Anna Chaplain in Rochester parish in Kent, Christine Seth-Smith, explains how her mother-in-law died on 29 February, at the age of 98. She had been living with dementia.
'We had planned to hold her funeral and thanksgiving service on Tuesday 24 March,' she writes, 'and about 65 people were very keen to come. Irene was quite a character and was held in great affection by many people – family and friends both far and wide. Most of her friends have already died, so it was mostly our generation who had hoped to come to the service at St Margaret’s Church in Rochester.
'With Covid-19, our plans gradually became more impossible and in the end we had to cancel the funeral. However, we went ahead with the burial on the first day of the lockdown, with six family members at the graveside (plus our vicar and the undertakers). We all had to keep our distance, but the sun shone, which helped. However, we had already got as far as producing a draft service sheet, and I wrote a piece on the back cover which I share with you:'
Irene was in a care home for many years. During her time at Pembroke House, in Gillingham, she gradually started showing signs of dementia. Although it was a wonderful naval residential home, it lacked the necessary resources to cope with the needs of someone living with dementia.
In March 2015 we moved her across the park to another lovely care home, Charing House, where she spent three and a half years in a dementia wing in the home. There, she was understood, cared for and accepted for who she was. And within that setting she not only thrived, but the staff all seemed to love her! We are deeply grateful and are indebted to them all.
For the last two or three years of her life, Irene was almost totally bedridden. During this time, she was moved to the nursing wing so that she could receive extra care. Although her situation seemed sad in many ways, she could still be a comforting presence, and she seemed content on the whole. She didn’t really know us anymore, but on a good day she was pleased to see us if we brought her flowers; and even more especially if we brought chocolate! We always tried to keep her well supplied, as this became her remaining pleasure in life.
Irene still had the ability to make people laugh without meaning to, and she also had an awareness of God which, I am sure, gave her inner strength. It is important for all of us to remember that even if we find it hard to pray or connect with God, he still holds us in his memory.
Although we found it all quite hard at the time, we now feel extremely thankful that Irene is in her heavenly home, and not the care home where we would have been unable to visit her. Our plan is to hold a thanksgiving service at some point, possibly on what would have been her 100th birthday at the end of April next year.
Compared to the unbelievable suffering of many people at the moment, we are deeply grateful to God for all his blessings, and for taking Irene to be with him.