It’s not a popularity contest, but Mum has had about a hundred condolence cards.
She thought the postman must be wondering what was going on. He’s young but he’s been their postman for years and he knew them both from deliveries. Enough to say Hello Mr Warner. Enough to call Mum bab.
Early on in the lockdown he’d called out to her from the end of the drive, Are you staying safe bab?
The next time he came with a parcel, she told him Dad had died.
And he said, Oh bab, I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do…
And the next day he came with a big bunch of tulips. And said, This is from us, just to let you know we’re thinking of you.
There had been a lot of flowers. But these ones were overwhelming.
I have no prior interest in gardening, but I have become focused on nature these last few weeks. What’s in bloom, what’s coming. The daffodils are past now, the tulips are almost over. We walk to catch the carpets of bluebells before they are gone. Rhododendrons are next. Then roses. The clematis is just beginning.
Everything marks the passage of time. One week since, two weeks, three. It’ll be a month next Friday. Mum has had her birthday. Tomorrow is their 40th wedding anniversary. Then Father’s Day in June, my birthday, Christmas, my brother’s birthday, Dad’s. A year.
There were six people allowed at the funeral. It’s not a popularity contest but we could have filled that crematorium, easy. Though people found other ways. Some neighbours stood at the end of their drives as the hearse went past. Other friends told Mum they read through the order of service at two o’clock, or just sat silently for a while.
There could be no church service. There was no wake. Hugging my brother was a contravention. But Dad wouldn’t have minded it being small. He liked just us best anyway.
A friend of Mum’s did the flowers for the coffin. Mum wanted them bright and spring-like and they did not disappoint. Tulips, freesias, broom, contorted willow. Plus euphorbia, lilac, bluebells and forget-me-nots from Mum’s garden.
Without a church to put them in, we brought them home and laid them on the patio till eventually, they wilted. But the flowers in the pots and the beds rage on; popping up one after another, taking shifts as the days and weeks elapse.
We wondered if we didn’t need to tell the postman what had happened. We wondered if he knew. If he knows what it means when suddenly there are lots of cards and flowers. Especially now.
The next time she spoke to him, Mum asked if he knew about the man a few doors down who had died from the virus.
He said, Yes. Mr Edwards.
Then he said, I’ve had quite a few.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 10th May 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.
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