Two Old Codgers

How the World strikes us

I started to write a blog about searching on Google but got side tracked. I have put a link at the bottom of this blog so you can see how to more effectively search but back to the blog.

I started using different ways of searching by using my name, not out of conceit but because it is a bit more unusual than say Arthur Brown (Put that in Google and you get 534,000,000 results Arthur Bickerstaffe returns a mere 574,000. If you put inverted commas round it, you are reduced to 533).

Enough of that - once again I was side tracked into seeing what Google was saying about little
Grief Book
old me. Amongst the sites where I was mentioned was The British Film Institute and in a book entitled 'Relative Grief' by Clare Jenkins and Judy Merry. Judy was a journalist who I got to know when she regularly interviewed me about antiques on Radio Lancashire. One day she asked me if I would write about my experiences of grief for her new book. I never saw the published book until today. This is the excerpt from the book:

Arthur Bickerstaffe is now in his seventies. Almost 50 years ago his first child, Janet, just 21 months old, was killed in a freak accident. He and his wife went on to have three other children: two daughters and a son.

Memory plays tricks on you, but she was a beautiful child - a little blonde-haired beauty - and she’d just started talking. I remember perhaps a day or two before she was killed, she was standing on the table, looking out of the window at the snow, and I can remember her saying it was ‘nowsing’. It wasn’t ‘snowing’ - it was ‘nowsing’.

My wife was wheeling her into the village in the pram and a man was chopping a tree down and it fell the wrong way. It didn’t injure my wife, but it so badly injured my little girl that she died. We went to hospital and I can remember my wife and I sitting there. I was so shocked I wanted a drink of water and I walked into a room to look for one, and there was this little tiny girl. Nurses were holding her down, because she’d been brain damaged - that was my daughter.

This was almost 50 years ago. We had no car, no telephone and we walked home from the hospital. These are the dreadful thoughts: I can remember thinking, ‘My God, if she’s brain damaged, they’ll probably take her to Manchester or Birmingham and I’ll have to travel every day to see her’,which is a most uncharitable thought, but nevertheless it’s a real thought.

They called us back the same day. I think a neighbour got the telephone call and when we got there they told us that she’d died. I had to formally identify her and these images are burned into your mind. You can’t shift them. There was this tiny little thing lying on the slab and they’d put some snowdrops in her hands.

I think one of the big things that helped us both was the clergyman, whose name I can’t even remember. People had said to us, ‘Poor little thing.Only 21 months. She hadn’t lived. Think of all the things she’s going to miss.’ But he said, ‘She won’t miss anything. That was a complete life.’ And I thought, ‘Yes, anything beyond 21 months is imagination. The 21 months is reality.’

Just days after Janet’s death, we discovered that my wife was pregnant with what is now my eldest daughter and I really didn’t want that child. Until she was born, of course, and then it all changed. It’s these selfish, evil little thoughts. I wanted to be looked after. I didn’t want to have my wife bothering about a baby.

When the children started to toddle I struggled with being overprotective. If there were steps or anything, I used to be like a mother hen. I was a damned nuisance, I really was.

Later on - it’s now 27 years ago - my wife died and she was only 48. She died of lung cancer and those memories are in a strange way clearer. I remember she said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it.’ I took her hand and not long after that she died. I remember a nurse came into the room and burst into tears. So I went and put my arm round the nurse and said, ‘It’s all right and comforted her.’ I found that helped.

Losing my wife was very different from losing my daughter. I’d got a 14-year-old son at home and people would say, ‘Come round for your tea, love, and bring your washing’ And I can remember talking to Ian and saying, ‘Ian, we’ll manage for three months. If in three months they’re still asking, we’ll go.’ But of course in three months they’d forgotten. Not forgotten, but put it down.

I sometimes think I’ve got no heart, because if it’s a friend that I don’t see very often that dies, in one sense it is no different right now to what it was before, because they’re not there. With a child or a wife or somebody very close to you that you see every day, there is an enormous, immediate gap in your life. Yesterday he or she was here and today they aren't.

When Janet died, people did allow you to grieve, but they didn’t wallow in it. I still don't like seeing the railings covered in flowers and soft toys at the school where a child has died.

I had a very good friend and he’s still a very good friend, and whenever anything’s gone wrong, I’ve always gone to Bill. Bill has always gone straight to the nub of the thing. He was tremendous. He made no demands on me, expected nothing, offered nothing in terms of advice, but was always there - just there. And I could cry with him, I could swear about it and he was wonderful.

I’ve been a Samaritan and the one big thing that I got out of it is to be able to talk to somebody who’s suffering from grief or a terminal illness. Before Samaritans I could never have done that. I now realise their tears are an essential part of their grief and I’m not going to say, ‘Stop crying. I can’t stand your crying'.That’s me that I’m worrying about, not them.

For me, your grief is unique. Don’t try to compare it with anybody else’s. Don’t think, ‘I should be doing this or I should be doing that’ Accept your grief as it feels in your heart, because it’s not a head thing, it’s a heart thing.

Reading it now in 2020, it brings back so many memories strangely, not all of them bad. My three children have turned out well and, I can't help remembering that little Janet would be well into her sixties now. That's where memory works. The only memories of Janet are of that lovely baby. They aren't bitter, hurtful memories, just the opposite. Weren't we lucky to at least have had twenty one months with our little Janet and weren't we lucky to have three good children who are still with us

(For their sake)
Don't get carried away - three
NOT BAD children!

Janet 1

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