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Finding the words

June 22, 2014

How do you do it? How do you find the words?

She’s still reeling from the death of her friend from university, the academic, the lifelong geological buddy, and the ravaging sadness that followed the passing of her other friend from the early 1950s, the fiesty, wonderful woman who I grew up calling Auntie.

Now, today, as I was on the train back from a conference in London, a message, via Facebook, a private message from the daughter of probably my mother’s very best friend, for 70 years, telling me that her mother had died, suddenly, unexpectedly and asking that I tell my mother.

They met just after the war, they were girls together, mischievous students, speaking different languages, one living up a mountain in the middle of Europe, the other in London. Different languages, different lives but the same shyness, the same exuberance and the same love of life. They wrote, they travelled on trains and ferries to see each other, their friendship endured my parents living all round the world. There wasn’t Facebook, no mobile phones, no instant messenger, letters sent might be replied to months later but somehow they didn’t lose each other, their friendship just grew stronger and stronger.

When we were young, we were bundled up and flown, trained and hiked across the mountains like the unwilling children in the Sound of Music to stay in an Alpine village every summer. Mother’s friend has daughters, 4 of them, I was in awe of them, absolute awe, they told me about periods, about growing up and about music. The first real love I had was with a friend of their family. They grew up and moved away, their children came and stayed with us in England, they all did. As time passed my mother went over on her own, I picked her up from the train, she had adventures up in the clean mountain air, she picked wild flowers and she ate rösti with her friend. They remembered the times together after the war, when their children were growing up and they sat and looked at the mountain. It was always as if they’d never been apart. The sisters that weren’t but somehow just were.

Letters would arrive, the incredibly familiar handwriting, always a letter, every inch of paper covered, and a postcard, always asking after the whole family.

Mummy saw her last year and bought back a little Alpine dress for Hope, she doesn’t fit into it yet … Mummy and her friend chose it together, that and a soft cuddly cow with a Swiss flag on its hoof…

and now she’s died … and I have to find the word to tell my mother, to break it to her that another one of the golden threads that have woven our lives together and shone throughout almost all of hers is no more. That her friend has stopped, leaving Mummy to keep going ever more solitary, ever more sad.

This blog started about me, about being pregnant terrified that I would loose the baby, I didn’t, I had her, I kept writing, joy, fear, happiness, our story, but now increasingly it’s mother’s story too, that of a remarkable woman facing a world where all the people she’s loved for so long are being taken from her.

It’s not wallowing, it’s heartbreaking. She’s lucky to be here, to be alive, to have a granddaughter (and grandsons) to cherish and enjoy but as every last friend dies so to do the stories and bonds that tied her to her childhood, her student days and the young woman she once was.

I need to sleep on it, I couldn’t tell her tonight, not late as she was about to go to sleep, it will be tomorrow that I take her hand and break the terrible news.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. cate permalink
    June 22, 2014 8:16 am

    I’m so sorry. God bless. Xx

  2. Suzanne Lanzon permalink
    June 22, 2014 8:53 am

    Oh dear Ellie, I’m glad your mummy has you to tell her in the way she needs to hear such sad news. Lots of love from us.

  3. June 25, 2014 5:52 pm

    Thats sad ;@(

  4. July 11, 2014 5:36 am

    As my Mother reaches 80 this year I’ve started to think more and more about the realities of ageing, not just the physical aspects, but the emotional ones – losing friends and family around you that you’ve shared so much with. I know that when my Uncles died I was glad to be there to hold my Mother’s hand and clearly you feel the same. A beautiful post Ellie x


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