On A More Personal Note …
I must begin by apologising for not having ‘posted’ in the last couple of days. I was just sitting down to write the next instalment when I received some shocking and extremely saddening news. My Dad’s “baby sister” Kathy, who was just 6 years older than me, died suddenly in hospital after a routine and apparently successful operation. Being so close in age, our relationship was more that of sisters who lived apart than of Aunt and Niece. We were close in all the right ways even though our meetings in recent years had been few and far between.Kathy had had an operation earlier in the year to remove some pre-cancerous growths from her bowel, which had left her with a temporary stoma. She went into hospital last week to have the stoma reversed and I spoke to her on the telephone the day after her operation. She was her usual chatty, lively and positive self and we were making plans for a Family Reunion next spring. She felt great, she said, and fully expected to be home by the weekend. When the weekend arrived, her newly re-connected bowel wasn’t working as well as everyone had hoped but it was nothing unusual, we were told, and the medics were confident that they would “get things moving” and she would be home very soon.
Then on Sunday their concern about her bowel grew and they took her into Intensive Care. On Monday, one week after her original surgery, they returned her to theatre where they discovered a blockage in the bowel, which they successfully cleared. However, when the 2nd operation was complete they had difficulty in returning her vital signs to normal - her blood pressure was dangerously low. They kept her sedated, returned her to Intensive Care and on Tuesday morning she vomited some residual stomach contents into her life-support tubes. Because of her already weakened state, they were unable to resuscitate her and she died without regaining consciousness.
Kathy met her husband Martin while they were serving together in the Royal Naval Reserve on HMS President, while ‘President’ was still an old mine-sweeper moored on the
Thames at Victoria Embankment. They both rose steadily through the ranks, Martin becoming “Chief of the Boat” and Kathy “Chief Wren” in the Regulating branch. For many years they were on the committee of the ‘Chiefs’ Mess and helped to manage extremely successfully the social life of the ship. Kathy received the BEM for her work in writing a training manual for the RNR.
She and Martin had been together for many years but did not marry until they had both retired from the RNR in their early 50s. Although 64 and legally able to retire, she continued to work as a Pensions Administrator and in addition had just successfully completed the first module of an Open University degree course. When I spoke to her last she was eagerly anticipating starting work on the second module during her convalescence. She was also an avid family historian and had traced our family back to the late 17th / early 18th Century – no mean feat when you consider that in the 19th Century many were ‘Barge Folk’ who moved around the country and were extremely hard to track down!
Kathy had a strong, forceful personality allied with a typically ‘Service’ sense of humour. She may not always have suffered fools gladly but she was quick to recognise the humour in situations and had a great sense of the absurd. She and Martin loved to walk and were involved in the restoration of waste ground near their home as a wild-life haven. Whatever she set her mind to, she achieved, however much effort was involved. She was a real ‘presence’ in my life and in the lives of everyone who knew her. Speaking of her in the past tense seems entirely wrong – I love her dearly and wherever she is now, I hope they know how lucky they are to have her. For myself, I shall miss her every day of my life.