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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.