It’s been a very stressful couple of days. My mum’s sister – my aunt – died suddenly of septic shock / kidney failure late on Saturday night.
Although she was in hospital for another illness it wasn’t life threatening and this sudden development has taken us all by surprise. She was only 54.
Unfortunately the situation is made worse by her estrangement from much of the rest of the family, bad feeling between her and my mum and her and my granddad (her father). It’s made much worse by the fact that she was – and I hate using this term about her – an alcoholic and, like all alcoholics, abused those she thought had wronged her to her pub mates and all who would listen... the result being that we, the family, feel unpleasantly under scrutiny and a little besieged by “well meaning busy bodies” who are all intent on “having their say” or making their wishes known. It’s all been polite so far but I’m already feeling like I’m having to pour oil onto troubled waters just to maintain the fragile status quo. It almost feels like we, the family, aren’t supposed to have any rights.
To complicate things my aunt left no will – despite the urgings of many of her friends to do so – and no indication of what she wanted with regards the details of her own funeral. She seems to have accounts and investments scattered all over the place and mountains of un-filed paperwork. Sorting it all out is going to be a nightmare – the all pervading sense of estrangement makes only makes the job more difficult.
The icing on the cake – and maybe this is selfishness on my part – is that the funeral is going to be next Thursday: Tom’s first birthday, and my first reaction was a sense of disappointment that we aren’t going to be able to celebrate his first birthday in the manner that we’d originally planned. But maybe it’s fitting in a way – as we mark a death so we celebrate a life?
As for my aunt. I feel a deal of ambivalence towards her but mostly sadness. I personally got on with her ok though I was, of course, always aware of the “family war”. But that all seems so empty now. What good has it done anybody? It’s just left a load of business that can never be finished. The saddest part of all this is that my aunt chose her friends from her local pub to be her first point of contact when she was in hospital rather than a member of her own family. Therefore they were with her when she died and knew about her death many hours before we did. And we only knew about it because my mum’s cousin is a nurse at the hospital. The family, I know, feel quite offended by this snub but for my part I just think it’s deeply sad for my aunt. What a miserable state to be in. In her defence though, I doubt that my aunt had any idea that she was going to end up on her deathbed when she was first taken into hospital...
Having to visit my granddad on Sunday morning and inform him of his daughter’s death wasn’t a nice job but with my parents in Sheffield it fell to me to deliver the news. It’s not something that can be done over the phone. The grief took him hard. I was glad that I was there. What must it feel like to be burying your own child? As a parent myself I can’t even go there in my imagination...
So, folks, that’s been the last two days. Apologies for the fragmented nature of this post. My thoughts are everywhere and nowhere at the moment. The shock of the news and the shock of the practicalities are weighing me down. I don’t feel myself at all. And the road ahead feels dark.