To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Hong Kong

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Death in the Family

On Tuesday March 24 (Wednesday Morning HK Time) my mother, may she rest in peace, died in London. My son emailed me during the night to tell me that she was dying and not expected to last until the weekend. She died soon after he sent the email.

Whilst inevitable, it was nevertheless a shock ... Regrettably 2 years ago I had realised that I had already lost her. She had, in effect, already slipped away, and the shell which remained lacked the essence of that person who had given birth to and nurtured me. I grieved then, now I am just profoundly sad.

As it happens, I was coming to visit her over Easter, so I moved up my flight up to come and bury her instead. My elder sons, bless them, both tried to protect me from stress, seeking to share the burden of making arrangements. I truly love them and appreciate their consideration but this responsibility was mine Aaron had, during the last couple of years, done more than enough, by shouldering my responsibilities in dealing with my mother and her care home etc. And Patrick, (whose heart is unquestionably in the right place) stepped up unhesitatingly to do his bit, (although this may be to do with a certain lack of confidence in his old man's organisational abilities)

In the event on Wednesday morning, I went home packed , made various calls, confirmed flights etc and repacked. I found that the most difficult thing was breaking the news to mum's sister-in-law in New Zealand, .I couldn't cope with talking to my uncle. I also found it upsetting when the young girl at the undertakers wished me "long life", and it was not easy to prepare a snap shot which sums up my mums life (I was asked to write some notes about my mother for the service) .

I flew into Heathrow on Friday 6:30am. By 10:00am I had collected the "Cause of Death" form from the doctors, registered her death, collected the green burial form and contacted the undertakers. Coincidentally the Registrar had been born in Hong Kong. It's a global village! After getting a bite to eat I went to a nearby library to access the internet, visited mum's care home, checked in at a nearby Lodge and crashed.

By 9:00am the following morning I had hand delivered the green certificate to the undertaker in Manor Park. I was running on HK time (up ludicrously early) so I walked from Snaresbrook, through Wanstead Village, past St Mary's Church, the Golf Club,through the Forest, and across Wanstead flat's. These are places that I had not visited in 45 years. As a boy I used to look for "conkers" in the churchyard at St Mary's, lost golf balls on the Golf Course and played in the Forest. When I was twelve I learned to dance (for my barmitzvah) at "Dennis Drew's Studio" in Manor Park and I bought fish for my aquarium opposite the Station. I also remember a party in the block of flats nearby when I was slightly older ... where I got seriously lucky with a ginger haired girl.(strange what you remember) I had breakfast in a local cafe before going back to mum's care home to clear her things. All gone in couple of hours - made me reflect of how transient we all are.

On Sunday/Monday I waited for the boys to fly in (their flight was delayed 2 hours due to bad weather) and I marked time, trying to get my body clock on UK time (I failed miserably). On Tuesday I buried my mother. We left early (not because I wished to get it over but because I feared being late for my own mother's funeral). I had been told that it might take 2 hours to get to the Cemetary. It actually took considerably less and we arrived 2 hours early. I would like to think that mum might have appreciated the fact that we killed time by going for an Albanian breakfast.The service was simple and dignified if somewhat under attended. The boys and I were deeply touched that my friend Edward came particularly since his brother had just gone into hospital for a liver transplant. Afterwards we went back to Wanstead for the traditional Jewish" Seudat Hawra'ah" ("first/consolation meal after a funeral) or more precisely we celebrated mum's life in the Irish style followed by a Chinese meal.

Regrettably my wife was not there to order for us .......

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