Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ever fresh with praise

'Let my mouth be ever fresh with praise.'

'Each morning new/each day shot through...'

'We inhale the frozen air/Lord send me a mechanic/ if I'm not beyond repair...'

I've had churches on my mind this week -- human mortality -- illness -- loss, so this song is a natural one to hunt for on youtube. Love those lyrics, the raw screamy way John Darnielle delivers them into corners of this beautiful church.

I was at a funeral at the local Presbyterian church for a woman called Nell Manchester who died aged 87 - hence the church thing. An autodidact and writer who always looked a million dollars and whose mind was crisp and curious until the moment she died, Nell went into the hospice with her favourite volume of Keats and the new Peter Bland collection 'Coming Ashore'. The last thing we talked about was the latest Woody Allen movie, and she told me how much she'd laughed at the first Woody Allen movies all those years ago (remember, before cell phones?). Manhattan was on Sky last week, so I watched it for Nell.

It was a lovely send-off at the local church masterminded by her daughters Anne and Catherine. I sat by the stained glass windows beside the woman from the 4-Square supermarket who'd dashed in in her 4-Square shirt. She said Nell had given her the famous Raleigh bicycle with a basket on the front she used to ride around Eastbourne. I like sitting in pews - they remind me of all the churches I've ever been in. The smell of wood, the stained-glass light, the organ wheezing, the sense of being made to sit still for a moment and listen. There were readings from Nell's books, some Shakespeare, a sing-along to Blue Moon and an older Judy Garland singing Somewhere over the Rainbow in a crackle of a voice that John Darnielle would have approved of (Nell loved Judy and loved movies). We also sang the hymn Jerusalem - now that's a song to belt out. Afterwards we ate tiny delicious sandwiches and cake. Go well, Nell. We'll miss you.

Human mortality -- I haven't just been thinking about this because of Nell. This cancer thing is everywhere. Women and men I know and love of all ages are fighting it courageously. One of them Harriet or Hat as she's known, is only 18. Her blog posts are monumental feats of courage. Yesterday's is no exception. It's titled 'The Fight' and here's an extract:

It's hard. I will never be able to say it isn't. This week is testament to that. It was supposed to be my easy week and just no. It was not, at all. I wish I could just fast forward the next year but hey! Life isn't like that. 
You get your ups, you get your downs. My life has been pretty easy. I can't believe the things I used to complain about. They seem so silly. So pathetic. Even now there are so many people who have it so much harder than me. 
I tried to make a wish today as it was 11:11 on the 11/11/11. I ended up just being thankful for all the things that I have in my life. I can't tell you my wish but it wasn't for me. It never will be.

The Mountain Goats song - for you, Harriet.


TK Roxborogh said...

I love visiting your blog, Mary, for pure, unadulterated beauty - even in the reflection of pain and suffering.

Thank you for all the wonderful people and posts and videos and poems and music you've introduced to me over the while. My life is richer knowing you just that wee bit that I do.

Mary McCallum said...

Tania - Thank you. What a lovely comment to find on a quiet Saturday evening. Xx

Jayne said...

Praise be your post, Mary! It's a beautiful tribute to Nell, and a heartwarming wish for Harriet.

Enjoyed the video, too. I love the Mountain Goats--wrote about them not long ago in a Friday Night Frolic. Did you know Darnielle is a former psychiatric nurse? He has a lot to cull from, and he does it so well.

Peace. :)

Claire Beynon said...

You have a way of finding just the right note and inroad when it comes to our shared human experience, Mary. Bless Nell. And Hat. And you.

Rachel Fenton said...

I'm always staggered at how people just find strength when none seems possible.

Lovely post, Mary.

Helen Lowe said...

Thank you for the post, Mary: it definitely struck the right note.