RETIREMENT BRINGS SORROW
At the farewell party, Roy Mackey gave me an envelope to open at home and pass the contents to Gladys, after I had read it. This I did, and was amused to discover it was the job application to be assistant housekeeper to Gladys. I passed the form over to her and when Gladys had read it, she said, "Good. You have got the job. Start and do the ironing."
To her surprise, I ironed my shirt for the first time. Most effort was spent repositioning the shirt than ironing it. It was not long before I realised it was a work study exercise and later, very therapeutic, particularly as this can be done listening to music I liked, such as Puccini's and Tchaikovsky's. There were other activities, such as making beds, cleaning floors, all of which proved to be very physically exhausting. I was convinced that men should take on the role of housekeeper when retired, and give their wives a break. It is not until one has taken on the household duties that a husband can appreciate the physical work that goes into maintaining a well-kept house. One thing for sure, in taking on this role, there is no time for boredom!
My job application form was returned, with the comments that I had not got suitable experience. Without further delay, I wrote to the Hampshire Ambulance Service at Winchester, offering my services as an ambulance car driver.
Within a few days of retirement, I received a letter, to my surprise from Peter Grantham, who took me to task when he acted for the Director at the time of the balloon race. He was a departmental head, taking ACO, Slough, under his wing. Here are the contents of that letter:-
24th March 1980
I know we've had a chat, but I should like to say more formally how much I have appreciated your willing assistance whenever I needed anything by yesterday; and the part you have played in letting ACO know that they are not forgotten. Please accept my very best wishes for the busy time you've lined up for yourself in your new life.
Yours sincerely, Peter Grantham.
DCI (GEN) CIV 122/74
EMPLOYMENT PREFERENCE FORM FOR USE BY
ADMINISTERED BY SPM2(PE), SPM3(PE) and SPM4(PE)
1. This form is for the use of staff administered by the above-mentioned divisions who wish to register a preference for some particular type of work, including a wish to volunteer for service overseas. The completed form should be sent through the person's superiors, to the appropriate personnel management authority.
The form may be submitted at any time, and the preferences stated will be regarded as retaining their validity until expressly cancelled, or superseded by the submission of a subsequent preference form.
2. Name ..RAYMENT, ALAN CHARLES Grade .ASST.HOUSEKEEPER..
Personnel management authority
Branch to whom the form is to be sent or Establishment ...H-OME......
3. Insert here, in order of preference, the kinds of jobs appropriate to your present job, that you would like to do:
4. Insert here, in order of preference, the locations (in the UK or overseas) where you would like to serve:
Date ..21ST MARCH 1980........ Signature .......P Mackey...............
This letter was a boost for my morale, for I had no idea that my jollies to ACO, Slough, had improved their relations and aspirations after being integrated with ASWE. My morale was to be given a further boost when I received both a formal typed letter and a personal hand-written letter from Ken Slater, The Director.
Here is the formal letter:-
28 March 1980
On your retirement, I should like to convey to you on behalf of the Permanent Under-Secretary his warm thanks for your valued work in the Ministry of Defence and his appreciation of the many years of service you have given.
I should also like to express, on behalf of all your colleagues, best wishes for a long and happy retirement.
Here is the personal letter:-
I was very disappointed that I was unable to come to your farewell party - and so was my wife - but I was under the weather and I felt that it was not reasonable to mix with people even if I felt able to do so.
I was particularly sorry to make your presentation to you personally, as it would have been an appropriate opportunity for me to say how greatly I appreciated your help and support both in the Establishment and social affairs and to wish you well for the future.
I have heard that all went well on Monday and that everyone enjoyed the occasion. Thank you again for your invitation to us both and for the goodies that you sent to cheer the sick!
I am sure we will see you at the 1980 Autumn Fayre - and how shall we manage without you during the work up?
I was both proud and surprised that ASWE top management held me in such regard both on and off the working scene. Needless to state that I put both these letters away in my treasure box to join another letter. This letter was addressed to my mother when my father died.
It was written by James Watts, the owner of S&J Watts Wholesale Warehouse, Manchester, for whom my father was one of their representatives. It was a glowing citation of his services to his firm until he died through the effects of mustard gas during the first world war.
I have heard people, on being retired, that they could not get away quick enough. This was not so in my case, for I seemed to have been amongst wonderful colleagues, many of whom I could call friends. I also enjoyed the management area, where I found dealing with people was both challenging and rewarding, when succeeding in achieving the end product.
Not everyone can state that they have enjoyed their daily work, as indeed, was my case early in my working days. However I gained some experience in every job that influenced my final calling. In all my activities I have been conditioned by a colleague who I have worked for, or whom I had worked with. My war years gave me confidence to believe in myself and to handle responsibilities, with no-one to take the blame when things went wrong.
Such were the cases when I took charge of the rocket firing and hit Dorman Long's tallest chimney stack and then followed this by hitting Eston Council offices!
I had Gladys to thank for enabling me to devote all my non-working time to studying for qualifications to enhance my career. This covered almost ten years immediately after the war when Harry's anti-social behaviour was developing and causing us much grief.
On closing, the last chapter in my working life, involved with ASWE, I sent the following letter to be published in the ASWE Bulletin:-
28 March 1980
May I use the ASWE Bulletin to express thanks to all my colleagues and friends at Portsdown and Slough, who greatly contributed to my retirement presentations.
The cheque will be used to purchase a wrist watch.
The ACO tie and compass glass paper weight presented to me by members of the ACO Drawing Office will especially remind me of a very happy association.
The many good wishes and surprises in one form and another I received during the last few days at ASWE, I shall remember for all time.
On Easter Saturday, Harry was given £20 to stay at the Keswick Hotel - until Friday, the day that Joan had planned for them to visit Broadlands.
This provided the opportunity for Gladys and I to visit the Channel Islands on a 3-day short break, staying at Guernsey. Our first day was spent exploring St Peter Port, and purchasing duty-free presents including a wrist watch, with the cheque presented to me for my farewell gift from colleagues at ASWE. We also bought a St Christopher necklace for Joan and, of course, cigarettes for Harry. Our main purpose of this visit to the Channel Islands had now been accomplished.
On the second day, we crossed to Jersey and discovered the port of St Helier's main attractions for the first time. This included Elizabeth Castle overlooking the port. We had a chilling moment when we visited the German Underground Hospital reminding us of the war days.
During our short honeymoon, for this is what it was equivalent to being away from the home stresses, Gladys gave me instructions. I was to keep our sex going as long as I could! Of course I went along with this, knowing that God had provided a wonderful way in releasing stresses in addition to procreating the human race. Sex had enabled Gladys to forget her worries about Harry's behaviour at the end of the day, and to recharge her batteries for the following
day. This was also true for me, when I returned home from Portsdown each weekend when put in charge of the Ships' Weapon System Engineering at ASWE.
I assumed that when my letter to the editor of the ASWE Bulletin was published this would conclude our official relationship. ASWE thought otherwise, and published the following citation. I never discovered who wrote this, but without doubt it was someone in XMS1 Section, who had heard me talk about my past, for not all the contents came from my records!
MR A C RAYMENT - PTO1 MAIN BLOCK
Alan Rayment retired from MOD(N) on 24 March of this year after 31 years service in R and D Departments. Prior to his entry into ARL (now AMTE) Teddington, he was employed by "Ever Ready" and during the war served with the Territorial Army. As a sergeant in the "Ack Ack" regiment (anti-aircraft to the younger generation) he had many experiences, some of which he was proud to relate, but quite by accident prior to his retirement, we in his old section of XMS1 overheard him describing to a visitor an incident involving the use of a well kept military secret at the time - the use of rockets as an Anti-Aircraft Weapon. His unit was commissioned to experiment with this new weapon and on the night of the first firing in anger, range and bearing calculations were correct, but for some reason the elevation angle was such that the first round resulted in a local council office being almost demolished! A second firing hit a nearby chimney stack!
During Alan's spell at ARL he was intimately associated with the design and production of equipment to enable underwater tests on various weapons to be undertaken. One such device was a large whirling arm capable of speeds up to 60 mph and carrying a load such as a torpedo. This was housed in a 5 feet deep circular tank. His service at Teddington lasted from 1949 to 1971 when he was promoted to PTO1 and transferred to the old IX group at ASWE. He set up many of the principles now accepted by our Ship Weapon System Engineering sections and for four years worked on the system design for the new generation of ships in service with the Fleet today.
In 1975 Alan joined a group called XDP (now XMS). One of his tasks in what was a completely new world to him was to produce the Annual ASWE Report, a task which could only be done during the period March to June and which despite all the best laid plans as, and still is, a very hectic period. Another aspect of his work was to ensure that the PTO staff at ACO was of the highest standards.
During the final week of Alan's career he was invited to a farewell presentation by his colleagues at Slough, a surprise skittle evening was held at the Civil Service Sports Club in his honour and Mr Thomas (XA), in the absence of the Director, presented to him in the Lecture Theatre a cheque and a signed card from this colleagues. Afterwards, he entertained many of us at the Langstone Conservative Club where during the festivities, Freddie Bulstrode read out to a poem she had written for the occasion and which follows this tribute.
Alan, has been missed by all his colleagues at ASWE, ACO and ARL since his departure and especially by the members of XMS1 now that plans for the Autumn Fayre to be held in September, are being made. Alan's voluntary efforts in organising and undertaking the now renowned 'Balloon Race' laid the foundation, and has made the task easier for those arranging this year's event.
Alan retired at the age of 64, very young in mind and body (he still plays hockey, enjoys jogging and is a keen swimmer) and our best wishes are extended to him and his wife, Gladys, for a happy and healthy retirement.
I had been informed that I had been accepted by the Hampshire Ambulance Service, subject to receiving Insurance cover from my car insurers to do ambulance car work. This I obtained, and was sent full procedures for obtaining details on patients to be taken to hospital, and was supplied with a car badge to be displayed prominently on my front window screen. The Badge 'AMBULANCE CAR SERVICE' entitled me to park at the main entrances of hospitals.
The controller at Winchester required a week's advanced notice of my availability. This I found to be ideal, for I could control the amount of time I was prepared to give - like a valve. Should we decide to go away or take a short break, I could automatically allow for this without first seeking approval.
My new career was more like a treasure hunt in locating patients whose address contained only the name of their residence and not the number in their lane. To my surprise, most of Hayling Island lanes had no numbers on their houses.
To start this work, I chose only to give a few mornings a week, until I fully understood the routine. Another challenge about this service was that a patient could disappear when having to receive additional treatment such as an X-Ray or blood test. Again I was lucky to have a rewarding job to occupy my mind for there were to be sorrows unforeseen.
We returned home from the Channel Islands on the Thursday following Easter weekend to find Harry at home without any money. I took him to see Joan the next day, to give her the necklace we had bought. He returned home at 6 pm the same evening and went straight to bed and remained in his bedroom until Monday morning.
In the evening I took Harry to the Keswick Hotel and gave him money. He returned home on the Thursday evening, going straight into his bedroom. On the morrow, Harry was playing records downstairs at 5.30 am lying in front of the gas fire, full on, in his shorts and vest, with a pot of tea. He had a spell of turning all the family photos around and refusing his meals. He would drink bottles of cider in his room.
To his mother's horror, she found in his wardrobe a parcel containing excreta. Typed on the brown paper wrapping was 'The Nursing Team, Havant Day Hospital, Havant.' He roared at his mother, with eyes rolling, and shouting that they had done no good. He kept looking in the mirrors, chain smoking, switching off the TV, whenever he could, and had spells of laughter to himself.
Not surprisingly, he told us in the month of May that Joan had given him the sack and that he would not make friends with Nicollette, an acquaintance of hers. Also he had walked out of a concert they had attended at the Guildhall, Portsmouth.
He was very depressed most of the time, so I phoned St James' to discuss the situation. St James' Hospital only accepted Harry as a day patient. Before I could get an appointment, Harry threatened to throw himself off the tallest building he could find. I was finally seen by Dr Tiller and the Chief Nurse with Harry at St James'.
The doctor told me that Harry was a day patient and had refused to conform the previous week. He had been drinking, smelt of whisky. He had been told to report to the head gardener, who refused to have him because of his past record.
I mentioned to them that Harry had been good at English at school. There was a suggestion of placing Harry with their librarian, but Harry did not bite. Bryan, the Chief Nurse, asked if he would go in their printing section. This Harry agreed to, and was instructed to report on Monday 16th June.
Again I read the riot act out to him and told him I would not have him in the house, if he did not co-operate with everyone, who were all doing their best to help him.
Joan 'phoned and said she would like to see Harry again. She had lost a stone in weight and the cat had died - and the old man that used to visit him was in hospital. This sounded all very sad, but I could not see her getting much cheer from this quarter. But it is said that it is better to have more than one worry, for each takes the mind off the other! Harry wasted no time in making a call on Joan with a bunch of flowers.
With Joan back on the scene, another opportunity arose for us to get away at the end of June. We had booked a Forestry cottage at Betws-y-Coed where Andrew and Linda would stay with us, with their children. This took place as planned, enabling us to visit the Snowdonia area again and to have log fires at night in the cottage surrounded by woodlands. It was plainly visible that Linda was with child, and could give birth very soon to their third child.
It was pleasing to learn from Joan that she had been seeing Harry daily at St James'. There had been no problems with Harry and now Joan's family wished to take Harry on a 36-hour trip to Guernsey. That was for them to decide. However, there was a marked improvement in Harry's behaviour. He did not smoke in the lounge and had refrained from drinking cider.
I called on Joan when visiting St James' whilst on ambulance car service, and found Harry there. He told me that he had been to the Social Services to give voluntary effort. This was on Friday 18th July and he had been allocated a house to decorate at Eastney. He wanted me to along with them to plan the job on Monday next. There were three elderly people living there, Ethel, George, who was nearly blind, and Liz. A plan was agreed with Harry, first to decorate downstairs, starting in Liz's room, who we discovered was very depressed. This room was due to have work started on Friday, after Harry had cleared it out beforehand. Harry did not go, because Liz had to call out the ambulance, due to an attack of thrombosis.
He arrived home for the weekend and acted very aggressively, swearing at everything, even the dog next door. I suspected that the decorating was worrying him.
Andrew's family with Geoff, Andrew's best man, and his family arrived on Sunday for lunch. Joan was also there. Harry stayed in his bedroom, but eventually appeared, laughing to himself. He told Joan that Geoff was a University chap. Harry returned to do the decorating and made a good job of the ceilings!
Gladys had spells of sitting in the lounge silently, as if about to cry. Then she would give outbursts of "What am I going to do?" If I asked if she was in pain, I would be told to leave her alone! On one of these occasions, she had found another parcel in Harry's wardrobe, containing excreta, addressed to the Havant Day Hospital. Was his behaviour pattern the cause for those outbursts?
That same evening, Gladys had a restless night, complaining of pain in her leg and could not find a position to lay without this pain. When I pleaded with her to let me send for the doctor, she told me to leave her alone.
Dr Pearson called the following morning, and diagnosed Neuralgia in her leg, and prescribed pain-killing drugs.
Over a period of three weeks, it was necessary to call for the doctor, for the pain persisted. On the 4th August, Dr Pearson made a physical inspection and, after using rubber gloves, diagnosed a blockage in the rectum, caused by a tumour on the bowels. That same morning he brought Mr Weaver, Chief Surgeon, St Mary's Hospital, who happened to be visiting Havant Day Hospital, to check his opinion.
This was confirmed and would need a major operation, which he would carry out after he had returned from a three week holiday abroad. This was told privately, before Mr Weaver left the house. Dr Pearson said he would continue with the pain killing drugs. I explained that up to now, she had not had much relief from them, and continually shouted out "Go away, pain!" He agreed to prescribe morphine.
After their departure, I was asked if she would die. This had never occurred to me, for I considered her to be as strong as a lion. Apart from giving birth and a cyst operation, she had never seen the doctor or suffered from colds. I told her to put dying out of her mind, but as she lay in bed and asked for pen and paper, I could not refuse them. A will had been made out where the Westminster Bank were executors, so that anything contrary to this will, would mean that it had been superseded.
In the list of beneficiaries, to whom she had distributed her jewellery, was Joan Powell's name, who was to receive £100 along with the other relatives. This confirmed my view that she regarded Joan almost as a daughter. Gladys' hand- writing was always legible, and this list she made out was no exception and gave no indication that she was in any way suffering. I carefully retained this, and informed the bank that Gladys' will had been modified.
The pain killing drugs still failed to work, and she did not allow me to sleep in the same room, so that I would not hear her moan. One thing she asked the doctor when told an operation would be involved - would her sex life be affected? This was very important to her. Even her sisters would refer to her as being sex mad. For me to be ordered out of her bedroom to sleep was an indication of the intensity of her pain, and that sex had been thrown out of the window for the present.
A date for Gladys to be taken into St Mary's for tests before Mr Weaver's return had been arranged for the 11th August. During the period waiting to enter hospital, there were several nights when I could not bear to hear her suffering and the following morning would tell her that I was going to send for the doctor.
Her reply on these occasions would be "Stop fuss-arseing about". My recourse would be to call on my next door neighbour, Jean Dracket, and ask for help.
Prior to Gladys entering hospital, the doctors were concerned that they had failed to have given her proper relief from the pain caused by the growth bearing on the sciatica nerve. They had consulted Queen Alexandra's pain unit, with a view to improving the pain relieving drugs or severing he sciatica nerve. Neither of these two actions seemed to have taken place before she entered St Mary's on the 11th August and placed in E3 ward.
Harry had delusions and claimed that his mother had put a curse on him. We bought a lampshade with Sam Weller's face on it, and this, too, had put a curse on him. He foamed at the mouth and with his mother's sad state, I found it essential to get hospital treatment for him.
I 'phoned Dr Johnson at Southsea and asked if he could have Harry admitted to St James'. He arranged for me and Harry to be seen by Dr Till of the Solent Day at St James' since Dr.s Beale and Browning were away.
Dr Till said that his mother's state had distressed him. Nurse Jacobs reported that his Modicate injection was due. Harry refused to have this. He then told them that his parents had put a curse on him, as had the lampshade with Sam Weller's face on it. It did not matter if we were white, we were 'just like the black people'. The doors were banging at the Keswick Hotel, like guns firing at him. Dr Till admitted Harry into St James' and I left a £5 note with a Trainee Nurse, Jenny.
At 8 pm I received a call from St James' and was told that Harry had gone missing. I 'phoned the Keswick Hotel and Joan but no one had seen him. Later, I had another call from St James' to state that he had now returned. On the morrow, Harry 'phoned and told me that it was a waste of time being in hospital. I told him not to return home until his mother had had the operation, on 1st September, by Mr Weaver.
The next day, Staff Nurse Roberts 'phoned from St James' and informed me that Harry had discharged himself. This was the last thing I wanted to hear. Nurse Roberts continued and stated that the duty doctor would place an order on him when located. My main concern on this day was to collect Gladys home from St Mary's now that all their tests had been carried out.
On the day following Glady's admittance to E3 ward, I visited her to find a team of doctors round her bed, including Bradshaw, Hulme and Sister Ayling. She told me that Gladys had been heavily sedated and that she had fallen twice out of her bed during the night. I was advised not to stay long after the team had finished their session with Gladys. I was able to give her a kiss and hold her hands - she asked if she would be alright. "Of course" I repeated several times. I gave her another kiss and told her I would be back tomorrow.
I visited Gladys each day and, as I walked through the ward to her bed, she was able to spot me. Sat up in bed, she always had a smile to greet me.
A hairdresser had given her a shampoo and hair set. Her face was free from pain, without a wrinkle anywhere. It seemed many years since she had looked so beautiful, causing me to increase my love for her. I am told the injections to relieve her pain, could give a feeling of well-being.
Linda, who was awaiting the birth pains, and Andrew, with Joy and Peter, accompanied me on several visits during the period in hospital, from the 11th to 23rd August. It became a sort of joke when Linda said that she should now go to the maternity ward on leaving.
Towards the end of their tests, Gladys could not control her water works, giving concern to her doctors. A decision was made to send her to another ward, where she could be taught to use a catheter. I was informed that she may have to be sent to Southampton hospital for further investigation. The latter did not take place, for I was told by the house doctor that the water works failure was due to the cancer getting into the system. The word 'cancer' had never been used with Gladys, it was the word 'tumour' when talking about her condition to her.
The nurses were amazed that Gladys had mastered the technique of the use of catheters in one day.
At this stage, the hospital decided to discharge her home, with instructions for the family doctor to prescribe the necessary pain killing drugs. I was assured that the doctor would give instructions for a district nurse to wash her and support her water works needs. No mention had been made of Harry's mental state, for I was dreading any scenes at home, having been informed that he had discharged himself again from St James'.
Gladys felt relieved to be brought home and I was anxious for her not to have any further stress or worry. For me, there was only one place to keep her and that was in her bedroom until an order had been placed on Harry.
Harry did arrive home that night and spent the night roaming around the house. I took him back to St James' at 9.30 am the following Sunday and had to wait until 12 noon to see the duty doctor. He was readmitted and made outbursts about them all being against him. On Tuesday, he was back home again at 7.30a m. Again I had to lecture him for distressing his mother when she was so ill, and insisted he returned after he had his breakfast. I took him back to Solent Day at St James. Later that night we had a call from Harry, who was at the Keswick Hotel. I had to keep paying the rent there, so that he had an address in the catchment area of St James'.
On Wednesday, I had a call from St James', that Harry had been brought back into St James under a 48 hour order. I sighed with relief. When I visited him, he was in Cranleigh locked ward, staring into space, then made an outburst, that they were all at it - talking about him. He would have to join the army at Chichester.
I took a change of clothes for him. He refused his pants, but changed his shirt. He asked for money - £5. I gave him £2, and left with £3, with the ward sister.
On the 30th August, I was asked to visit St Mary's E3 ward, and was told that Mr Weaver had an accident in France and would not be back for some time. I was then asked if I would have a cup of tea by the lady house doctor, Dr Golding. She then explained that the cancer had got into the system and was in an advanced stage. There was no useful purpose in going ahead with the planned operation. Gladys could expect to live for a further four to twelve months. The family doctor would be informed.
I was numbed by this news and could only say to the doctor, "Thank you for trying."
With my heavy news it took a great deal of effort to walk across to see
Harry in the locked ward at St James'. I was greeted by the charge nurse, David Viliar, and told that Harry had been violent and had hit a nurse. He would probably be put under a 4-week order and charged in court.
This was my saddest day I could ever remember. With Harry under an order, I would be able to give Gladys all my attention and ensure that all her family visited her. She was still unaware of her cancer and I certainly did not wish her to know that she was terminally ill. I preferred that she told her visitors of the many kisses that she had had of late.
Linda entered the maternity ward of St Mary's during the first week of September, and gave birth to a baby boy, Jonathan, on the 7th September. Joan, her sister Margaret, and her mother arrived to see Gladys, when Andrew 'phoned this news. We all wet his head with a glass of sherry.
Joan told us that she had been visiting Harry each night and he had shown improvements. A few neighbours sat with Gladys during the evenings. Dorothy Robinson had great admiration for Gladys, knowing that she was not scared of collecting for Christian Aid where others of the Church feared to tread. This was the Leigh Park district.
On the day following Jonathan's birth, Gladys had great pain from 8.30 pm until 6 am. Dr Pearson called and prescribed Morphine pills, one per night. Gladys had not eaten and her morale was low.
Nurse McCarthy called on the 9th and Gladys asked if she was going to die. She was told by the nurse that she was not a prophet.
We visited Harry the same day, with Gladys remaining in the car. Harry was allowed to come to the car. He murmured, why had I brought her, and where were the cigarettes? When he arrived at the car, he said he wanted to go and see Joan, but his mother said he was not able to. After ten minutes, I took him back and shortly afterwards, I noticed him walking the grounds.
During the next two days I gave her Morphine pills at regular intervals. I took her out for a pub meal at Funtington, where she ate plaice and chips. Gladys went to bed and felt very low, crying. She said there was no point in living. Nevertheless, she looked as pretty as ever, with her head resting on three pillows.
On Friday, I took Gladys out to the Churchillian for another pub meal. She was convinced she was going to die.
On Saturday, Andrew's family, with Linda's mother, came to stay with Gladys while I played hockey. I had resigned from the captaincy of the 5th XI and the Colts' Manager, for my domestic commitments.
Nurse McCarthy called and left 200 catheters and rubber gloves. Gladys said she nearly fell down the stairs and could not walk. Dr Pearson called on the Monday, and thought she was sinking fast. She was still not free from pain, as the days passed while the doctors prescribed fresh pills for her. I think it was due to her very strong will in the first instant.
Finally, after another night of pain on the 18th August, Dr Pearson called at 11.15 am, brushed me aside, rushed upstairs and decided to get the ambulance, which arrived within 5 minutes. She was taken to the Havant Memorial Hospital and put into a private ward.
When I called in to see her in the afternoon, she was sitting up in bed, crying. I called again in the evening and this time she said she was not in any pain, since they had given her an injection. She had eaten chicken for tea.
The sister in charge mentioned that Gladys was being injected every four hours and that the appointment to get the Queen Alexandra Hospital to prescribe pain killing drugs had now been cancelled.
The following day, my sister Edith, from Marton, Cheshire, visited her and became saddened to find her so sick. Whilst by the bedside, Andrew, with Jonathan in his arms, gave Gladys another surprise. Although she had been told of his birth to Linda in St Mary's on the 7th September, this was the first time that she had been able to cast her eyes on him. Her eyes fixed onto her new grandchild, and she had to be assisted to get upright to get a better view of Jonathan. Several times she muttered his name.
I withdrew Edith, giving kisses to Gladys before leaving them. More surprises for her, when her youngest sister and family arrived from Wolverhampton in the evening. This was Brenda, John, Tracy and Philip.
On leaving Havant Hospital, I took Edith to St James' to see her nephew Harry, in the secure ward, Cranleigh. While there, another patient accused Harry of stealing her cigarette lighter. This further upset Edith, who was very relieved to return home.
Edna, the next eldest sister to Gladys, with Tony her husband, visited Havant Hospital. Gladys wanted me to be with them, and instructed Tony to send for me. I could not find them, for I had agreed to take Joan, Margaret and her mother to visit her later in the afternoon.
At 3 pm the following day, Gladys was very distressed, due to pain. I sent for the nurse, who claimed that a recent injection had been given. After a repeat injection, was given at 3.15 pm, she fell asleep, holding my hands.
Jean Sutton, the neighbour who had got Gladys to take the Christian Aid envelopes round Leigh Park, arrived by only stayed 2 minutes. I stayed until the evening, and noticed a further injection was given at 7.20 pm. She looked peaceful, and I held her hands until 8 pm.
The next day, Gladys was again distressed and I had to get the sister in charge. Two nurses arrived, and made her comfortable. However, as soon as they left, she started to removed the clothes off her bed and fumble with her water tube. Again, I left to tell the nurses of Gladys' state.
When I returned, at around 4 pm, she was much more settled, and we held hands for most of the evening. Linda and Andrew joined us. Before we left, the sister in charge instructed me to speak to Dr Francis at his surgery the next day.
At 8.20 am in Dr Francis' surgery, I was informed that the cancer had got into her liver and bloodstream; she was going down fast! We agreed that Gladys was restless and he changed the injection treatment. I told him that I wanted her to sleep and to be left undisturbed.
I called at the hospital, and was spoken to by Dr Francis, who told me that he was on his second visit today, to ensure that she was comfortable. We sat holding hands without speaking. Linda brought some flowers, very little was said, for Gladys remained asleep.
At 7 pm, two nurses arrived to make her clean and I was requested to leave the ward. Gladys, who had awoken, refused to release my hand and told me ignore them. Gladys would not allow them to finish until I was allowed back. She looked very pretty with her hair parted and curled, sitting up. Andrew and Linda brought her some grapes. We laid her down before we left.
When I visited St James' on the 25th September, to see Harry, the sister in charge of Cranleigh ward requested that I speak to Dr Harris, the registrar. He was aware that Harry's mother was terminally ill and he thought that this was a contributory factor in his being a danger to himself and other people. The hospital were considering placing him under a Section 26 order, requiring him to be kept in a secure ward. There was still a charge for violence kept open. His main concern was the reaction that Harry would suffer on learning of his mother's death, when the time came. I was instructed to inform them in advance before breaking the news to Harry.
The Registrar also wanted to know whether I had in mind for Harry to attend the funeral, and would I seek this information from Harry? It was always weird entering Cranleigh Ward where these patients, heavily sedated, walked about like living corpses with far away looks.
Harry was very subdued and quiet when I spoke to him. I had previously refrained from discussing his mother's illness, to avoid bringing further distress, although he never showed any remorse about her suffering. I finally got round to telling him that she could die at any moment. "I should have died in place of my mum." he murmured.
"How about attending the funeral, after she has died?" I asked. He thought a little while and said, "I will go with Joan and her mother." I brought some clean clothes for him to change into and left to be at Havant Hospital for my daily 3 pm vigil at Gladys' bedside.
I arrived at Havant Hospital and had a surprise for Edgar, Glady's brother, and his wife, Iris, had come to visit Gladys without 'phoning me in advance. The sister had already alerted them that Gladys was fading away. As we entered the ward, Gladys managed to say 'hello' and was able to communicate a little with them, and held hands.
Edgar was visibly distressed, not expecting her to be so ill. I learned from her nurse, that in the morning she had had to sit with Gladys, because she was restless, attempting to get out of bed and calling out for John. This was short for Jonathan, her new grandchild, whom she had only seen once and was around two weeks old.
Joan, the second youngest sister and Mike, her husband, and their daughter Wendy, arrived from Sudbury on Saturday the 27th. Gladys wanted to sit up after being kissed by us. They held hands and she had a sip of tea. She soon became tired, but before she laid down again I told them I had been a naughty boy - out every night, playing bridge. When I said this facing Gladys, she nodded her head in agreement. So I knew she was very much in with us. We left her to sleep and kissed her goodnight.
They returned to Sudbury that night and 'phoned the following morning to say that at 10.45 am, they had spoken to Gladys, who managed to say 'hello' on the 'phone to them.
The next few days, Gladys went into a coma, and I was able to bring Harry, with Joan, to sit with her, holding hands, for a short period, before taking Harry back to St James'. This visit took place in the morning of the 2nd October. In the evening, Linda and Andrew sat with Gladys, holding hands. Her breathing had become much heavier and her eyes were twitching.
I stayed with Gladys during most of Thursday the 2nd, hoping that by holding hands she knew I was with her. Her gasping for breath kept me in suspense, wondering whether this would be her last one. She held out into the evening, when Len White, my bridge partner and his wife, Ruth, arrived around 7 pm. They did not stay long, for they realised this could be our last moments together.
Nurses Fraser and Storey came into the ward, while I had a break. Within minutes they rushed to get me, for Gladys had slipped away, peacefully and without pain.
The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh.
I prayed that we should meet again on the other side, when the time came for me to be called.
I cannot understand why Gladys should have suffered so much, both as a caring mother and a devoted wife. In the same vein, why was John the Baptist beheaded? Had he not been a good Christian and baptised Jesus? The mysteries of life and death are beyond understanding and only in faith can life be made meaningful.
The funeral service took place at Portchester Crematorium and was attended by many of our friends from ASWE as well as our relatives. Andrew's best man, Rev Geoff Harris, took the service. Many of our neighbours also attended, which filled up the large chapel. My bridge partner, Len White, collected Harry and returned him after the service. £21 was donated to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, by the friends at ASWE.
The reception at home was organised by Andrew and Linda, with help from the Southdown Christian Fellowship members. Bob and Ana stayed with our relatives and had travelled from Whitley to pay their last respects to Gladys.
Geoff used the eulogy I had written in his sermon. Here is a copy:-
Gladys was a devoted wife and mother, taking great pride in her appearance and home.
She loved her grandchildren and gave the freedom of the home to them when in her charge.
Her generosity was a feature, particularly at birthday times, as her nephews and nieces can vouch.
As a mother, she had her cares, but few would know from her the chief concern.
Gladys possessed courage in collecting for Christian Aid in areas where others feared to tread.
Her bravery was admired by doctors and nursing staff in Gladys' determination to conceal her pain and to deal with her functional failures.
Her loss as a housewife and mother in support of her husband and children is no less great than the loss of a public figure.
'Alan' 4th October 1980.
Gladys' ashes were strewn over the Crematorium's New Garden in the 'Garden of Remembrance' between posts 138 and 139.
Post Note. I have often heard it said, when a person has left his firm for the last time on retirement, "Well, that's him gone, tomorrow the firm will carry on just the same without him and he will be completely forgotten." As with most rules, there is generally an exception, as there was in this case, for I was to receive two letters from my former Director, and one from his Deputy after retirement. They were related to Gladys' ill health and passing, as follows:-
15th September 1980
I was sorry to hear on my return from leave that your wife is ill.
I was hoping to see you both at the ASWE Fayre this year - perhaps we might.
I do send my good wishes and hope that things go well.
K F Slater.
7th November 1980
I was sorry to hear on my return from overseas that your wife had died.
I do send my sympathy and hope that you will find solace in your many activities. We would be pleased to see you at any of the ASWE functions.
K F Slater.
I was shocked to hear this morning of your bereavement, which comes so very soon after the happy day we spent together on your retirement festivities. It is always very difficult to accept this sort of loss, but I believe it is only temporary and we shall all be together again later on.
In the meantime, we must turn again to the things that remain important on earth, and then we realise that we can cope. Also that life still provides some solace and enjoyment.
If there is anything I can do to help personally, I shall be glad to try, and may I express all your friends at ASWE and DSWP's thoughts and wishes by saying that "we are all thinking of you and sharing your grief, and we would all like to support and help if it is possible."
Our best wishes for the future,
© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 14, 2001