Saturday, October 29, 2011

Shirley Margaret Fletcher

I've been thinking (worrying) about this post since before we flew to Toronto. Knowing I should write something, knowing that it would be hard. That it could be upsetting, both to write and to read. The best I can do - ALL I can do - is to relate how she appeared to me. I knew her for a little over ten years. We first met in 2000 when I visited Toronto. Meeting your partner's parents for the first time is never easy, no matter how old and experienced you are. But in this case the circumstances were perhaps even less auspicious than normal, there being the unspoken possibility that I would be spiriting her daughter off to live with me in England. It came back to me later that Shirley had said something like "I wanted to hate him, but I couldn't. He's such a nice guy."

So the first thing I learned about Shirley was that she was a very astute judge of character ;o)

Some people are an open book, others more guarded. Shirley could appear quite abrasive, but if I were to continue with the book analogy I'd say she was like a book that was bound in cactus, but turned out to be a heartwarming story of infinite warmth and humanity when you eventually read it. Whether on this side of the Atlantic or that she was always pleased to see us, always generous to a tee (paying for the overwhelming majority of our meals out no matter where we were, and brooking no argument on the subject), and always made sure we had a full supply of breakfast bagels and coffee when we went there, and that she brought a good supply of Riceroni and pumpkin pie mix when she came here. And marmalade. Oh that homemade marmalade! There's nothing like it on Earth, and the frighteningly meagre supply now sitting in our fridge is the last there will ever be. I hardly dare spread it on a single slice of toast, but when I do - and for as many times as I do - I'll offer up a silent prayer of thanks. I tried many times without success to persuade Nikki to make it while Shirley was still with us. Now I just have to hope that the recipe is one of those that "just works" without her magic touch. What are the chances?

My Inbox is considerably less busy these days too. Shirley was well-connected, email-wise, and the constant stream of jokes, funny photos, or inspiring PowerPoint slide decks that flowed from her was a regular and welcome source of laughs, gasps and awwwwws.

But inevitably our opportunities to get better acquainted were limited by both time and distance. Listening to Nikki, Paul and Stewart relate tales of their childhood in her house, reading the emails of condolence from her widespread friends and acquaintances met on her many cruises, seeing the effect of her passing on everyone we came into contact with on our visit, brought it home just how much she was loved by everyone who knew her, or whose lives she touched.

"It's a great life, John, if you don't weaken," she regularly said to me. And until the very end, she never did. A remarkable woman in every way.


Tvor said...

What a remarkable woman, indeed. It's always heart-tugging to write posts like this but don't you find it helps as well? You want people to know the person who's died as you knew them, especially when you had so much regard and affection for her as you obviously did.

ChiaGwen said...

My sympathies for your loss, she seemed to have lived a good and purposeful many can say that. No doubt her essence will still be around whereever you look. Take care.