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Winding up: All Souls' Day: LJ Idol Week 1
erica_crawford
All Souls' Day has been and gone, and the year draws inexorably to a close.

The All Souls' Day Mass is one of the most beautiful Masses of the year. Candlelit; black vestments; special incense; the long lists of relatives of the congregation, and members of the congregation, who have died; a sense of quiet and reverence; a sense of sadness and yet of hope.

I did not attend the All Souls' Day Mass this year, nor did I last year, nor the year before.

My mother was born on All Souls' Day in 1930, to a former cotton-mill worker and a shoemaker, in a mill town in Lancashire, UK. All Souls' Day 1935 she spent in hospital, having being run down by a lorry when my nana delegated the task of walking her home from school to a ten-year-old, who promptly forgot about my mother, and left her to attempt the walk home by herself.

They said she would not survive the night: but she did. Then they said she would be permanently paralysed: but she wasn't. She did ballet to rebuild her strength, and by her teenage years seemed to be as good as new.

By All Souls' Day in 1940 she was at the local grammar school, where she excelled in every subject apart from art. Her teachers were privately excited at the thought of getting their first ever pupil into Oxford. But she had other ideas: she had no wish to become a teacher or a nurse, which at that time seemed the only possible options. All Souls' Day 1946 was spent in conflict with her school, who had written to the local authority to ask that her scholarship to the Manchester College of Commerce be rescinded, as it duly was. But she went anyway, to study French, Spanish, and Business, and finished top of her year. She then worked as an interpreter for Sabena in Manchester for 5 years before moving out to the US to marry my father, just over a fortnight before All Souls' Day 1953.

All Souls' Day for the next ten years was also spent in the US: in Connecticut, where she studied German and Italian at Yale; and in San Francisco, where again she worked for Sabena. My parents travelled all over the world and thought they would never want to have children.

By All Souls' Day in 1964, they were back in the UK and about to move into a brand-new house. My father was one of the youngest full professors ever appointed at that time; but my mother could not find a job within sensible commuting distance. So children came back onto the agenda.

By All Souls' Day in 1973, they were about ready to despair. It had been a sad year: my mother had lost her beloved father, and my father both his parents; and now it looked as if she must be going through the menopause. She went, feeling depressed, to the doctor only to be told that by All Souls' Day of 1974, if all went well, she should be cradling a bundle of joy. And so it proved.

The years slipped quickly past, and All Souls' Day cast not its deathly pall over the Crawford family again until 1999, when my mother was diagnosed with the onset of Alzheimer's. She deteriorated fairly rapidly, just about managing to recognise old friends when my father took her back to the US to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 2003.

A fall on Ash Wednesday 2006 landed her in the hospital, and then a nursing home, as my father reluctantly had to accept that he could no longer look after her properly. She no longer knew who any of us were.

By All Souls' Day 2008, we had been told that she also had advanced colo-rectal cancer and, given her advanced Alzheimer's, we opted for palliative care. She died 3 and a half months later. At her Requiem Mass, I sang the Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem: a piece she had always loved and wanted to hear me sing, but by the time I had enough confidence in my voice to attempt such a thing, she was already gone from us.

I did not attend the All Souls' Day Mass this year, nor did I last year, nor the year before.

It is all still too raw. I do not know how long it will be before I can face it again. I know her name was read out, and she was remembered. But the people who knew her as the vivacious brilliant young woman before the disease robbed her of all her memories are dying out, and soon it will only be her name that is remembered, except by me.

All Souls' Day has been and gone, and the year draws inexorably to a close.
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This was beautiful but heartbreaking.

I don't even have words.

It's taken me nearly two years to find words. That's the first time I've written about it properly.

It does not matter how long it took. You did beautifully.

This was a beautiful piece. I'm sorry for your loss, and sorry for your pain. You expressed both so eloquently here. You also allowed me to see that your mother was quite a courageous and special woman. Thank you for sharing this.

*hugs* I wish you the best and hope you can someday enjoy it again.

What a brilliant life you've described here!

This was really powerful.

Very profound. Nicely done...

Hugs. I am sorry for your loss. Dimentia is a horrible way to make ones decline from this earthly life.

Extraordinary and powerful and moving and and and... And dammit, I am out of Kleenex at my desk!

My condolences, though this was very evocatively written.

Wow. This is a very moving piece. I am so sorry for your loss. :( You definitely honor your mother writing about her like this.

I've never seen an All Souls' Day Mass. Oh, I'm so JEALOUS. Not in the bad way, though. Thanks for sharing with us. =D

I'm so sorry for the lose of your mother.

A very thoughtful retrospective. Thank you for sharing.

Beautifully written. You made me cry! I'm so sorry for your loss.

That was so sad and so beautiful. I hope as well that you can one day celebrate All Soul's day again, celebrate her life.

Very moving. Thank you for sharing.

A fascinating journey through time. So sad, yet I absolutely loved reading it.

This is both utterly gorgeous, and utterly heartbreaking.

I haven't been to visit my mother's grave in almost a year. She passed nearly three years ago. I know, I know...

This was so, so beautiful.

There is some poetry between All Soul's Day and Alzheimer's.

I'm sorry for your loss.

Alzheimer's is an evil disease.

Nothing can ever prepare us for this kind of loss.

Enjoyed the entry. One day you will enjoy the mass again.

What a beautiful tribute to your mother.

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