Last week, I realised that it was exactly 38 years since my father had his first of three subarachnoid brain haemorrhages. He was 38 years old.
This has been the first anniversary of Dad’s first haemorrhage without Mum which is maybe why I’m writing about it now. I’ve also been scanning a lot of photos from my Mum’s collection which is helping piece together some of the puzzle.
The soothsayer in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar warned the Roman emperor about the 15th of March, “Beware the Ides of March”. It’s a phrase that took on a very real meaning for our family.
On Tuesday 15 March 1983, my father Keith Saunders was in his birthplace of Nottingham to deliver the 1982/83 IEE Faraday lecture The Photon Connection about how fibre optics (light) would revolutionise communications. Shortly after he had stepped off the stage in Nottingham (I think it was at the Royal Concert Hall) he was giving an interview to the BBC about the lecture tour when he suddenly felt very ill. He turned, vomited and collapsed onto the floor. (I’ve often thought, somewhere, at some point, the BBC had footage of my dad vomiting!)
It had begun as an ordinary Tuesday in March but one that changed all of our lives forever.
Last month, while clearing out Mum’s flat I came across this tatty old thing, the kitchen sink (model 1.024) from my younger sister’s old Caroline’s Home doll’s house.
You know the saying “everything but the kitchen sink”, that means “nearly everything one can reasonably imagine; many different things, often to the point of excess or redundancy”? Lots of people used to say that about my late Mum’s handbag. She kept a lot of things in it.
“Blimey! Rosalie, you have everything in there except the kitchen sink,” they’d laugh.
And my mum would rummage at the bottom of her handback and proudly produce this old thing.
“Actually,” she would counter, “I do have the kitchen sink in here.”
But it served a purpose other than just a comic retort. Behind the tiny cupboard doors, which over time broke and were repeatedly taped together with masking tape, Mum kept three ten pence pieces—the right amount of money to get her into most public toilets in an emergency.
That’s the kind of practicality that I admired about my mum.
On Thursday 6 August, two days after her 81st birthday my beautiful Mum, Rosalie Jean Saunders was found dead at home.
She had had an amazing birthday, she felt so blessed by people’s love and kindness. She had her hair dyed pink in celebration. Two days later, it appears that her heart gave out, but oh! what a heart she had.
The last two weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion. Most days when folks have asked me how I am, I’ve said that I’ve been like a typical day of Scottish weather: I’ve had a bit of everything.
Today, restricted by Covid-19 guidelines, a few family and friends gathered in the church grounds at St John the Evangelist, Selkirk (Mum’s spiritual home since 1974) and then in the Auld Kirk Yard to give thanks for the life of Mum and commit her to God’s keeping.
Mum was buried in a family grave, alongside my father.
My sister, brother and I worked collaboratively on her eulogy (below) using notes that she had left herself (thanks Mum, they were really helpful!). Mum left a lot of papers and writings and photographs which we will go through over the next few weeks, months, years and I’d like to compile them into a book to remember Mum by. But that is for another day.
Today we rejoiced for her life, her love, her faith in the God she adored.