Thursday, March 19, 2009

A story for Mothering Sunday

Now, I may have told you this story before. If so, the moment it starts to sound familiar STOP. But, if I haven't . . . well, this seems the right moment.

I was thinking of my mother today (hardly surprising, seeing that it’s Mothering Sunday), I was also thinking of angels . . . and this story features both.

You'd have liked my mother. She had abundant charm and great determination (and she didn't like having her photo taken!). As I've told you before, because of my father's last illness, which was diagnosed when I was ten, mother and I were thrown together very early in my life. Not only were we close, we were also very good friends. True, our personalities were markedly different, but we shared the majority of our beliefs and convictions. Most important, we shared the same sense of humour.
For the final six years of her life, mother left Somerset, and, together with Sophie, our Siamese cat, came to live with me here, in London.

Mother died in January, sixteen years ago. Little more than six weeks later, Sophie, then aged twenty, also died. My family hadn't been very large to start with, but the three had shrunk dramatically to one - all in a matter of weeks.

I'm sitting and writing to you in what is now my book-room. For six years, this was mother's room. It was the room in which she died. After her death I disposed of everything - the carpet went to St. James's, the bed to the Salvation Army, the clothes to Oxfam, the dressing-table to a friend. No longer needed by mother, the room became what it is now, a study, and I'm sure that this is what she’d have wanted.

But clearing out is never quick nor easy. I was continually coming across yet more of her belongings that needed rehousing. Shortly after Sophie's death in the March (and before the arrival of Rupert, whom I had yet to meet), I was relaxing in here one evening, sitting on the sofa watching television. Behind me was the closed window. Between the back of the sofa and the window, waiting to be rehoused, was yet another of mother's suitcases. It was full of clothes that someday, when I got round to it, needed to be taken to Oxfam.
Sitting there, I suddenly felt chilly, it was as though there was a draught. Getting to my feet, I went round to the back of the sofa to check on the window. It was firmly shut. About to return to my original position, I chanced to look down . . . and it was then that I received a considerable shock.

To my startled amazement, there, sitting on the upturned suitcase, was a very small panther. It was no more than two inches long, made in all probability of plastic. Crouching happily on the suitcase, it looked for all the world as though it had always been there.
I stared at it in amazement. This was something I had never seen before. My thoughts raced . . . where on earth had it come from? No children had been in the room since mother had died, and mother had most definitely never had such a thing as a small, plastic panther. It couldn't have come through the window - not only is this a third floor flat, but, being mid-winter, the window had been shut for quite a while. The suitcase had been placed behind the sofa only a few days previously . . . so, where on earth, or heaven, had the panther come from?

I fully expected the small figure to dematerialise before my eyes . . . but it didn't. So, accepting its reality, I picked it up and looked at it. It was beautifully made and very tangible. Perplexed, but grateful, I put it in a purse in my handbag, where it has been ever since.

Where did it come from? All I can think is that it came from mother to offer me a 'cat companion' until the arrival of Rupert. The colouring of the panther was that of Sophie, the physique that of Rupert. How did it come? Well, there is nothing that the angels can't achieve!!

Now, sixteen years later, that window has become rather special. It was from that window that I photographed the orbs on Christmas Day. As for the book-room itself, I'm sure that mother and the angels overlook its perpetual untidiness and give it their special blessing!