Skype – plus funerals, James Bond & C W Stoneking

Paul's Coffin

I love Skype and as I mentioned in an earlier blog, it really has changed my life, for I share most Sunday lunchtimes with my family 6,000 miles away, though for them it is dinnertime. It’s almost as good as actually being there with them, as they just come and go, do their own thing and the kids show me their projects, play piano, ukulele, sing and generally make me laugh for an hour or two.

Two Sunday’s ago I was sitting with my notebook on my lap (so the view from their angle would have been looking upwards from my abdomen) and my youngest grandson (age 6) turned to my son and said, ‘Daddy, is Grandma pregnant?’

No sooner had I stopped laughing than my 13 year-old granddaughter showed me a little toy she had made for her brother. She said it was felt-work, fashioned with a needle and as I’d never seen it done she ran off to get some felt and a needle and commenced a new project so that I could watch. After a few minutes she said she was making a heart – a gift for me – and she would put it in my coffin!

I am perfectly happy that she can speak openly about my death, for two years ago she was inconsolable at the thought, sobbing uncontrollably – and it had come out of the blue. No one had been discussing it prior to that, though I had been treated for cancer several times before she had been born and it was no secret, as I live with the consequences (see earlier blogs) and clearly she had been giving it some thought.

It was devastating to see a child so heartbroken and no matter how much I cuddled her and told her I had no plans on departing this mortal coil in the immediate future, we still couldn’t console her. Composing myself I told her that my funeral should be a celebration of my life, as though it hadn’t been easy and I’d suffered bullying and abuse as a young girl, I had also done many wonderful things, which most people can only dream of. Often seeing wild animals in their natural habitat – and even been on a walking safari. I’d sailed twice to Cape Town and driven through Southern Africa and Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) to Zambia and seen Victoria Falls, the mighty Mosi O Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) on several occasions – and frequently camped under the bright stars of a dark African night along the banks of the Kafue River, sometimes finding hippo spore in our camp the following morning! (I omitted to say I had also been arrested as a spy on a couple of occasions when I had only been out sketching, had a rifle pointed in my face and suffered what some would describe as hardships due to our various ‘states of emergency’).

I told her I would like a New Orleans style funeral, with ‘second lining’, lots of fun and laughter, as well as (perhaps) a few tears. She had no idea what I was talking about and in a flash of inspiration I asked my son if he could find on You Tube, the clip from the James Bond film, Live and Let Die. He did this in a trice and the whole family gathered around the computer to watch – several times.

My granddaughter, now all fired up, ran and got an A4 pad and started to write it all down, ‘What songs do you want, Grandma?’

‘Well at the moment I would like C W Stoneking’s, I heard the Marchin’ of the Drum and The Love Me Or Die’, but I might change my mind in a few years.’ With that it was back to the computer to look up the songs, which met with her approval. I added, ‘But I don’t want a religious funeral, perhaps a Humanist one if you can find a celebrant.’

Scribbling it all down on the pad she put her arm around me and said reassuringly, ‘don’t worry Grandma, I’ll see you get the funeral you want!’ So that’s how an 11 year-old, as she was then, became able to talk freely about my demise. On a recent visit to my home she informed me that when I die she would like my cooking utensils and my cookery books!

At the moment I don’t have time to die and for the time being have put the DIY on the back burner in favour of a bit of artwork.

Pas De Deux
Pas De Deux
Pas De Deux
Pas De Deux
Shifting Sands
Shifting Sands

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Born in Liverpool at the end of WW2, but raised in Skelmersdale. I first studied art in Southport from 1960-63 and worked in graphic design till I married. In December 1969 I moved to Zambia with my husband and two young children. There I taught art in the local girls school, illustrated for the National Correspondence College and did all sorts of other artwork, paid and unpaid. In 1978 I divorced and remarried in the summer of 1980. In 1985 I became ill and the following year cancer was diagnosed. There was no treatment available in Zambia and so I had to go to the UK. After recovering from a radium needle implant I went back to Zambia, but 18 months later the cancer recurred and it was off to the UK again for radical surgery. This time I realised I must stay in the UK where treatment was available, so I never returned to Zambia nor my husband. A few months later I applied for a degree course, but two years later the disease metastasised and I spent most of my final year in and out of hospital. It’s been a long hard road, but I’m still plodding on and it is now 24 years since my last cancer treatment. Because of my experience of cancer and surviving against the odds, I try and help others cope with their devastating diagnosis and prognosis.

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