My mother’s younger sister, Aunt Joyce, died recently and on Monday I went to her funeral - a beautiful Humanist ceremony conducted in the hall just over the road from her home and attended by all her friends and family. Afterwards we all had tea in her favourite tea-room. It was as good as funerals get, but also rather sad because she was the last of my mother’s generation. There’s no one left now to answer all those ‘do you remember?’ questions; no one to tell us who that strange woman in the hat was at the back of that photograph in 1935; no one to explain what happened to the uncle no one talked about. And we, the next generation of family elders, were very conscious of our new roles as keepers of the family story, sharing memories and – sometimes – secrets.
|Joyce and her older sister Ella - the blonde and the brunette|
|My mother's notebooks|
Poetry is a safety valve - something we turn to for emotional release. How many people scribble secretly?
PS - I was intrigued to discover that Aunt Joyce had read my novel The Sun's Companion - which included childhood memories of my grandmother and some of her friends - and she had recognised everyone. Not quite as fictional as I'd intended then!