I’m hunched over my laptop preparing for an online conference by completing an exercise on attitudes to death.
I’m writing about how I’m fine talking about death because I feel like I experienced quite a lot of it growing up although, as I write, I realise I also think about it a lot.
My daughter is sitting on the bean bag next to the French doors with the autumn light slipping through the blinds making her hair more golden than usual. The dog’s head is resting in her lap.
My son is working on his laptop around the other side of the table from me.
Pausing for a moment I turn a red velvet purse around in my hand while I stare at it.
“What’s that?” My daughter asks
“It’s the Maundy money that the Queen gave to Nanna in 2002,” I say, without moving my eyes from my hands.
My children know the story even if they are not familiar with the red purse.
“What’s for dinner?” my son asks
“The leftover chicken from Sunday,” I tell him, “Which is fitting tonight of all nights because my mother made chicken casserole every Sunday for about a decade.
“She made them every Sunday?” my daughter says
“Yes. I think it was easy because she was always out at church on a Sunday.”
“All day?” my son asks
“Three times. Low mass at 8, Family worship at 11, and Evensong at 7. I used to go too when I was young but as I got older I got better at disappointing her,” I tell them.
When the children were small she used to ask me to take them along too. It made her so happy to have all of her favourite people in one place. My little family, the vicar, and God.
She would take with her a bag full of toys to keep the grandchildren happy through the interminably long sermons. Sometimes I wished she’d put something in the toy bag for me too.
“Grandad mended Christ’s finger, do you remember?” my wife says, chipping in and looking at me.
“Yes! I’d completely forgotten that,” I say, conjuring an image of the son of God lying in my father-in-law’s garage amongst the car parts, an old boat, and tins of Castrol GTX.
“Did grandad paint Jesus in his favourite deep orange varnish,” my son laughs.
Clearing the table I move the red velvet Maundy money purse over to the stairs so that I remember to take it to my room and store it away.
I’d gone to find it because one of the questions in preparation for my conference asked us to find an object that reminded us of death and then to write a couple of lines about why we had selected it.
I wrote that it reminded me of the time my mother met the Queen, how proud I’d felt for her, and what a lovely day we’d had at Canterbury Cathedral. Then I added that I had chosen it because, in all the thirteen years since she’d died, I’d never had it out long enough to open it and looked inside.