Friday, 30 September 2011

Saying Goodbye To Elizabeth

I've just returned from London, where I attended the funeral for a lovely woman called Elizabeth Fosgate, someone who I've known for about 30 years. She died a few days after a cerebral haemorrhage on 8th September  a month before she was 82, a good age, but it doesn't make it any better.

Elizabeth was the younger sister of a wonderful woman called Lorna, who 'took me in' when she realised the extent of my sufferings with my own family. Lorna and her family have done more for me than any member of my family did. My only regret is that I wished, at the time, I could have accepted their support with more grace than I did, but I think they knew that was down to the damage that had already been done. It's not easy having a mother who is a diagnosed psychopath, I just wish I had been told earlier. I would never have poured so much of my life down the drain, in an effort to meet the demands of a parent who could (unknown to me) never be satisfied, happy or safe to be around.

Back to Elizabeth, she was kindness itself. She spent her life caring for others, as a nurse, and as a carer. When she was around 30, she contracted a form of TB which left her an invalid for the rest of her life. Most people who knew her had more to do with her interests, meditation and various esoteric beliefs like the White Eagle Lodge. I don't engage in any of these types of activities, I'm just allergic to anything that offers someone the opportunity to engage with what's going on inside my head. (Ahh? I wonder what caused that???) But there were two aspects of her character that really impressed me.

She was a very attractive woman who never married and seemed content to be single. I asked her once why she didn't marry and we had a long talk about it one Christmas in the family cottage in Dorset. She explained that when she was younger she hated the attention she got from men because of her looks, her large bust, the fact she was a nurse and the fantasies that created. She ended up cringing in the face of a sensual approach, feeling like prey. At the time, I didn't understand it, but I sure do now.

The other aspect I so admired was how she conducted herself as a disabled woman. She always cared for her appearance, she pursued her interests, she did as much as she could with her life when she wasn't engaged in continuous service to others and did it all with a genuine generous smile. Over the last 5 years or so, since the development of kidney disease and rheumatoid arthritis which have forced me to live differently, Elizabeth has been a model of how to conduce myself. It could have all been so different. There have been times when I've been so angry at my loss of abilities and opportunities I cold feel tempted by the comfort of bitterness and resentment. There have also been occasions when I've found myself the object of exotic fantasies rather than a partner in a relationship. Do I stay around, just so I have 'someone', or become murderous in my fury at dishonest manipulation? Elizabeth was a model of how to conduct yourself when faced by such base motives. She did show me it was possible to look inside for what you need. And I'm so thankful for that.

I've never been much good at the funerals of those I have found difficult to lose. I was sobbing, I hope quietly. I never find the eulogies appropriate as they don't seem to reflect the deceased in the same way I appreciate them. I'm not a picture of grace at funerals of those I love. Neither would I have wanted Elizabeth to have struggled on with a more limited life after her stroke. She would have hated further loss of her independence which was so important to her. She wasn't without her faults. She should have stopped driving, and ironically, she would have really benefited from the social interaction of living in a warden assisted group home, something she really resisted. Her last year or so she found frustrating and isolating, unfortunately due to her stubbornness, so it could be said, she left us on her own terms. I'm grateful to know, just before she left home to visit her nephew for lunch, she had a stroke while walking there, (nephew's neighbour called an ambulance, hospital, died 4 days later without regaining conciousness) she was singing and dancing in her lounge with her carer to Abba.

I'm also very grateful to write this about Elizabeth, because by doing so,  it's shown me, she taught me, and others, very well. I've realised we don't need her to stay any longer. Liz, I Thank You. I'll miss you. You don't need to stay. Your job is done.

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