For Aunty Pam

December 8, 2017 § 4 Comments

Some people leave an indelible mark on you from the first time you meet them. Aunty Pam was one of those people.

Of course, she wasn’t my aunt at all – but that’s how we did things then. You’d never think of calling someone who was your parents’ age by their first name. But Aunty Pam would soon feel to me as though she really was one of my family members.

I first met her as a teenager – she was a friend of my boyfriend’s family. When I married him some years later, Aunty Pam did the flowers. When we had children, she and Uncle Peter became unofficial honorary grandparents. They faithfully remembered birthdays and Christmases, and we kept in touch with the odd phone call or lunch. When my husband and I divorced, my relationship with Aunty Pam and Uncle Peter remained unchanged.

I learnt so much from her. She was the most down-to-earth, salt-of-the-earth, warm, generous soul you could ever hope to meet. She was wise and witty. She was sharp as a shard of glass, and she called a spade a damn shovel. She had the ability to cut through any bullshit and see through to the heart of things. And she had enormous compassion and a remarkable grasp of human nature – which is probably what made her such a great nursing sister.

One of my favourite memories of her was a discussion about her retirement plans and where she wanted to live. I asked about a retirement home, and she almost spat with disdain at the thought. “I’m not going to one of those places,” she said. And then she twinkled: “I wish to be a burden to my children.”

On Tuesday this week, as I silenced the alarm on my phone, a call rang through, and I heard that Aunty Pam had died. Next week Tuesday, Aunty Pam’s friends and family will gather to celebrate her life. Sadly, I can’t be there as I have family matters of my own to attend to.

I will miss her enormously. I will miss her broad accent, which she never lost despite having left the UK several decades ago. I will miss her toddling off to my kitchen to make more rooibos tea, which she drank in copious amounts after she stopped drinking red wine. I’ll miss her throaty chain smoker’s laugh – she remains the only person I ever allowed to smoke inside my house, because in later years she simply didn’t have the mobility to get up and smoke outside. I’ll miss her pragmatism and wisdom and generosity, and I’ll miss her annual Christmas cards, which arrived promptly in early December every year, including this year.

But most of all, I’ll miss her for her kindness, which she dispensed in large helpings to anyone who needed it. Kindness, I think, is the currency of love.

Rest in peace, dearest Aunty Pam. I loved you very much, and I will never forget you.

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