Lynn’s Day



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Today is the fourth anniversary of my sister’s death. We call it Lynn’s Day. Every year on this date I try to commemorate it in some special way but I have to say, every year ends up being the same; a bit of a farce. I usually like to find some Catholic Church (a place I never frequent any other time of the year) and go light a candle, have a little cry and allow myself to really think about her. That’s something I don’t do on a daily basis but I just can’t – or I wouldn’t be able to function; go to work or look after my kids – I’d just be a gibbering mess. One anniversary in the deserted church (whilst my husband was forced to ride off on his motorcycle in torrential rain to locate a local supermarket as some joker had forgotten to leave out any matches to light the candles), the effort of actually letting myself consider the enormity of what happened was so severe that I actually began to feel physically unwell. There were pains in my chest that hadn’t been there before so I had no choice but to quickly retreat home until the affects of stress had worn off. Another year, the silent church I had been hoping for just wasn’t to be – firstly I dropped an entire purse-full of small change incredibly audibly all over the floor (my youngest child was virtually crying with laughter over this). And once I had finally retrieved all the coins, lit a candle, composed myself and knelt down in a pew, in came an elderly cleaning lady with an industrial-sized vacuum cleaner and proceeded to loudly hoover the entire room. At precisely the same moment, a window cleaner propped his metal ladder against the wall outside, peered in at us, and began noisily cleaning the windows with a incredibly squeaky squeegee. Which, as you can imagine, was exactly the reverent ambiance I was after. So you see what I mean about ‘a farce’.

Maybe I’ll abandon the farcical church idea today. On this anniversary I thought I would try to honour her memory in a way that is more fitting, a better tribute from me. I am going to let you read the eulogy I wrote (and read aloud) for her funeral. It will make me cry to even look at it again (as it did to read it out loud on that fateful day) but that’s what today is about; fully registering and accepting what I have lost.


 

‘There’s Something About Lynn’ – by Adele Archer, Memorial Service May 2011

I’ve been asked today to talk for the family about Lynn. Now this isn’t going to be easy but I want you to bear with me. I’ve tried to keep it fairly light-hearted as Lynn would have wanted it that way. I was cajoled into making an impromptu speech at Lynn’s wedding too but it is an honour and a privilege to be asked to talk to you today. We all have our own little thoughts and memories about Lynn and I’d just like to share a few of mine with you.

Now some of you may be aware that Lynn had a few foibles that were charming and you just had to love her for them. One of these was an unhealthy addiction to charity shops. In a foreign, alien land, within the space of half an hour, Lynn would deftly be able to sniff out the best charity shops in the city. With her honed, keen senses she could skilfully hunt down the greatest bargains and the best labels – a feat most of us with our untrained eyes could only dream about. Unfortunately, her great love of charity shops could only lead to one outcome – an excess of clothes. Michael and Jacob will tell you that there is no property on this earth big enough to sufficiently house all of Lynn’s clothes. I do remember one particular instance of Lynn’s penchant for clothes and how they should be worn. She once knowledgeably advised me, “I never feel happy unless I am wearing two vests.” Of course, flummoxed and confused by this, I humoured her as best I could.

The clothes issue was only the beginning. Don’t get me started on the love of ornaments and knick-knacks and ‘things’. This was fuelled by the popular rise of DIY and make-over shows that Lynn watched with relish. Her knowledge of feng-shui and the alignment and symmetry of candlesticks on a mantelpiece was second-to-none. She once had a harmless squabble with my partner, Gareth, over a photo frame they both spotted at a car boot-sale. Unfortunately, on this instance, Gareth beat her to the purchase. Lynn smiled graciously, hiding the bitterness and resentment that must have torn her up inside. Nobody should ever best Lynn at a boot sale. I don’t think she ever truly forgave him.

We all knew Lynn as a gracious host. She loved to make a hot beverage for any guest stepping through her door and she had an amazing array of these. No hot-drink predilection was left un-catered-for. Her biscuit barrel famously overflowed with the most current and tastiest chocolate-covered treats money could buy. I particularly remember her long-time love affair with ‘Time-Out’s’. For an extensive period, I was offered these at an alarming rate (at half-hourly intervals, I believe). You would never guess it by her trim build that we all envied, but (like all Archer’s) Lynn did enjoy her food. At no other time was this heightened more than during her pregnancy with her son, Jacob. On the course of a three mile journey home, she was forced to stop off at various family members’ houses for snack-breaks to make it to her own front door.

Lynn had a fun and eventful life. I have been reminded by my sister, Ali, of a particular occasion, whilst they were shopping on a busy London High Street. Ali had spotted a metre-by-metre square of freshly laid cement blocking her path on the pavement and sensibly stepped around the square to avoid it. Lynn, however, blindly strode on through until she found herself waist-high in wet cement. The bemused and amused workmen nearby were forced to pull her out and hose her down in front of a growing crowd of passers-by. Lynn then realised she had haplessly left one of her very favourite silver sandals behind somewhere deep in the cement and was obliged to wade back in, only to be re-rescued and hosed off again by the bewildered workmen.

But sometimes Lynn did sensible things too. She met the love of her life, Michael, whilst visiting Ali in Birmingham on a college course. It was love at first sight. Her new life with Michael began – a man who gave her years of happiness and the strength to fight through her illness. And of course the result of this love was the birth of their cherished son, Jacob. Never was a child loved and adored so much.

So this is the hard bit. None of us wanted this day to come. If there was any justice in this world, none of us would be sitting here today. But I am learning that sometimes life can be unkind, unfair and cruel. Today we have to say goodbye to our beautiful Lynn who fought so bravely right up until the very end.

She was the adoring mother to Jacob, devoted wife to Michael, a loving daughter, a caring sister, a generous aunt, a kind sister-in-law, a supportive teacher and a wonderful friend to everyone…except TV presenter Zoe Ball (she didn’t like her very much…).

To Lynn; I will never wipe your amusing text messages from my mobile phone, I will never take down your pictures stuck by magnets to my fridge, there will always be six of us siblings – not five and when I look in the mirror I will always see part of you in my reflection. Live on in our hearts and memories and always know you will never be forgotten. We’ll all be together again one day and I know you will be waiting for us with a cup of tea and a ‘Time Out’. Love you forever.


NB: I did actually venture out with my kids to a church again today (against my better judgement). It was yet another odd one. I realised too late that the church had been overly-decorated with flowers on every pew; there was clearly a wedding taking place later. So I knew it was going to have to be an ‘in and out’ job. An extremely elderly priest with the bushiest eyebrows I’ve ever encountered ventured over to tell us there wasn’t going to be a mass today. I explained that was no problem and that we only needed a minute to commemorate the passing of my sister. He then proceeded to pray over us with his hands on our heads. Which was kind of him (he couldn’t be expected to know about my low-embarrassment-threshold). But the moment he had finished doing this, he decided to absolutely ‘leg it’ back to the vestry. I don’t know what the extreme hurry was – perhaps it was the impending wedding – but I don’t think a man of ninety (and I think that’s an underestimation) should ever run that fast. Oh Lynn, sometimes I think this might be you up there having a laugh…

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27 thoughts on “Lynn’s Day

  1. Adele, Thank you for sharing that. I feel as if I have been introduced to a wonderful person, and at the same time feel the loss of never knowing her at all. Your description of her filled my imagination, and then emptied my heart for your loss. I believe that the way you honor your sister every year is less of a farce, and more of a way you keep her memory alive. Yes Lynn might well be laughing, but I am sure she is very happy that she is still alive in your heart.

    You are a kind and generous spirit to share this with us, and to open your heart to those of us who will read this post. Don’t let that go. Remember that there is a reason for all things, and even if you seldom darken the doorway of a church, maybe this is Lynn’s way of getting you there. I wish you peace, love, joy and true happiness (because there is a difference between joy and happiness).

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    • Thanks Thomas. Sometimes when people tell you they are bereaved, as much as you try to empathise- it’s hard if you hadn’t met/seen the person before. I wanted to bring alive a sense of my sister in this piece. I’m glad you felt you got to know her through this x

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  2. Your post made an old man cry; not that I knew your sister but I knew your pain. Forty-one years ago on the 22nd May I had a knock on the door. It was two policemen who had come to tell me my 17 year-old brother, Anthony had been killed when a car coming from a side road had knocked him from his motorbike.
    They had sought me out because they had no reply from my parent’s house, which was a godsend because my father was away on business and if my mother had not been at some church ‘do’ she would have been facing what I was, identifying him on a mortuary slab.

    I was 25 and had never seen a dead body before and never imagined I would face something like this in peacetime. Yet I remembered quite soon afterwards that he had perhaps foreseen his own demise; two days earlier, while we were digging my garden, he asked me which way a motorcyclist should head if a car pulled out in his path. I told him always to head for where the car came from because it could never stop to avoid you and you could never swerve enough if you went to his front. Lamentably my brother was unable to heed my words at that concealed junction, but imagine my pain had he taken my advice and died.
    While my brother had been digesting my words while we toiled that May Sunday, my cat was curled up asleep in the sun. Anthony remarked that if he died and came back again he wanted to be a (lazy) cat.
    Because a prosecution pended, there could no burial for one month and my poor brother was kept on ice. My parents, wife and I had planned to head for a caravan touring holiday of Scotland and I prevailed upon them to go anyway, sitting around moping would not help us, I said. A week later we were parked in the western village of Plockton and had been out for a walk. When we returned to the ‘van I unzipped the awning and their on my camp bed, curled up was a cat…it looked at me and yawned, then unfazed it jumped from my bed and strolled out.

    Several avoided calamities, over the years, have made me wonder if ‘somebody’ has been looking after me and influenced my life. Seven years ago on the anniversary of his death, something told me to visit a friend who had been beset by severe headaches. I had telephoned her after she had seen her doctor for the fifth time and she told me he had said she must break the stress cycle. I was annoyed because it was obviously more than stress.

    I had been at her house less than an hour when she collapsed on the floor in a convulsive fit. I put her in the recovery position and called 999…a paramedic was at the door in less than five minutes, followed by an ambulance. Off she went to hospital where a scan revealed she had suffered a stroke due to a vein rupturing inside her head. The doctors said she had a 40% chance of survival even under their care but most certainly would not have survived the night had she been home alone.

    This 22nd May passed without incident, but we sat in a restaurant and celebrated my friend’s survival after briefly saying a prayer for my brother but no longer mourning his death.

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    • Oh Richard, what a sad yet beautiful story. It must be so comforting to think your brother still exists somewhere, maybe trying to send the odd message or two. How strange that the anniversary of his death is so close to my sisters. Thank you for sharing this, it brought (yet more) tears to my eyes. I’m glad you have found peace and hope my family will one day x

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  3. Just read your blog from yesterday, after Ian sent me a link to it on Facebook. I had very briefly spoken to Mummy, last night, as she was clearly crying because she’d just been reading it.
    Just read the speech, aloud for Daddy, who hadn’t heard it at the memorial service, for Lynn, that you wrote for. Like Mummy, it had me in tears too. Daddy says thanks for your words.
    Not really been able to do much this weekend, but escape into sleep, so you do well to mark the day in the way you do. It’s also touching that you use Lynn’s middle name and your maiden name, as a pen name for your blog and book.
    Love you always, Elaine

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  4. You have a lovely sister Adele. It was great knowing about such a beautiful human being as your sister Lynn. She is forever alive in your heart. God bless.

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  5. Touching story Adele, and you wrote a wonderful eulogy. Your sister seemed like a ‘case and a half,’ as my mum would often say.

    The ‘incidents’ in the church made me smirk too, sorry. Sounds like you should feature in a sitcom on the Beeb.

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  6. A mixture of laughter and tears Adele.
    My heart is sore for your loss; but your church misadventures made me chuckle.
    Advice from a stranger if I may be so bold?
    Next year to honour Lynn’s memory don’t go to a church, go to a charity shop and buy something Lynn would have loved, wear it for the day and then donate it … a far more fitting tribute to someone as beautiful as your sister.

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  7. At the beginning of the week, I favourited, retweeted and bookmarked – the coveted social media holy trinity – but I only re-read your post about Lynn this morning. Like a year ago: moving and funny; beautifully sad. x

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  8. Adele, I saw this post at the time that you published. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t think of words which felt adequate. I still can’t. There’s a first eh? Me speechless. So instead, I’m just going to sit here quietly, saving you a space beside me as always x

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