Tuesday, 18 March 2014


My family and I moved into our current home in 2002 when I was six years old. On one side lived another family with three daughters, and on the other side lived two sisters named Pam and Joan. They were 81 years old and 85 years old, respectively. They'd lived in that house for close to forty years after their aunt died and left it to them. I never really saw much of Pam and Joan but my mum went round for tea all the time and sometimes they came here. They were both pretty nosy and loved to see inside everyone's houses, but they were also always really sweet and liked chatting to all the children they met at the local church.

Pam and Joan were so sociable and had tons of friends. I think this is why, when Joan died in October 2011 at the grand old age of 95, Pam never really seemed that sad about it. She had loads of support from their family and her - quite literally - hundred of friends that I don't think she was ever able to dwell on how lonely she felt - if she was, that is. It was at this time we started having Pam round for dinner every two weeks as a lot of the food she ate was pre-cooked and just frozen. My mum thought it would be great for her to have a hot, fresh meal once a fortnight and to have some company for a few hours too.

Every other Tuesday, I'd pop round to Pam's and hold her arm as she tottered from her front door to ours, and then from the porch to the kitchen table. She'd always bring us a box of chocolates. She dressed in one of her many tartan kilts each week, along with a pastel coloured cardigan, her bright blue beret, and a lot of rouge on her cheeks. She always made such an effort so, in turn, we made an effort too. Each time she came, there'd be a traditional roast of some kind, followed by a pretty extravagant dessert. Her absolute favourite was Queen of Puddings and, while she'd rarely have second helpings of the main course, she'd always ask for extra dessert.


As we ate, Pam would tell us stories about her life growing up in the West Indies, and her love for cats, tennis, playing the piano. Although she was physically frail, mentally she was just so with it and was always up to date on current affairs. She once even asked me to sit her down in front of the computer and show her Facebook and how it worked! Every time something came up which she didn't quite understand, she'd say "ooh, well fancy that!", throwing her head back and letting out a little chuckle. I hate how I'm writing this all in past tense; she was just so alive. I don't know, maybe that sounds stupid to say, but I never really thought about her dying.

In September last year, I'd come home from school early and my mum was out but had left her phone on the kitchen worktop. Pam had a little emergency panic button which she'd press when she needed help and a call would come straight through to us with a prerecorded message. When my mum's phone rang and I heard the message, I didn't immediately understand what it was but it finally clicked in my silly little head and I ran over to hers to ring the doorbell, except she obviously didn't answer. I forgot that our family actually had a key to her house but I think that was almost a blessing because on the way to our other neighbours for help, I ran into her friend/housekeeper who came back with me and let us in.

We found her lying on the floor, wedged behind the door with her legs underneath a chair that had fallen on top of her. I was freaking out but her friend, John, was so chill and we managed to get her to stand up and sit back on her chair. She said she was in a lot of pain so he called an ambulance which took its sweet time to get here - almost an hour which is pretty crappy for a 92 year old lady. It turned out she'd fractured her hip and so she went into hospital to recover. I'm ashamed to say that's the last time I saw her. She went into a nursing home for a few weeks after she came out of hospital and then was bed-ridden when she finally returned home.

I didn't go to visit her because I didn't want to see her like that which I know is really selfish. The one time I did go, however, a few weeks ago, she was asleep. I'm not too sure of the details but I think she developed some sores in the hospital which never really cleared up and also caught a chest infection. It was this chest infection that caused her to go back into hospital on Thursday 13th February this year. Her condition deteriorated rapidly there and she died at 7.30am on Saturday 15th February. Initially, my first thought was thank goodness she's not suffering anymore. She'd had a pretty awful time whilst ill and kept asking for "the Lord to take her". She didn't want to live any more. And, while it's nice that she's no longer in pain, it's tragic because she'd had such a great life up until the end. I wish those last few months weren't so dreadful for her.

Pam's funeral was yesterday afternoon and it was the first time I'd been to one. It was held in the local church which she'd been a part of for decades and decades. Around sixty people turned up to say goodbye. Sadly, it didn't feel like much of a celebration of Pam's life but more her life story told in a monotone voice. I learnt that she was born in Jamaica, and lived in a lot of great places like St Kitts and Trinidad and Tobago before moving to England permanently at the age of twelve. I also learnt that she was really into dancing and used to perform with a group of other women in front of audiences.

I feel like the Pam people talked about yesterday wasn't really the one that I knew. I do feel sad that I'm not going to hear her little giggle again, or see those rouged cheeks or that huge gold ring, but she's now in the heaven she so reverently believed in and is buried with her sister who she loved most in the world. She's lived an incredibly interesting and fulfilling life and I'm so thankful that I was able to know her for the last few years of it.

Rest peacefully, Pammy.

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