1994 - 1995 

After the Christmas ordeal, with Ella’s daughter, which ended happily with Janet united with her family, Ella was very subdued when on her own.    Apart from Dorothy making her usual weekly visit, she depended on me for physical needs, apart from the weekly homecare visit.     Whenever the opportunity came my way, I invited would-be bridge players to the house for a talk-in session and where possible, invite Ella to make a foursome.   Although her physical condition was very weak, her mental powers were unimpaired.    This never showed up at bridge, after she had a telling-off at her first attendance at Emsworth Christmas Drive.

Her knowledge of bridge astounded me, when I had Carole and Ted for the first Wednesday afternoon bridge coaching session.   It was Ella who was coaching me on how to coach beginners.    She had with her notes from the bridge course she had attended at evening class, when she first arrived in Bedhampton.    Ted and Carole attended the Langstone Conservative Club bridge section, whom I met in the bar before bridge commenced.    Our friendship was cemented as soon as Carole said she was the daughter of the late Dora, who would always say to me, when I arrived at her table to play bridge, “I hate you, I hate you, I never know what cards you have in your hand from your funny bids!”   I would always reply,                             “Good, that’s how I want it, I have almost half won the rubber already.”   She was greatly missed at her passing, for she was always seen with a cheery smile at her corner table.

Carole and Ted had only a very limited bridge experience and were completely thrown when the opposition opening bid was 4 diamonds.   I did not play with them that evening, but had the impression that they had experienced a rough passage.    They were delighted when I phoned them the next day, inviting them to bridge coaching sessions.   I did not expect that they could attend in the afternoons, for I thought he was still of working age.   Both could almost be mistaken for teenagers, when they gave cheeky smiles.   No one could possibly have guessed that Ted had been retired for several years, having held a number of posts at board level, one of which involved discussions with my late establishment, ASWE, on top of Portsdown Hill, on radar interference techniques.

The secret to their youthful appearance, where not an ounce of fat could be seen, was that they were fitness fanatics, both in their eating and in their walking expeditions.   They were members of the local Portsmouth Ramblers, taking part most Sundays.   On their holidays, they had tackled climbs in most of the ex-Eastern Bloc countries.

In their stride, they were also members of the Havant Fun Club at the Havant Leisure Centre, where it seemed that anyone over 60 years, in the area belonged to, taking part in all the activities in the centre.   Carole liked to claim she had swum her usual 40 laps.     Carole had been a language teacher and could be considered still to be quite bright, certainly as demonstrated by the quickness with which she learned the game of bridge after watching.   Ted was a different kind of person, as he wished to understand the reason fully before making that bid.   Carole would often prod him to get a move on to make his bid.   I had a feeling that once Ted had satisfied the reason on making the correct bid, he could be quite an advanced player, given the time and practice.

On the competitive bridge scene, Alan Wagg and myself took pride in winning the 1994 Match Pairs Trophy for the second year running at the Emsworth Bridge Club.   It could be said I was a right show-off as far as these trophies were concerned, when I had visitors to the house.  I shall dread the day when I fail to confuse my bridge opponents.

Now into the year, 1995, there should be a number of occasions to celebrate, such as Ella’s and my 80th birthdays.   There were the 50 year anniversaries of the ending of the war with both Germany and Japan.   I hoped to hear noises from Ella’s daughters about a family joint effort being organised for their mother’s achievement in reaching 80.

Mothering Sunday approached, with the absence of flowers from one of her daughters.   This had never happened before, with the comment from Ella, “I suppose I am not worth it!”   I was at a loss for words, and could only remark that there had been a delay in the delivery of the flowers.

With only a month before her birthday, I suggested that we booked a meal at a hotel, and invited Wendy, who had been like a daughter to Ella, when she became a carer to her.   This, Ella would not have, and replied, “If I cannot have my own family with me on my birthday, I do not want anybody!”

As the days approached the 29th April, Ella’s birthday, without news from her daughters, she wore a look of despondency, combined with a lack of energy.   This showed itself when negotiating the stairs, it was taking several stops either way to reach the end of the stairs.   The amount of food eaten had also reduced, which she claimed was due to a cold that she had.    No matter what physical state she was in, she never allowed her appearance to become shabby, always conscious about her appearance and looking smart.

Happily, news came through from Ludlow, that Laura and family would be coming over and bringing food and a birthday cake with them to celebrate Ella’s 80th birthday with her on the morrow.   This brought a smile not seen for some time, after she heard the news on the phone from her daughter.   I too, smiled with relief, that we would have some kind of occasion after all.

Strange it should have been Laura arriving, rather than Janet or Barbara, when so much pain had been suffered between them in the past.  If there was ever a moment for forgiveness, it was now - life is too short and are we not taught the Lord’s prayer - to forgive those that trespass against us?

Our family guest planned to have a mid-day lunch on their way here, to save us preparing food for them.   Ella spent most of her morning on her birthday dressing up for the arrival of her daughter, Laura and family.  She wore a blue-grey knitted jumper, blue beads and a light and dark check skirt.   It was now a major operation for Ella to negotiate the stairs and it was essential that I be present.  

When our visitors did arrive from Ludlow, there were very mixed feelings inside me.   Ella was joined by her family, being greeted with “Happy Birthday Dear Ella” as they entered the living room with Ella looking bewildered.   Ella immediately noticed that their daughter was not with them, and asked where Helen was.   Laura immediately responded that she was not able to get away from her college in music at Canterbury.   “I have a birthday card from Helen for you”, putting it into her Mum’s hand.  It read, ‘Sorry I cannot be with you to celebrate your 80th birthday, and eat some of your birthday cake, have a great time - Love to Nan from Helen.’

It was a pleasant get-together with Christopher, the tallest of the lot now, in his early teens, and John, who always seemed to have a smile on his face.  Peter, the chemist, whose hobby was restoring engines and carriages on the Thames Valley Railway sat quietly on the sofa, with Laura preparing the buffet using the low rectangular table in front of the sofa to feed off.   Ella was sitting on the far side to Peter, with Laura sitting in the middle of the sofa, where she could look after her Mum and help her cut the iced birthday cake.   I sat in my usual corner chair, where I had to scrounge for myself, lest all Laura’s goodies disappeared, before I had sampled them.

Their stay was brief, for they had to return to Ludlow the same day.   After their departure, Ella became very deflated and asked me to help her get to bed.  In putting on a show in the presence of Laura’s family, she had exhausted herself.   It became a major operation for her to get up the stairs, having to use both hands on the banister to avoid falling down and also to pull herself up.   It was plainly evident that she was in need of a stairlift.   I had to admire Ella, who never mentioned her weak physical state to them, not wanting to spoil this occasion with her ailments.

The next day she stayed in bed and refused to allow me to send for the doctor.   In the meantime, I went ahead to obtain a stairlift.   I discovered that there were only a few makes, of which the Stannah was reputed to be the best.   I felt there was a closed shop in this field, for by the time the stairlift had been fitted, it could cost several thousands of pounds.    By good fortune, I located, through The News, a second-hand Stannah stairlift for sale at the home of the family of Buswells, Denmead.   I arranged to see it the same day and from the measurements I had taken of the stairway at our house, it seemed that this one would be suitable.   I had to recheck my dimensions, for there was a matter of 2 inches clearance, if all measurements were correct.   Another aspect noted, it was a right-handed one and I wanted a left-handed fitting.    What does one do with a 26 feet stairlift, if when fitting, it will not fit because it is too long?

Fleinns Medicare of Fareham, who had fitted this chair-lift in the Buswell home were contacted and were asked to give a quote for fitting.   The mechanic that came to my house had fitted this unit at Denmead and was confident it would be suitable and could be converted to a left-sided fit.    I received the quote, of £450, which was almost the £500 I was prepared to pay Buswell for the stair-lift.     I would be very pleased if I was able to have a working stair-lift for Ella for around £1,000.

When it came to be installed, the wall heater, which provided heat for upstairs, fouled the lift unit, which meant the gas people had to be sent for before work could proceed on the lift.   The whole of this operation was completed within two days.    During this time, Ella had stayed in bed, but I felt she was pleased I cared enough to have this facility for her. 

Before the fitter left, I had a dummy run in using the lift, and found it successful, without falling out.   I was delighted when Ella appeared in her dressing gown to test this equipment.     This was she able to operate without any problems, which brought smiles to both the fitter and myself.   This was again proof that her mental capacity was unimpaired by her stroke.

I was deeply concerned that Ella was not eating her food and whenever I chided her about this, she would claim that it was due to her cold.    After these remarks, I would finish by saying, “A pigeon eats more than you do.”  Another matter of concern was that, dressed in her dressing gown, she made a practice of coming downstairs by the stair-lift and sitting on the sofa.   Once in this position, within a matter of minutes, her head and arms laid horizontal on the sofa, with her eyes closed.    She would remain in this lifeless position for several hours.

What puzzled me about this bizarre position was that Ella never complained of pain, so that I assumed she was in a deep sleep.   On 2nd May, whilst Ella was in bed, I sent for Dr Robinson.    He arrived that morning and came to her bedroom.   He sat on the linen chest by the window and proceeded to ask her questions.   He first wanted to know where the pain was.   Ella claimed that she did not have any.   I then interjected, saying that she was not eating.    This resulted in Ella and myself having an argument on the subject of my claim about her not eating.  

Dr Robinson had a bewildered expression as he looked upon this scene between husband and wife.   He finally prescribed anti-depression pills and said he would come back again to check the situation.

During the week that followed, Ella continued to get weaker, so that all her clothes were just hanging on her, for she had gone so thin.   I phoned Janet, as I felt there was something seriously wrong with her mother.   Janet turned up the same day, and agreed with me that this was the case.   I sent for Dr Robinson the following morning, who, when he arrived, asked if she had any pain and he received the same reply as before.  “Well you are no better from the last time I saw you, and I suggest you go into hospital for a check up.   I will phone you when I have found a bed for you.”  This he did, and she went into Queen Alexandra Hospital that evening, with Janet.

When Janet returned it had been discovered that Ella had suffered from a massive heart attack, which was a type that caused no pain.  I immediately alerted her other two daughters and her brother, Jack.

I attended hospital the following Thursday morning and was asked to wait outside the ward, while the nurses and doctor were engaged with her behind the scenes.   The ward nurse took me to the ward doctor, when they had finally finished attending to Ella.    He said, “We are monitoring her heart condition and giving her oxygen, but it is not possible to gauge how long she will survive.  You will be provided with a bed to stay the night.”

When I passed through the drawn curtains around her bed, I was in a nervous state, not knowing how I should find her.   The oxygen mask concealed most of her face, but I did notice her eyes were closed and that she was breathing.   I sat by her bed and held her weak hands and kept vigil.   Joy had received my message about Ella, and joined me at Ella’s bedside, holding her other hand.

It was many hours before she opened her eyes, which stared at me.  The whole of her face was a milky white, without a trace of a wrinkle, as she lifted her oxygen mask.    Her first words were, “I am dying!”   I wanted her to feel that she was still with us, alive on earth, so I made a provocative remark, “I’ve been chasing the nurses.”   I just managed to read her lips before she returned her oxygen mask.  This is what I believed she spoke, “You would, wouldn’t you!”   I was pleased that I had got through to her again, and that we were on the same wavelength before she closed her eyes again.

Both Joy and I brought our vigil to an end early evening, as there had been no sudden change in her condition.   She was on a drip feed and continuously having her heart monitored.   I was assured the hospital would alert me, should there be a need, before I returned the following morning.   Going home gave me the opportunity to make a number of phone calls, particularly to her best friend at Ludlow, Mabel Brown, who was a member of Ella’s Burway Bowling Club, playing Crown Green Bowls.

Whilst waiting to be allowed to sit with Ella on the Friday morning, the ward sister explained that the house doctor would wish to see me, they were about to phone me.   From the ward office, I could see that there were some changes taking place with the life support equipment.   The house doctor came into the office, and explained that her heart had deteriorated during the night, and that there was no useful purpose in maintaining support on the life-saving equipment.   She could never recover and it was best to let nature take its course.   I thanked the doctor and his staff for the efforts they had made to keep her going.

With screens around the bed, I again held Ella’s hand and kept a close watch for the first visible sign of her awaking, with her face free of the oxygen mask and other monitoring equipment from her body.   During the day, Barbara arrived and sat vigil with me, holding the other hand.   She had driven from Minehead straight after her shift at Hinckley Point Power Station.   She looked tired and anxious, wanting to know the situation.    I made it clear that the passing could occur any time, but hoped that her mum would remain with us, until she had made her farewells with each of her family.

It was as if by magic that her eyes opened after I had spoken to Barbara.  Her eyes, like huge dark glass eyes, in contrast to her white face, without a trace of a wrinkle, stared straight into Barbara’s face.   Both smiled, as we waited for her to speak to us.  Her eyes remained fixed on Barbara, then to our delight her lips started to shape words to us.    This is what I believed she uttered, “Where are you sleeping tonight?”   Barbara, almost crying and half smiling, responded, “I shall be staying with you!”

Ella had let us know that she was with us, before closing her eyes again.  The hospital staff were surprised, when we told them what had taken place.   Ella was showing them that she could still put up a fight for her life.   Did she get a signal when her other hand was held, by another person, who was keeping vigil with her?

Ella survived yet another day, with Barbara and myself taking turns throughout Friday night to be present, should she make a reappearance to surprise those holding vigil with her.

The next morning, Laura arrived from Ludlow and we were also joined by Joy, with the hospital staff still further amazed she was still with us.   

Her passing took place that morning, in the company of the four of us, who had witnessed her brave fight for survival.   I placed my hand on her head and uttered, “God will be with you, my dear, he calls us one at a time.”

Laura returned home almost immediately, whilst Joy and Barbara came back home with me, knowing that I needed support on this loss and that I found myself involved with a second funeral to organise.  

Having had this involvement with the passing of Gladys, it seemed to recall all the sadness I had, making Ella’s loss doubly painful.

Barbara stayed a few days to help me sort out her mum’s affairs, and to keep me company when visiting solicitors, funeral director, and registrar.   Her death certificate stated that she died from:-

a) Left Ventricular Failure

b) Atrial Fibrillation

c) Myocardial Infarction

 Among her papers, a small note was found listing her wishes after her death.  

--- No Fuss. No Flowers. 6 Standard Roses (Silver Jubilee) for Bowls Club.              

    Cremation   ---     Ashes in Ludlow Church with my mother’s.

 Both sides of the family gave her a good send-off, including the Emsworth Stroke and Bridge Clubs, as did the Havant Stroke Club.  The Bedhampton Bowls Club did her proud, by providing a guard of honour from the ladies’ section at the funeral, and lowering the flag to half-mast on the day of her death, before a match was due to be placed.

The local vicar of St Thomas, Bedhampton, conducted the funeral service at Portchester Crematorium, where he read Ella’s eulogy, which was prepared from notes he had taken when he visited me, prior to the funeral.  

Most of the relatives, like Ella’s brother, Jack and his wife, Anne, came from a distance, so that the time of the service was arranged for mid-afternoon.    Bob’s ability was used to the full in preparing a meal from 20 or more relatives, who arrived during the course of the morning, so that they would not need to go in search of a meal.  He had Janet as a back up, to arrange the different sittings.

I had done a car seating plan for the funeral cortège, and can state that all went off as arranged.   It was difficult to disassociate myself from the crematorium service held for Gladys a few years previously.   God works in mysterious ways - beyond understanding!

Here is the eulogy the vicar read out:-


Born at Alton 29-4-15.         Died Q.A. Hospital   13-5-95

Ella and Ken and Jack, her brothers, were born in a family where the father was a master builder, later in Urmston, Manchester.

Ella inherited her creative talents from her father, made manifest in her hobbies - painting tapestry and gardening.

Her former husband, Sam, Alan’s best friend as a child, said she was the best mum that any child could have.  She was also the best daughter, who cared for and nursed her mother for many years, before passing on at Ludlow.

She was mentally bright, for she had been Assistant Secretary to the Association of Public School Headmistresses.   In her mid-fifties, she joined the Ministry of Agriculture.    She was told by her boss it was the best day’s recruitment, when they took her on.   Had she joined in early life, he said, she would have reached the top of her grade.

She never forgot the sad loss of her brother, Ken, an army officer engineer, who was awarded the MC for bravery shortly after landing at Normandy.    Tragically, he was killed after being returned home injured and was given a home post at a research station.    He was asked to look after an experiment which exploded.

She was a founder member of both the Bedhampton and Havant Bowling Clubs.  It is doubtful if any bowling club minutes secretary was ever appointed living more than 100 miles away, as was the case when Ella was appointed to this post at Bedhampton Bowls Club.     Alan, her future husband, had the confidence and nerve to put her name forward, before coming here to live.

She had taken up crown green bowls and Ludlow and soon adapted to flat green and did become champion in the mixed pairs one year.

Her life became wrapped around the club, where she made many friends.

Sadly, when she had a stroke a few years ago, she could not come to terms with not playing bowls.   She was immensely proud to be made an honorary member of the club.   When the club first started, she donated the kitchen sink and cabinet for the pavilion, as she did with the house curtains.

Whenever her husband Alan played there, three questions were always asked:  a) who was there; b) what did they say; c) did they mention my name?   To the last question he always said yes, occasionally with lie!

Havant and Emsworth Stroke Club gave her great support.

The relatives are greatly honoured to know that the Bedhampton Bowls Club did lower their flag to half-mast and have a one minute silence at their bowls match on Saturday.   She will be most thrilled to learn that the ladies, in their whites, will form a guard of honour on her funeral day.


The high regard held by various friends and clubs was revealed when donations were subscribed, in place of flowers, for the Havant and Emsworth Stroke Clubs, at Ella’s request.   The sum of £285 was collected and divided between the two Stroke Clubs.

I was given a surprise when my Emsworth Bridge Club announced that a bridge drive would be held with refreshments, and all money collected would be given to Emsworth Stroke Club, which turned out a very successful occasion, in remembrance of Ella, who had been a member of this bridge club in years gone by.   The sum handed over to the stroke club amounted to £150.

Ella’s family were highly delighted to learn the extent of the high regard held by her many friends and different clubs, as indeed Ella was, when she also learned.   She must have been very proud, having also had the Bedhampton Bowls club lower their flag at half-mast and also given a guard of honour by the ladies’ section, in their whites, at her funeral.

Many tributes were received from Dunster, where her standard roses were planted at the Burways Bowling Club, where she had been a former member and had many close friends.

Laura arranged the spreading of her ashes alongside those of Ella’s mother in the parish church grounds at Ludlow.   The graveyard plaque was amended to read:

Rose Anne Bennett

Ella Beatrice Rayment

One thing for sure is that Alan Rayment cannot come along and steal her away from Ludlow, where her ashes are resting in peace, close to that of her mother’s.

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© Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 20, 2001