Memory fades


I’ve had mortality on my mind this week. Sorry if this is a morbid subject but death is the one certain aspect of our lives and we don’t like to talk about it.


We nearly lost lovely Giuseppina a couple of weeks ago. She is my mother-in-law and celebrated her ninety-second birthday on January 1st. Since my own mother passed away far too young, Giuseppina has been like my mother. Unfortunately, she is now suffering from Alzheimer’s. We hear the same stories over and over again, but I don’t mind that. I love stories – I’m a writer, after all. It’s as if her stories – and her identity –  are being reinforced through repetition, so we don’t forget about her. I came across some poignant lines by Carolyn Haynali:


“Pray for me. I was once like you.


Be kind and loving to me, that’s how I would have treated you.


Remember I was once someone’s parent or spouse. I had a life and a dream for the future.


Speak to me, I can hear you even if I don’t understand what you are saying. Speak to me of things in my past of which I can still relate.”


Mamma, as I call her, speaks about her time in the Second World War when she courted a handsome British army captain whom she married. She speaks about how a partisan was hidden in the family’s home, of the hunt for food in the countryside during a terrifying air raid – how she dived into a farmhouse to escape the bombs and came across a young German soldier strafing British planes. She speaks of her early bewildering years as a foreign bride on the edge of the Fens and how she feared non-acceptance. Of course, she speaks about happier times too and we love to listen to all these incidents that shaped her life. And I’ve included many in my first novel, “Tuscan Roots”. Who cares if she repeats herself? We will miss her stories when she’s gone, and it is important we know about her history.

The legacy of words is vital. Stories passed down orally can be distorted or exaggerated whilst the written word is a valuable testament. Look at this 1,800 year-old fragment of a recently deciphered letter from an Egyptian soldier while he served as a volunteer as a Roman legion in Europe. The letter is addressed to his mother and reflects his concern that six of his letters written home remain unanswered. These are emotions that any modern soldier would experience and a comforting piece of history, of common themes that transcend time.history

When I was at school, we used to learn poetry by heart and the lines of Walter de la Mare’s poem, “Farewell”, have somehow resurfaced in my brain

When I lie where shades of darkness
Shall no more assail mine eyes,
Nor the rain make lamentation
When the wind sighs;
How will fare the world whose wonder
Was the very proof of me?
Memory fades, must the remembered
Perishing be?

Oh, when this my dust surrenders
Hand, foot, lip, to dust again,
May these loved and loving faces
Please other men!
May the rusting harvest hedgerow
Still the Traveller’s Joy entwine,
And as happy children gather
Posies once mine.

Look thy last on all things lovely,
Every hour. Let no night
Seal thy sense in deathly slumber
Till to delight
Thou have paid thy utmost blessing;
Since that all things thou wouldst praise
Beauty took from those who loved them
In other days.

Walter de la Mare.

So, life comes it comes full circle. Yesterday we were allowed to share the wonderful news of a new grandchild to be born in early August. I hope this baby will one day be patient with me as I repeat my stories and I’ll leave you with that positive, happy thought.

new baby



About Angela Petch

Bit of a story dreamer, written two novels - a third in progress. I love my little family and in no particular order afterwards: Italian culture, food, wine, walking everywhere I can and especially in the Apennines, East Africa, tennis when I can, reading, reading and more reading. So much to discover still before I die.
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11 Responses to Memory fades

  1. What a moving post, Angela. Giuseppina sounds very special and how wonderful that you have saved some of her memories in your book, to be read and remembered by others.
    Angela xx


    • Angela Petch says:

      Thank you, Angela. I’ve changed some of the events, but a great deal of the story is hers. When she was able to read it, a couple of years ago, she said she felt she was reading about herself. Another elderly lady of 94 (also an Italian who came away to live in England) has commented on the reality of some of the situations. So, I feel very gratified that at least those two “got” what I was trying to achieve in my book. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.x


  2. Wendy Clarke says:

    What a beautiful and moving post, Angela. Congratulations on the wonderful news of a new grandchild x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Celia Bush says:

    Your words are very moving, Angela. My sister and I write down and keep in mind the family stories that came from our parents.
    I have always loved that poem by Walter Dr last Mare: thanks for reminding me of it.


    • Angela Petch says:

      Brilliant idea, Celia. I wish I had done that with my own parents. They died at 70 – far too young and I was occupied with Rosie, who was 3 weeks old when my father died. We are trying to put together a family tree now, but it would be so good to have more of their stories. I know more about my mother-in-law’s youth than about my own parents…I have an account my father wrote when he was about 19, walking through London after a blitz attack and I will try and do something with this. Thanks for reading the blog. Grazie!


  4. Beautiful words, Angela. It’s important to retell their stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Angela Petch says:

    Thanks, Jessie – I don’t want it to be morbid, just reflective.


  6. jessiecahalin says:

    A poignant and beautiful reflection.

    Liked by 1 person

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