Blogs shared by the team
Piers Lane - Celebrant/poet
As it became clear my mother’s Parkinson's and my father’s dementia were progressing to the point they would not cope alone, I began to build a small house for them in my garden in Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders. Sadly they were never to live there. There was a sudden, dramatic downturn in their health, and social services insisted they should be in a dual-registered care and nursing home. I found them pleasant rooms in a home in Ayton, not far from the border with Northumberland, with a view of hills and forests they both loved.
My mother died in the home. I missed her by a few cruel minutes. She had apparently died pretending to dance with some dolls my brother had given her. My father then entered a violent phase of dementia and ended up in geriatric psychiatric care. After this, it was difficult to find a care home that would accept him. I tried very many. The one that eventually took him in was probably the best (I had asked them last because I thought I would stand no chance). It was very comfortingly just over the wall from my son’s house in Edinburgh, and served by a GP who had once been my student.
By this time my father did not know who I was, but he knew or sensed we were close, so in many ways our relationship was as rich as it had ever been. I used to bring objects and images to stimulate his memory. On one occasion I brought a photograph of my mother.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
“It’s your wife, Dorothy….my mother” I explained.
He looked at me inquisitively, pointed his finger and said, with a flash of forensic logic… ..”Does that mean you are my son?”
And we both burst out laughing.
I also tragically managed to miss the moment of my father’s death, and although I was lucky enough to be able to bury both of my parents with proper ceremony, I have always felt that something was missing. So my cherished object - to say the missing goodbye I would have liked to have said to them - is the same photograph of my Mum (looking quite the colleen on her wedding day!).
Prof. Nigel Osborne - Composer & aid worker
My father was brought up in Northumberland and, during the 1930s, was embarrassingly nicknamed the “Newcastle Nightingale” (for musical rather than medical reasons) before joining the Durham Light Infantry and going off to fight the Germans. Injured and captured by Rommel’s forces in North Africa, he spent the rest of the War as a prisoner in Bavaria. When the great German baritone, Hans Hotter, came to the camp on a humanitarian visit, the commandant told him that Lt. Ritchie urgently needed songs to sing and so he and my father met to talk about music. Hotter sent the promised sheet music, a small quantity of which eventually made it past the censor with the stamp of approval – “Stalag 383 … Geprüft” – and my father performed these Lieder regularly, in German of course, for his fellow British prisoners until VE day and liberation exactly 75 years ago.
My father, who would have been 100 last year, died 30 years ago in England while I was living and working in Scotland: and, to my eternal regret, much was left unsaid, including “goodbye”. I am saying it these days, however, in the only way I know how, through singing (sometimes in concerts for others and almost daily in my living room at home) songs, especially those given to my father by Hans Hotter and passed on to me – including one which is the cherished object I am sharing today: ‘Traum durch die Dämmerung’ (‘Dream through the twilight’) by Richard Strauss, a symbol of music’s power to transcend conflict, to heal trauma and to keep us going.
Ian Ritchie – Musician & artistic director
I have not lost anyone close to me during the pandemic, but I do understand what it feels like to lose someone suddenly, unexpectedly and traumatically. I will be remembering my Dad today. My Dad was a Scotsman who loved to sing. He died from a heart attack aged 49, when I was 15. My cherished item is a song. My Dad named me many years before I was born after the Scott Walker song “Joanna”. He used to sing this to me, as well as many other songs. It is these songs that make me still feel connected to him many years after he has died. A few years ago, with the help of family and friends, I put together my Dad’s posthumous “Playlist for Life”. Whenever I am missing my Dad, on anniversaries and days like Father’s Day, I have his playlist to remember him. Music has helped me in my recovery journey, as I hope it will help you in yours.
Dr Joanna Marshall - Psychologist
Dr Angela Kennedy - Psychologist
‘Time to Remember’ …for the Rest of our Lives
I felt safe and secure, waking to the bell-like sounds of my Mother ‘tinkling the ivories’…”Those were the Days, my Friend, we thought they’d never end…”
Half a century later, when the nurse asked my Mother after her tragic accident what she would most wish for if she had but one wish, my Mother’s whisper was strong and passionate – “TIME”. She was always optimistic. Although her family had everything stripped from them when they were interned behind armed guards and barbed wire as ‘enemy aliens’ in WWII, despite being American citizens, she never uttered a bad word about those years.
Amongst my Father’s treasured items, I felt I’d struck gold when I unearthed a photo he’d carried with him into the Allied trenches. His Mother, Chika, is smiling serenely from his carefully made Mother’s Day card. It was fortunate that he had been chosen to stay behind to play his trumpet from a battle that tragically left few survivors for the Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Battalion, which became the most highly decorated unit in American history.
During this beautiful commemorative service on Father’s Day, I shall be remembering and giving thanks to both my parents for the time and sacrifices they continually made for others, as I was unable to be with them for their final breaths.
My cherished item is an old newspaper clipping of my first ‘serious’ violin, a Simpson made in the North of England over 200 years ago, as it sparks strong memories of my Father. Arriving home wearily after his 24/7 on-call duties of being a doctor, he would ask to hear me practice. I will always remember his smile as he would drop off to sleep within seconds, refreshed and renewed. This special violin never failed to lift our spirits through many memorable musical journeys together –
“Try to Remember when life was so tender, when dreams were kept beside the pillow…”
Dr Chika Robertson - Musician & academy profession
This global pandemic has seen each individual adapt to different and at times, challenging ways of life. I can not begin to imagine the extent to which this devastation has caused and for me, I knew that I had to do something to help. Thankfully, I have not lost anyone close to me during this pandemic, but one of the most difficult periods in my life was dealing with the loss of my grandparents. Holding this in my heart, I hope this events helps you find some solace and a time to say goodbye.
Dr Paras Patel - Wellbeing researcher
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