Today’s birthday celebrants are Lorna Grady who lives in Warrington, Lancashire: Mags Margaret Mags Smith who lives in Oakworth, West Yorkshire: Jane Elizabeth Durrans who lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire: Ann Nolan who lives in County Waterford, Ireland. I hope that you enjoy your special day, ladies, and thank you for being my Facebook friend.
Lastly and by no means least, I ask that you keep Elaine Craven in your thoughts and prayers today as she remembers the tragic death of her son Robert Craven in a traffic accident on August 16th, 2003. The death of any loved one is hard to bear but none more so than the death of one’s child. Our thoughts and prayers are with you today, Elaine. Rest in peace, Robert.
My song today is ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’. This is a popular jazz song with lyrics and music by Cole Porter. It is a part of the ‘Great American Songbook’ and was published by ‘Chappell & Company’ and introduced by Nan Wynn and Jere McMahon in 1944 in Billy Rose's musical revue ‘Seven Lively Arts’. The song has since become a jazz standard after gaining popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Many artists have replaced the apostrophe in "Ev'ry" with an "e".
The lyrics celebrate how happy the singer is in the company of the beloved but suffers whenever the two separate. There have been many successful recordings of this song including The Benny Goodman Quintet and vocal by Peggy Mann (1945): Ella Fitzgerald (1956): Ray Charles and Betty Carter (1961) being among the most notable.
I must confess that I have never found saying goodbye to loved ones and close friends easy. In fact, I would go as far as to say, this is one of these things which we all socially and personally engage in during our lives that causes loss, discomfort, and pain. Usually, I feel my loss as they leave my sight and I find a tear in my eye or a touch of sadness in my heart; even when I know that our separation is only temporary and that we shall see each other again soon. The longer the separation is likely to be, the greater the sense of loss and feeling of pain. However, when the separation is permanent, and one knows that you will never see the person alive again, the pain can feel unendurable and the loss may leave a hole in one’s heart that never heals.
Four incidents in my life illustrate the above. I have never been a person for saying ‘farewell’. Whenever I visit a friend or family member in the hospital or wave one-off at the railway station, I always have a tear in my eye and an ache in my stomach as I catch my last sight of them, even though I expect to see them again before too long.
I will never forget several years ago visiting an old school friend of mine who was an inpatient at Leeds General Hospital. He was called, David, and he had cancer. I would visit him every day as his wife had died a few years earlier with cancer, and his only son lived far away. We would have a good chat and a laugh despite the seriousness of his condition. On the fifth or sixth occasion I visited, I arrived in his ward and saw the curtains pulled around the bay of his bed that he was in. Fearing the worse, I was instantly relieved when a voice from behind the curtain said, “Is that Billy?” David sounded to be in some pain but then it emerged that he was straining himself as he attempted to evacuate his bowels as he sat on a bedpan. We spoke through the curtains for about 15 minutes before the ward nurse said, “Don’t expect him to get off that bedpan for at least another half an hour. He has been close to an hour sitting on it every day this week!” As I was in a parking zone and my ticket was running out, I said to David through the curtains, “I have to go now David or I’ll get a parking fine, but I’ll be back tomorrow at the same time.”
I came back the following day to see David, but unfortunately, another patient was occupying the bed he had been in. When I made inquiries of the Charge Nurse, I was told that he had died on his bedpan about half an hour after I had left him yesterday. I was so sad not even to have seen his face the last time we spoke. God rest his soul.
My second experience of saying ‘Goodbye’ I wish to relate was when I decided to emigrate to Canada for a couple of years one month after my 21st birthday in December 1963. A life-threatening traffic accident I had experienced at the age of 11 years, and which left me unable to walk for almost three years, resulted in me getting a sizable amount of compensation when I was 21 years of age. Once I started to walk again, I determined to realise my dream and to live in Canada a few years and travel around some of the U.S.A. and having sufficient back-up funds gave me the financial security to make my dream come true. While I had every intention of returning to England after a few years, my mother and father feared that they might never see me again the morning that I left. They, being Irish, had known of too many people who had left home to make a better life for themselves abroad, never to return.
You must remember that this was 1963 when access to Europe, let alone across the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, was something beyond the means and imagination of a working-class man and woman. There were no cheap flights in those days, and the farthest an ordinary man and woman might travel would be to the seaside. Indeed, it had been common between 1600 and 1970 for a working-class person to be born, live, and die in the same parish without ever once leaving their county!
My father was not a man for ‘goodbyes’ also, and he shook my hand and wished me luck when he went to bed the previous night. On the morning of my departure, he had already left for work down the pit. I will never forget seeing my dear mother’s tears as she pressed her face against the frosted windowpane as she waved me ‘goodbye’. I also cried as the taxi drove me to the railway station to catch my train to Liverpool, from where I would sail across the Atlantic Ocean.
My third experience of ‘Goodbye’ I want to illustrate involved saying farewell to Jenny Downton in Toronto, Canada before I returned to my parent’s house in West Yorkshire. Jenny and I met after I had been in Toronto for about one year. I was working as a desk clerk in an uptown Toronto hotel and she was still being educated in a Canadian Finishing School, preparing to go to university a year or two later. Jenny was my first real love, but we came from different sides of the tracks. Her father was the then British Trade Commissioner in Canada and the family lived a luxurious lifestyle where want was never present.
While Jenny’s parents were the kindest of people and never once seemed to resent our courtship, I eventually concluded (rightly or wrongly) that though we may have been right for each other, that though we are right, both circumstances and timing of our meeting were wrong. Jenny was younger than I, and although she seemed prepared to forgo her university degree, along with a lifestyle to which she had become accustomed, I could clearly see that such was a lifestyle that I could never afford to give her, were she to marry me. So, for the only time in my life, I gave up the woman I loved because ‘I loved her’. And, because I loved her, I chose to say ‘goodbye’ and leave her to get on with a different life than I might have given her. #
That decision led to my return to England, and within a matter of months, I had met another young woman who wanted to become an infant teacher. We started courting. Unknown to me at the time, I found myself in what is colloquially called a ’love on the rebound’ situation, which led to my first marriage.
My final illustration was the hardest of all ‘goodbyes’ I ever had to say. It began beside the hospital bed of my 64-year-old mother one Friday evening in Dewsbury during April 1986. My mother, who was not in the best of health, but had no serious illness that her family knew about, had been admitted to the hospital that week. Mum had allowed herself to get overweight during the preceding six years when she had suffered from a mental illness, and she also smoked too many cigarettes all her life. Mum was admitted into the hospital for some tests. I had been the first family member to visit her that evening and as she had seven children (of whom I was the oldest), when my other siblings arrived to see her, I kissed her ‘Goodbye’ and indicated that I’d visit again on Monday, and allow my siblings their visiting turn over the weekend. I remember that as I went through the hospital car park that was positioned directly beneath my mothers’ ward, I saw mum look out of her bedside window, smile, and wave me ‘goodbye’.
That was the last time I ever saw my dear mother alive as she suddenly died the following day! Had I known when I left her hospital ward that she would be dead the following day, I would not have said ‘Goodbye’ to mum; I would have hugged her, kissed her, and instead told her, “Thank you, Mum, for loving me and for giving me everything in my life I value and hold so dear. Thank you, Mum, for being you.” I will never forget either of my parents, but it is my mother’s smile that will never die in my memory. Coincidentally, my dear mother-in-law Elizabeth (Sheila’s mum) wore the same constant smile on her face every time I saw her also.
For Elaine and all mothers who have lost their children of whatever age, circumstance, or cause, our hearts go out to you for your loss. It matters not whether your child died in your womb before their birth, during their birth, shortly after their birth, during their childhood, in their teenage years, or even during their adulthood. Whenever and however they died, they were your child and will always remain your child. No parent ever expects a child of theirs to die before them, and for this to happen can never seem proper. It makes the loss felt by the parent all the greater, their permanent absence more inexplicable, and their bereavement more difficult to emotionally reconcile and live with. My heart goes out to all of you mothers.
Love and peace Bill xxx