My mother died, from complications related to treatment of her cancer (she had Multiple Myeloma, she died aged 45) on Boxing Day, 1994. It was a very difficult time for my whole family, and memories are still painful, nearly 18 years from that day.
For her funeral, we chose hymns and songs she particularly loved. One of them was Hark the Herald Angel’s sing. It was one of her favourite Christmas Carols. We played it at the end of the service, it seemed appropriate, as her funeral took place in the Christmas period, and it is truly a beautiful and triumphant piece of music, and we wanted to remember the good, through all the pain we were going through. I also love the song, but to this day, I cannot listen to it being played without tears. I still find myself with tears in my eyes, in shops at Christmas time, when it is played over the sound system, or when we are at Christmas Carol services.
Her death was unexpected, it’s painful for me to remember and write about, but basically we had planned for her to be home for Christmas, after a round of chemotherapy, so we had done our Christmas shopping and bought her gifts. One of these gifts was a Louis Armstrong CD. There had been a tv advert played, with his song “We have all the time in the world”, and my Mum had particularly liked it, so we bought her the CD for Christmas. Sadly, she never got to open it. On Christmas Day, she was fighting for her life in Intensive Care, with septicaemia. The lyrics are ironic really, clearly we did not have all the time in the world. I kept it, although I’ve never actually played it. Again, I can’t listen to that song, or pretty much any of his songs without the tears coming. The Guinness adverts where they used the song used to reduce me to a sobbing wreck and it’s not because I have a love for the actual drink.
It’s funny, how some things bring back memories or trigger strong emotion. My Mum has been gone for nearly half my life, for most of my adult life, and I would say that whilst I still grieve, and there is still pain, and I’d probably give anything to have her here to be able see my children and her nephew growing up, I don’t grieve daily any more, it doesn’t fill my life, it did when she died, and as we moved on with our lives without her. But, coming up to Christmas, when I’m likely to hear Hark The Herald Angels sing more than once, it is hard. Painful memories resurface, and emotions and feelings I normally don’t dwell on reappear. I wonder if one day, I will be able to smile and not cry when I hear those familiar songs, I hope so.
Louis Armstrong “We have all the time in the world”
My favorite version of Hark The Herald Angels Sing, by Kings College Choir, Cambridge.