. the next best thing to what she really wanted, which was euthanasia.

Mother was particular well cared for on what turned out to be the afternoon and evening of her last day alive, for which I will be grateful for as long as I live.  That day (Monday) began with me on lone and fretful duty. But a call from my sister (who is a former GP) quickly told her (I would have rung her had she not rung me) that she must get here forthwith (having hastily unloaded onto a kindly neighbour the cat-sitting duties she had been performing for her son).  She then supervised everything, thank goodness.  The next morning, yesterday morning, my sister knocked on the door of the bedroom I am using, and I knew at once what the news was going to be.  I paid my last face-to-face respects, with Mother looking exactly as she had the day before, minus the breathing.  I hope she died dreaming of happier times, like those shown in these photographs.

I am now pondering the eulogy, which I am to write and which my eldest brother will be reading out at the funeral.  Suffice it to say now that there is a great deal more than “Much loved mother and grandmother” to be said about this most excellent woman.

UPDATE Thursday evening:  Many thanks for all the kind comments on this which you can read below, and for the many kind emails which only I can read but which have all been just as kind.  Much appreciated.

Also, I would like to add that, perhaps with a tidy story in mind (all of us four siblings mucking in together but nobody else), I neglected to mention the contributions made by my eldest brother’s daughter, both before Mother’s death and since.  These too have been much appreciated.

Brian, I am grateful that there was some peace in your mother’s passing. You have handled this with so much dignity and honor - a great example for us all. You and your family are in my thoughts.

Posted by Jackie Danicki on 15 January 2009

Brian...please accept my deepest and heartfelt condolences on this very sad occasion.  You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

Posted by Brian Mullins on 15 January 2009

I find myself moved by your mother’s death, perhaps far more than I feel I should be.
Over the last few weeks/months you have allowed your readers a glimpse into this very personal issue and into the life of someone who was, as you put it yourself a “most excellent woman”.

As Jackie states, you have handled this with so much dignity and honour.

I am truly sorry for your loss.

Posted by 6000 on 15 January 2009

Brian, my condolences. Your article the other day about caring for your mother was very moving and insightful.

My sympathies for you and your relatives at this difficult time.

Posted by Tom Burroughes on 15 January 2009

Brian,

I am very sorry.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 15 January 2009

Condolences. Hang in.

Posted by Mike Gogulski on 15 January 2009

Brian, my sympathy.

Posted by Tatyana on 15 January 2009

Brian,
My condolences to you and your family. As to the eulogy. I know you shall perform as good service to your mother in death as you and your family did in life.

Your eloquence here (and on Samizdata) is profoundly moving to all of us who have lost a loved one. And that is all of us.

Posted by Nick M on 15 January 2009

Brian, my condolences to you and your family.

Posted by Tomas on 15 January 2009

Brian,

On behalf of my family and everyone involved in the Libertarian Alliance: our thoughts and fondest best wishes are with you at this time.

All our love.

Posted by Tim Evans on 15 January 2009

Sorry to hear this sad news, Brian. My condolences.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 15 January 2009

My sympathy and best wishes.

These posts have been very interesting and also educational, I think. Most of us have parents and will be in this situation at some point, yet few of us have any idea at all what is involved. I recall from my father’s death the sheer weight of paperwork and hassle- potentially very distressing in the middle of grief. I’ve felt ever since that a little knowledge goes a long way in a crisis, and I think your posts were valuable for that.

Posted by Alice Bachini-Smith on 15 January 2009

Many condolences. It is a very difficult time, life changing in lots of ways. It is a universal human experience, though a crap one. We all get through it in the end. I hope you can express what you feel in the eulogy and capture something of the pride and affection that comes from this post.

Posted by Peter on 15 January 2009

My condolences also, Brian.

Posted by Natalie Solent on 15 January 2009

Brian old chap,

There are of course no words that one can say to you that will make this all better. All we and you can be grateful for is that your old mum had a good and decent life, lived to a great and advanced old age even by today’s standards, and was aware and relaxed about the inevitable. That is the best that any of us can hope for, for the end result for us all will be the same.

We salute your efforts to talk about this to us all, from time to time. If it’s helped to make you feel better, we did all check in on you now and then, via here.

Posted by David Davis on 16 January 2009

I`m sorry, I don`t know what to say but I`m your Goddaughter and am there for you as much as you`re always with me, even though my help is useless.

Lot`s of love,
thinking of you
xxx

Posted by Goddaughter 2 on 16 January 2009

Brian,

I am very sorry to learn of her death. My sincere condolences.

Posted by Ralf Goergens on 19 January 2009

My deepest condolences. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these events here and on Samizdata: very moving, and somehow quite familiar. The details are seldom the same, but many of the sentiments surrounding terminal care for close relatives and what comes after are.

Posted by Kristine on 20 January 2009

Brian,

My belated condolences too.

A couple of weeks ago my own dear mother had a bad turn in her Bristol nursing home, which is near to where one of my sisters lives. I went down to see her last weekend.  She recognised me as someone she knew but not, I suspect, exactly who I was.

These times are very difficult but it’s good that you were able to spend time with your mother as the end grew near.

With best wishes,

David

Posted by David Farrer on 24 January 2009

Thank you so much for the photos. You parents were so very beautiful. I’m so sorry to her of your mother’s passing. it was a good, long, life.

Posted by a on 25 January 2009
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