Sunday, May 13, 2012

Monday Mournings: The Death of a Friend

I'm Amanda. I live in North Yorkshire, right on the edge of the Dales - commonly known as God's Own Country. We moved here ten years ago from London. I'm a drama tutor on the shady side of 40, married for 20 years and with a 16 year old son. I blog mostly about drama, gaming and bits and pieces of my life but in the end it all boils down to an over-riding interest in story-telling. After finding the Deathwriter's blog during the A-Z challenge, I became a follower. We don't talk enought about death or the dying.

DW:  Who was the person that died?

Amanda:  Sue was one of my closest friends. We'd known each other for around 15 years at the time of her death in 2007. I'm writing about her partly as a tribute to an amazing human being, and partly because we talked at length about her impending death.

DW:  How old were you at the time?

Amanda:  43

DW:  How old was Sue?

Amanda:  43

DW:  Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen?

Amanda:  It felt sudden, but wasn't. Sue drank heavily and had done so for years. She collapsed at the end of 2006 when her liver started to give up and died of liver failure in November 2007. She phoned me in August 2007 when she'd been rejected for a liver transplant and told me she was going to die. I spent a lot of time traveling backwards and forwards to London to visit her in the hospital after that, but we'd been talking nearly daily for several months before that. Sue was a very tough lady indeed. She outlasted all the medical predictions and several near death scares.

DW:  So you said earlier that you and Sue talked about her death.  Tell me about that.

Amanda:  Oh yes. We talked a lot. Rather obliquely at times. Sue knew she was dying, and made all the arrangements for her funeral. She asked me to write her eulogy, and threatened to come back to haunt me if it didn't do her justice. It was a strange situation. We chatted pretty much every day, and she became very frightened. Those were bad times. She hated the hospital and fought very hard to get out and into a nursing home, where she felt she would be a person rather than a collection of malevolent symptoms. It wasn't so much death that worried her, as the slipping away of her own sense of being a person, mostly engendered by the hospital. She did make it to a nursing home and was happy there for a month before she finally slipped into the coma she never woke up from.

DW:  Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before Sue died?

Amanda:  I'd lost both my parents by then. Both were very much expected deaths - my father had been ill for years and had a proper Victorian deathbed with the family around him - going extremely peacefully. My mother fought tooth and nail and it was awful. There were my own three miscarriages, and the sudden death of an ex-lover who was epileptic and drowned in a bath. I wouldn't say death has stalked me at all, but by the time Sue's illness was clear, it was at least a familiar path.

DW:  Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away when you were grieving?

Amanda:  Sue's death was remarkably bonding. She had a gift for friendship and a lot of people came together over the last months of her life to support her and each other.

DW:  Is there anything you wish you'd done differently with this person?

Amanda:  On a practical level, I wish we'd been living closer. Emotionally, while it was appalling in some ways to watch her disintegrating and being frightened, it felt right to be there for her. This was her time, not mine.

DW:  Was she buried or cremated?

Amanda:  Sue had the funeral she had planned in every detail and was cremated. 

DW:  Did you learn anything about the grieving process that you'd like to share?

Amanda:  Writing the eulogy was the most helpful thing for me. It helped me to clarify exactly how much I valued Sue and how and why I missed her. It might sound fanciful to say that it allowed me to edit my grief, but in a way that's exactly what happened. The first impact of a death is so overwhelming that all you can feel is pain in a big indeterminate blob. Writing about it turned the pain into sharp specific points, but also became a happy thing to do, ensuring that the memories were kept clear. 

Click here to read Amanda's eulogy for Sue

DW:  What music did she have at her memorial?

Amanda:  Being Sue, she picked some specific music for her funeral. "Mr Slater's Parrot" by the Bonzo Dog DooDah Band, the final chorus from Bach's St Matthew Passion, and the madrigal from Ruddigore ("When the buds are blossoming").

Thank you so much Amanda for sharing your experience!  It's been a pleasure.  And without further ado...

This one goes out to Sue


20 comments:

  1. The song had me crying then smiling. what a fab choice Sue made. x

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    1. I had never heard of this band before and I just love this song.

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  2. What a lovely tribute to Sue. She must have been so brave to plan her own funeral.

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  3. I'm going to plan mine. Well, I already have a general idea of how I want it to go down.

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    1. I don't care if there is a service but maybe my children would like that. If there were to be one, I would want to select songs and readings - oh, and, no matter in what month I die, any memorial has to take place sometime between mid April and mid October.

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    2. Good luck with that:) Well, they can have your memorial any time they want. October is beautiful in California.

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  4. Timing is always perfect, no one can say it's untimely.

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    1. I feel so honored to have your comment and advertising of services on my blog. This is a first. I must be moving up in the world!

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  5. Deeply moved reading this. I have a lot of respect for Amanda and just appreciate that this is out there.

    I think you are accomplishing something vital with this blog.

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    1. Thank you Suze! Amanda was the first person to step forward and now I've got several people who are going to share their stories each Monday morning, so be sure and check back.
      Thanks for the comment and for the follow!

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  6. This is such a unifying subject. I commend you for conducting these interviews and want Amanda to know how courageous I believe she is for telling her story of Sue's death. Thank you both.

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    1. Thanks Susan. I just found out that it is Dying Matters Awareness week in the UK so it's kind of fitting that Amanda was my first interview since she lives there.

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    2. @ Susan - it doesn't feel courageous, just necessary. I'm very grateful to deathwriter for her blog - as I think many others will be as well.

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    3. Do you know how happy it makes me to hear that? I feel so grateful that I am able to help people by just having this blog. I'm not a counselor or an expert, but I do believe in the power of story.
      Thanks Amanda.

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  7. Wow!! I am amazed by this interview. People really should open up and talk more about their experiences with death - it is a part of life after all and never a pleasant part to deal with. Reading about and hearing how others deal with it could really make a huge difference.

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    1. That's what I'm hoping. That maybe people might find this as a place to come and talk or simply read so they feel less alone.

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    2. talking about death is really important. there is a mystery in death but sharing the feelings and the reactions is the way to move forward.

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  8. This was an amazing interview and Amanda is an amazing person. Her eulogy literally moved me to tears! I like this new Monday feature for your blog and am looking forward to more! Great job!

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    1. I know. I hope people are clicking over and reading it. I think what she said about being able to edit her grief was so revealing about how important our stories are to us. And so that's why I think being able to share them on here is gonna be WAY cool! I'm going to interview you too Jim, but you're about 2 months down the line.

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!