A Burnt Toast to my Mother.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 24 August 2012

So I now have a running order.

The cremation takes place on September 11th at 12.25. Sybil, my soothsayer in Hollywood, said she'll go off with a bang.

Who'd have thought we would ever make jokes about 9/11 let alone my mother havng anything to do with it.

So she goes down, with a sunflower in her hand, and then one week later, Nigel Dengate, the most compassionate of funeral directors, has checked the tides, and she'll get scattered over the Channel, as the sun sets at 20.18 on September 19th.

The last four days have been and gone. The organisation has been gently efficient.

We cleared her room at Hyman Fine Home in under 30 minutes. I have handed out gew-gaws and photographs to those that want, hung things on spare wall space and taken her favourite coat to the cleaners. I am now surrounded by my mother - from smiling sunface clocks to a panoply of angels.

We left the home and had coffee in a delicious patisserie in Kemp Town, Brighton, hand made breads and cakes, quiches and tarts. I couldn't eat.

Off to the Registrar in the town hall in Bartholomew Square near the sea.

Janette Taylor - née Schneider - was surprised that my mother was Taylor, née Schneider - so we talked about the history of our families and left without the death certificate. I had to find out whether my mother was an acute Renée or just a plain old Reen, and whether she married as a Taylor or a Schneider.

We arrived at Nigel Dengates funeral parlour empty handed. I had been advised by three people not to look at my mothers body, although everybody else said I should see her life-less, as it would be some kind of closure. We went up to the chapels of rest in a lattaced lift. Walked along a corridor and Nigel led us into a room where my mother lay.

My legs buckled. I cried. She was in her nightdress and cardigan. Jim held my right hand and Nigel my left. I touched my mothers dead body. It was icy cold. She was there, but not there. My mother, who had been by my side for 63 years, was gone.

I asked whether we should put different clothes on her, Nigel asked why I wanted to disturb her again, so my mother leaves this world in a pretty pink nighty and blue cardigan.

Her wedding ring had been removed, I am now wearing it on my ring finger. It's too big but I've secured it with my wedding ring.

I want to see her one more time before the cremation.

We drove home and decided to go out to eat. I couldn't face preparing any food, we ate in the 'Rose of Bengal' stiff white linen tablecloths and perfect service - thats a bit of synthetical ambiguity there - we did not eat the tablecloths, of course, just a perfectly cooked selection of curries.

On Wednesday we drove back to the registry office, I now had the information we needed having found my mothers wedding details with the help of ancestry.com

My mother married, without an acute accent, on May 12th, 1941, her nineteenth birthday. She was a Schneider.

We left the office with five copies of the death certificate and the details of the Hewlett Packard printer, as we were both so impressed by its speed.

I fancied fish and chips on the beach, so Jim handed over a tenner for two big bags of battered fish and chunky chips with a good shake of salt and vinegar, thank you. The pebbles felt comfortable under our bums as the wind blew the smell of ozone into our chip wrappers.

Then it was off to the funeral parlour, which was closed so I posted my mothers death certificate through the letter box. My mother was now officially dead.

Yesterday, the old gits birthday, was spent tying up tiny loose ends. My mother had organised the funeral plan herself, all I have to do is order the sunflowers, which each person will have to place on her coffin -a simple one with rope handles - they can say their own farewells as she departs to Bruch's violin concerto, She was born in 1922 so the three sisters will sing the hit of that year. 'April Showers',

Last night we drove into town to watch SOUL SISTER at the SAVOY, met with B and went off and ate rubbish food before dropping off the dawter in Hackney. The journey home was easy and I fell into bed at 1.30

Today I am calm. I was going to say strangely calm. But there is nothing strange about it. My mother has died, we had two years of anguish as she got frailer and frailer and I have to say her release is better for her and everybody who loved her.

I had a moment when I realised I would never be able to stroke her hand again, but it was just a fleeting flash.

The rest of this day is mine. I have no more trips to the home, no more worry, no more pain at her pain. She has gone. I have an overwhelming sense of relief. If there is some kind of heaven then she has returned to her family and of course our old dog Jackson whom she loved.

This really is a time for going with the flow, so I'm going to flow into the kitchen and eat some toast. To honour my mother I shall burn the edges, scrape the burnt bits into the sink and slather butter over the rest then rise a cuppa to her.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At August 25, 2012 7:52 AM Rhianon wrote:

When my Ma died (2 years ago tomorrow,) my first, immediate reaction as I held her hand and she slipped away, was 'no more disapointments for you, Ma'. And, as you say, a relief that there was no more pain for her, and a freeing of my heart in that all those years of anguish and fear were ended. I hadn't realised how deep the tension had become over the years. I still feel guilty about the lightening of the load, but such is life.
My friend Barry told me that the calm was Gods way of protecting us. Cocooning us against the harshness of these grief filled days.
Take care, Jeni,

2. At August 25, 2012 9:43 AM June wrote:

Darling Jeni

Your mother's hand will always be holding your's. She will be there as she has always been there in the last 63 years, you just won't be able to see her, that is until you close your eyes and there she will be smiling, supporting you as she always has and always will be.
Thinking of you.

With love

3. At August 27, 2012 5:58 AM lynne wrote:

My heart goes out to you at this difficult time. Five years ago to day we were going through the same thing. Strange, but you seem to come out stronger, with a different perspective on life. The biggest thing that hit my brother and I was that , even in our 50's, we were orphans! A feeling that does not leave.
But, apart from the odd really sad days, I have smilled more, so I'm told!

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