Eleanor our daughter died on 21st April this year.
Me: I just had to tell you. It arrived with the post today, a glossy advertising leaflet, headed, A place for you at South Grange Residential Care Home. With nice pics! I know you’d have laughed, and wondered, aloud, how they knew me so well.
Eleanor: Yeah, it’s about time you got some professional care, not to mention appropriate discipline to keep you out of trouble….
M: I thought you’d like it. And then there’s the other aspect, which it’s maybe indelicate to mention, but how come they are advertising vacancies? In the wake of coronavirus? I was checking to see if there was a bit that said, “Don’t worry about the expense because you probably won’t be here long.”
E: Of course I’d visit you every week with a bunch of word games simple enough for your diminishing brain……if I was still on earth.
M: I wish you were…..but you came to me in my sleep last night, and you brought an old friend I scarcely recognised.
E: Lilian from Dumbarton. We met because she knows how you feel about me….
M: Ach aye. Her son drowned in a boating accident…. I spoke at his funeral, not understanding the peculiar pain of burying your child.
E: Is it a terrible pain?
M: Yes, it is, at least in comparison with the death of my best friend or my brother, although they are sorrows still.
E: Why is that?
M: Because although they are dear to me, you are younger and dearer…
E: As you and mum are to me. And I can share your pain, but Lilian knows it more than me. And we feel it as part of the burden of pain that heaven bears for the earth.
M: Lilian was a good pal who knew you as a baby.
E: What was I like as a baby and a toddler? I have only a few memories…
M: Your mum made you a happy baby, and you were a lovely toddler, full of fun and curiosity.
E: You were thinking of me yesterday, so I was thinking of you.
M: I was walking in the hills, imagining what you would have been saying…
E: I picked up your pleasure in the hillscape, in particular your smelling the bell heather, a quick intoxicating sweetness; and your looking west towards the great bulk of Lochnagar on the horizon. My memories mixed with yours. In my case I remember sitting beside its remote lochan, seeing in its clear depths a dumped coke can and a condom.
M: I felt you near when seated on the first of yesterday’s summits I heard a bird cry with a single note, and saw it standing nearby on a rock. I might have said, Dotterel? And you would have asked, But where’s the brown belly? And I would have suggested, Plover, Golden Plover? But the cry, a held note descending a half tone, laid on the air as if in knowledge of pleasure and pain, is one of the notes of life.
E: Lilian says that’s right.