Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Partners in the dance

"It sometimes takes a state of solitude to bring to mind the real power of companionship." 
(Stephen Richards)

Maurice with Evelyn

This Wednesday morning sees the funeral of my brother-in-law's stepfather. Maurice survived on his own for only six months after the death of his beloved Evelyn, Gordon's mother. I tried to gently warn Gordon this might well happen: sadly, I've seen this too many times when one half of a close and longstanding partnership dies. Maurice took to his bed at Christmas, his first in around forty years without Evelyn. Always a capable and proud Yorkshireman, strong in mind and body, he seemed to be broken somehow.
Admitted to hospital in February, he'd made it known that he didn't want to be fed, would not want to be resuscitated; didn't really care to go on. Maurice had survived Dunkirk and the trials of World War II in North Africa; his first wife had given up waiting for him to return from war and literally found someone else. Maurice married again and had two children with his second wife; when she became ill with cancer, he nursed her through her final months.
A hard-working weaving over-locker in the Yorkshire mill industry, he met former mill-girl Evelyn after the death of Gordon's father, Harry. Maurice and Evelyn had a courtship of tea-dances and a dancing partnership that continued into their eighties, when time began to slow their steps. My own humble experience of ballet and other dance has confirmed to me that the harmony and companionship of dance partners requires chemistry, understanding, respect, commitment and practice - rather like marriage, I would guess. Maurice was a devoted husband; Evelyn relied on his presence when they were both largely housebound during the past few years.
My brother-in-law pronounces himself an unequivocal atheist but has found some comfort that his mum and stepfather, as well as his dad, are all now resting in "eternal sleep". I have thought to myself that this is more than I've ever heard from other self-professed atheists; and actually very close to the sentiments of the Catholic "Requiem Eternam". Even though he's recently retired himself, I understand that Gordon is gazing into the void that inevitably gapes when your parents or step-parents pass: I know from experience that you're never too old to feel orphaned. I hope he and Maurice's son and daughter will take comfort that both Evelyn and Maurice were blessed to find devoted companionship not once but twice in their lives. I hope I've planted a tiny grain in Gordon's mind that his mum is to be reunited with the two great loves of her life. Her dance-card is complete.
"Eternal rest grant unto them Oh Lord
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace,

"When the years have done irreparable harm,
I can see us walking slowly arm in arm,
Just like that couple on the corner do:
Girl, I will always be in love with you.
Then when I leave this Earth
I'll be with the angels standin';
I'll be out there waiting for my true companion,
Just for my true companion."
(From "True Companion", Marc Cohn)

"Gallant Hussar" Eliza Carthy


  1. Gisele that is so sad. My aunt and godmother died and literally my uncle and godfather said that 'that's me done then' and literally within one month he died too. You can imagine the devastation with my poor cousins, as well as my mum (my uncle was mum's brother). I try not to think about what would happen if I lost Colin (words can't describe). Take care hun xxx

    1. It is sad, but there's also a great sweetness in that devotion.
      And I fully expect you and Colin to be bickering about we two old birds getting together and giving him some peace for many many years to come!
      God bless Chrissie xxx