A sequence of unrelated events have left me reflecting on loss.

Yesterday my son travelled overnight to Scotland with his girlfriend; her grandmother had been admitted to hospital for what was anticipated to be terminal care. This turned out to be the case, apparently she was fully conscious and talking when they arrived, but deteriorated rapidly over the course of the day and died peacefully during the afternoon. Asmy son said, it was almost as though she had clung on to see her granddaughter.

I believe that, having seen a number of people who have defied medical expectations in order to see a wedding, a new child born, a much loved relative arrive to see them – and then felt able to let go of life. It seems so important to retain some control, albeit subconscious, over one’s death. That of course is what ‘dignity in dying’ is all about. I understand the arguments that both medics and the church bring against it, but surely being human is about recognising the dignity of each and every person?

Today, 9th May, would have been my mother’s 84th birthday, had she not died very prematurely from colon cancer over 22 years ago. At times I feel that her loss has still not properly made an impact on me, especially as my father died equally prematurely a year later. The loss that I feel is removed, manifest in my relationship with my daughters – a close and loving relationship that I never experienced with my mother. Years of therapy have given me considerable insight into the many reasons for this, not least a close and emotionally abusive with my father. So the loss of my mother is ongoing and multilayered.

Finally I am travelling to Suffolk today, to a village that has many associations with my grandmother, a feisty woman who lived into her nineties and died, as she wished, in her sleep. She and I were very close; she was still in her forties when I was born, and in many ways the relationship that I had with her was far more emotionally close that that with my mother. She engendered my love of books, of political debate, my awareness of feminism, she encouraged (at a time when this was not fashionable) me to challenge what I had been taught about religion. I do not mourn her loss, because she had a long and rich life, especially in her last 25 years. But I do miss her and think about her most days.

Sometimes we are not aware of what we have until we lose it; sometimes it can be many years before we realise that our loss was a deprivation of what we could have had.

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