In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,Christina G. Rossetti
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
The words of Christina G. Rossetti's Christmas carol perfectly describe the bitter cold of the January day in England on which Dad was buried, less than eight months before, Mum had arrived to spend a month with us in Canada in the fall of that year. Thursday, January 30, 2003 was sunny, but gnawing cold, foreshadowing the snow that came with evening.
Rob wore a rented gray suit, shirt and tie, and looked dignified in the overcoat I had helped him choose.
We had been dreading the day, and prepared in our own ways, to endure it.
Mum, who never in her life had an extensive wardrobe, wore a simple black suit and ivory blouse that we had bought together at British Home Stores a few days earlier.
Both Rob and I inherited our height from Dad who was still a fine figure of a man, when he died at 81; 6 feet tall. Mum, on the other hand, always joked that when she had applied for her first passport and had to enter a height, she had written down the height she wanted to be--5 foot 6 inches. She was several inches shorter than that but no one ever challenged her on it! And as she aged she diminished in height. She seemed so small and vulnerable.
Mum did so well and seemed so strong as we all rode in the limousine together for the short drive up to St. Laurence Church. In front, with great pomp and respect, a man in top hat and tails, led the way on foot with slow, solemn steps.
Inside the ancient church, a small crowd had gathered. You realize when you go through the loss of someone, how much each person's physical presence means and how each card feels like a hug.
The strains of the organ quietly filled the sanctuary, as Dad's coffin was wheeled forward, covered in the Union Jack and with two standard bearers from the Royal British Legion
Mum stood beside me in a pew very near to the front of the church. As we began to sing, "The Lord is My Shepherd" she suddenly recoiled as though from a punch to the stomach. Her dear face was red, eyes tightly closed, and I realized that she was crying.
Rob and I gently lowered her to the pew and I held her close to me, so very glad to be there to support her.
We listened as the Reverend David Martin delivered the eulogy, based on a conversation he had with us a few days before; we were so grateful for his calm and kind support.
But that all seemed so long ago now. Mum and I were together, on Canadian soil, where she loved to be, with four deliciously long weeks stretching ahead of us before she had to leave. We both prepared to cherish every minute.