I never knew Mother Elizabeth during her years of good health, and by the time Sheila and I first got together, Elizabeth had been in a residential home in Oakworth for the previous fourteen months. In the spring of 2008, (while living with and being cared for by Sheila), Mother Elizabeth was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s which was moderated by medication.
By the time Mother Elizabeth entered my life, she had progressively worsened in her illness and her absence of short-term memory meant that though she conversed with me during our visits to the residential home and on the walks that Sheila and I took her, I could never say with certainty that she ever recognised me. I can say that she never knew me, despite attending the wedding of Sheila and me in November 2012.
My own terminal blood cancer and hospital treatment meant that I was never afforded the opportunity of seeing Elizabeth in her residential home as often as I would have liked to. However, in the all too brief time, I was acquainted with Mother Elizabeth, I felt that I got to know the things that were important in her end-of-life years.
Those important aspects she most enjoyed were, seeing Sheila, Winston and her grandchildren, and being taken on regular walks by Sheila. Sheila made up a goody bag of sweets and chocolates daily for her mum, but the generosity of Mother Elizabeth invariably involved giving half of them away to staff members and then reminding Sheila that she had no chocolates left! Mother Elizabeth once told me that she loved chocolates from a shop in Marble Arch, London. So, Sheila and I harmlessly deceived Mother Elizabeth every time thereafter we brought her sweets to the residential home. The chocolates we gave her would be accompanied by the white lie that we had purchased them from the shop in Marble Arch earlier.
Other loves of Mother Elizabeth's life in her later years were listening to classical music, observing the large tree outside the window of the residential home from her window chair, being comforted by her prayer book which she invariably held, and stroking our dearly departed Rough Collie, Lady.
Was I to remember the Mother Elizabeth that I saw and briefly knew for 'one thing only', it would have to be that huge smile which had constantly lived in her face since she first learned to laugh at the world, and which she greeted everyone with. Her big smiling face represented her love of life. love of family and love of nature, as well as those smaller pleasures we too often take for granted. Her most repeated sentence during every walk she was ever taken on was 'It's a lovely sunny day!' She would repeatedly utter this observation whatever the weather was like; be it breezy, cool, cold or overcast. She wasn't being demented in her choice of description, she was just being the person she always was; a positive woman who never focused on the dark clouds in the sky but upon the brighter sky, waiting in the wings to follow when the sun decided to push itself forward.
Her beaming smile was literally the most beautiful present she could give me when she lived, and it is the fondest memory that will always remain with me of her. It was no less than ‘bountiful beauty’ born in the brilliant radiance of a loving heart, and representing a glowing reflection of the kind, sincere and gentle disposition she inwardly possessed. I am so pleased to have married the beautiful daughter you gave birth to, Mother Elizabeth, who was created by the heavenly potter from the same mound of clay. Love from Sheila and Bill x
In memory and celebration of your beautiful self and the presence of your beautiful daughter in my life, I sing my song in dedication to both my ladies today.
Love and peace Bill xxx