The Best MIL

Joan Hargreaves

(no middle name- she regretted that)

18/08/35- 22/04/20

“Hello, this is Jim and I’m Joan, come in”. They were the first words my future mother-in-law spoke to me. They were an easy going, accepting, intelligent, thoughtful and very caring couple and sealed the deal that I’d found the right family I wanted to join. I mean the OH was pretty amazing so to get the bonus of amazing in-laws just convinced me to sign the contract before anyone else usurped me. In my attempts to appear worthy of joining this respected family I broke 2 items washing up and did something else so badly wrong. But very soon these two lovely people would become such a special part of my life and as important as my parents. I was brought up to respect the older generation and never refer to them by their first names so soon I had MIL and DIL (mum and dad in law) and everyone I knew generally referred to them by this term. We soon found out that we had similar tastes and it turns out OH and I decorated our bedrooms in exactly the same wallpaper at the same time without knowing it and it was quite strange describing this over the phone (no mobiles then) and realising that it was the same paper. I was only complimented on what I wore when it was clothes MIL had chosen for me and sometimes we ended up wearing the same skirts, etc; although despite a 30 year age gap she always looked better in them than me. Over the years and many wonderful meals, we grew to sharing some of our deepest secrets and I was never judged.

The most incredible moment I remember was at DIL’s funeral on 31st December 1998, he was 62. I said to MIL that Ken can walk you up the aisle and I will walk behind you. She grabbed me by the arm and said “You’re as much my daughter as he is my son.” And that isn’t underestimating the love she had for her only son.

Eventually MIL became Gran, but she’d offered mothering and counsel to so many people at various difficult points of their lives and always with such wisdom and nonjudgmentalism. With the kids she would wrap them in a warm towel if they were having a bit of a strop and gently massage their heads and hands with a hypnotic calming effect. She loved gardening, travel, food and wine and always had time for others. She cared for DIL during his illness with selfless compassion and would have continued as long as necessary. They were a rock for each other.

Her special friends at family, well most of them, Grandson took the photo, on her 80th birthday

Then we began to notice some forgetfulness, missing things, especially her purse when on holiday in Paris with the children. It got serious one Christmas when we noticed a routine each morning when she would head for a Christmas card from her brother who had deceased, which she’d obviously saved. Each morning she was drawn to the card and picked it up, and read it and then looked pained and shocked. In hindsight we ought to have moved the card, but we were younger and not as wise then. Then there were the phone calls to the police about taking her address book, which would be on her shelf or in a cupboard. She put the marmalade in with the cups, as she likes her tea and marmalade on toast. Each moment we were on edge whether she was safe, she’d call at 10 minute intervals having a slight inkling she’d spoken to us. OH often had to jump in the car and drive the 4 hour round trip to sort a problem. So it was with a feeling of failure but reassurance we had to persuade her into a care home.

The amazing and very caring staff at Westfield Care home in Lockerbie have come to love her in just the same way as others who knew her all her life have come to love her. From her phase of eating chocolate oranges, through to chocolate buttons much of her day was spent with food: no change there! Her memory was poor but her mind had so much still of the intelligent woman, who hated the idea that people might be saying things without consulting her. (So I apologise to you Gran for including this insight, but it was part of who you became and I know you’d want to give comfort to others) MIL could still tell a joke and laugh at herself, but never making others feel bad, only better about themselves.

All I can hope is some of her character, wisdom, intelligence and values rubbed off on me and become part of my personality- the cooking certainly hasn’t, but she passed that on to the OH so that is OK.

Hearing that this horrible covid-19 virus had caught up with her was devastating, but as a woman, born just before the war in Blackburn she was a fighter and she fought as long as she could. Then came the devasting news that we couldn’t attend her funeral, not even her son and daughter in law. I felt gutted. Not to be there when she slipped away and leaving that job to her Westfield Care family was tough, but not to be at her funeral was going to burn for a long time. So I decided to make my own tribute, which you can see in the video.

I know there is washing on the line and the garden isn’t tidy but that is just how Gran would have done it. Enjoy the birds rather than miss them for tidying up.

If I’ve illegally done something with the music I apologise, but hopefully they will get a few more sales, it is Jesus Remember Me Taizé Songs, the bird song is just in my back garden and cannot be bought from Amazon. I did the video twice as the first one had the volume down and I didn’t know if it would record, but during that one a gust of wind sent all this snow like stuff from the lime /linden/ tilia tree. It was like angels crying.

Then just before we went for a walk we found a beautiful potted sunflower on our coal bunker, in an M&S bag, so I knew this was from Graham Mundell the undertaker. He had rung last night and asked if we wanted flowers for Gran, and I explained she loved sunflowers. He asked where I could get sunflowers at this time of year and I explained that he better not get it from flying flowers as I’d sent some into Westfield and they were so shrivelled up. Not sure if they were actually dead, but it wasn’t the type of flower you want to send in as a thank you, more of a floral “dear John”. So he said he’d send his wife into Markys and find something, so he’d obviously had some great luck and the garden flowers with the sunflower were full of perfume. Gran would really have approved. I’d asked for a photo of the funeral, not because I wanted to be macabre but I wanted a link to Gran, the sunflower did that much better than any photo.

Thanks Graham Mundell Annandale Funeral Director

We had a meal today to remind us of Gran, on a Friday night after a week at work, we’d often make the trip to Ulverson to catch up and chill for the weekend. The meal was usually braised steak and a baked potato as it was forgiving of traffic jams.

So we didn’t get to the funeral, but all the messages and flowers sent over social media showed plenty of people were huddled up with their memories of one of the most amazing women I know, and she was my MIL.

Miss you Gran xx

Addendum

Well Now I am a little alarmed and wish that I had been able to have further discussions with the funeral director. I had assumed Gran was cremated at Rouchan Loch Crematorium on the outskirts of Dumfries. When I contacted them as our Rector said he was conducting a funeral of one of the other residents of Westfield who had died of covid19, so I investigated.

P.S. I’ve just heard back from the crematorium and we could have attended the funeral.

Here is the information you are looking for.
In these unprecedented times immediate family members may attend a private funeral service.
We recommend up to 4 to 6 people but an absolute maximum of 10. Immediate family means: Spouse or partner; parents or carers; brother/sister; children.

In addition, the government states:

•  Mourners must remain 2 metres apart.
•  Mourners should observe social distancing rules when travelling.
•  Mourners must follow the strict guidance on hand hygiene.
•  Mourners who are unwell with any symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), or are part of a household with possible coronavirus infection, should not attend.
• In addition, mourners experiencing any symptoms of any potentially contagious illness should not attend, e.g. flu, colds, sickness and diarrhoea etc.

I hope this clarifies things for you.
Kind regards,

Rouchan Loch Crematorium.

So why were we told we couldn’t attend? Now I feel we’ve let Gran down.

Further info from 5th May

I thought the following information below might be helpful. It was sent from Roucan Loch to all Funeral Directors in Dumfries and Galloway on the 31st March 2020.

Dear Colleague,

Following last night’s announcement that the first coronavirus deaths have been recorded in Dumfries and Galloway, the Inspector of Cremation supports that Roucan Loch has implemented the following:

  1. The cremation may take place but strictly with no attendance.

OR

  1. The funeral arrangements are delayed for a period of 14 days from the date of death, to accommodate the quarantine period for relatives. Only after 14 days can the Funeral Director contact Roucan Loch to arrange a time for the service, which may be attended by immediate family only.
Further Information 6th May

New update: I had assumed Gran was cremated at Rouchan Loch, our local crematorium but it wasn’t there or Edinburgh. I’ll now need to chase that one up. Sorry Gran.