March 22: It was my last day in Alvechurch and it felt like so much had happened in the two weeks I'd been there. And yet, not enough!
Rob and I had made a lot of arrangements together during the first week: visits to the funeral home, local housing authority, etc. And we had slowly begun the process of going through Mum's things. Doing this together was so much easier than if either one of us would have tried to do it alone. We decided together what we had to let go, give away or throw away. A trip to the "tip" ("dump" to we North Americans,) or to the clothing bank, felt almost like a sacred ritual, a parting with things that had been Mum's.
Mum had very little in terms of worldly belongings, but it was surprising how long it took us to go through her shelves and dresser drawers--probably because doing so stirred so many memories for Rob and me. Each memory sparked conversation, laughter or sighs.
Mum saved letters, cards, little slips of paper, photos, etc.. All of them were special to her for some reason. English money and Euros too, were tucked among the other bits of paper, like little surprises left by Mum.
Finally, down to the last day, all the bedroom shelves and drawers were sorted out at least, but we were left with the nick-nacks and some precious things that I wanted to keep but couldn't possibly fit into my suitcase to take home. Susan helped by carrying Mum's Bible and two small but weighty photo albums home to Canada for me, but still, it looked as though my case was surrounded by a sea of clutter and I couldn't seem to focus on sorting it out.
But Trudy, too, had become frail over the past year and her independence had been limited.
She hadn't been coming out to Alvechurch Baptist Church, where in the past, I would always join her in "her pew," but friends told me her key-safe code, so that I could drop in and visit her before leaving.
I went there before lunch on that last day and let myself into the little vestibule in front of the door. An atmosphere of peace filled that tiny space. On the ledge was a text, burned into a slice of tree limb. It announced that "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord...in the morning...and every night." Psalm 92:1-2
Inside a gas fire warmed the tastefully decorated and comfortably furnished, living room. I called Trudy's name, but there was no answer and since I knew that she no longer ventured upstairs, I left, feeling that somehow I had visited with her even though she wasn't there.
As the day wore on my packing waited. I knew I was procrastinating but couldn't help it. I tried to do as much as I could to help Rob with the remaining work as I knew that he would still have so much to do once I was gone. Bit by bit the rooms were being emptied and Mum's "home" and was disappearing.
My nephew Tim dropped by after work to say goodbye and we parted with hugs.
Rob and I took Susan to Birmingham Airport to catch her bus to Gatwick Airport in the mid evening.
Later John also dropped by to say goodbye, even though he had a very early start the next morning. More hugs!
And Bruce joined in with all of the visitors, just happy to have all of his favourite people together in one day.
Finally at around midnight, Rob went back to his flat to get a few hours sleep. We were leaving at 4.30 in the morning.
Finally, in the stillness of the night, I felt that I could pack. I knew I wouldn't be going to bed. There were emotions in leaving that little home that I couldn't even give words to. In solitude and silence, while the rest of "the close" slept, I prepared to pack a case to leave Mum's flat for the last time.