Tuesday 22 December 2009

Ghosts on the street

As writers almost everything that happens to us is often plundered to help create real emotion for our characters, and although fiction is created from our imagination it is often spurred on or generated by our own experiences.

Quite mundane places - street corners, houses, churches or halls, schools or parks where we recall meeting people or incidents, can remain like ghosts in our own, or our characters' heads.

With thoughts of A Christmas Carol on my mind I realised that we all have our ghosts of times past. Perhaps it is the festive season, so much a time for families, or the fact that another year is drawing to a close that makes us so inclined to remember both happy and sad times - and those who are no longer with us.
This year, sadly, I have two dear friends whose families will now see Christmas without them, and this reminded me of my own Ghost on the Street.

At the side of one particular road a stretch of about 50 yards of nondescript pavement and curb always haunts me as I drive past. To a passerby there is nothing to see, no astounding, astonishing difference between this and any other part of the street, but each time I pass it a scene plays out in my head – vivid and demanding attention.

I arrived at my place on the road one bright and sunny Sunday that was promising nothing particularly noteworthy other than a pleasant lunch out with my elderly aunt. She was looking forward to it and so was I, and although she suffered from some memory loss she was generally fit, and good company. The day was warm so when she said she was feeling uncomfortable I stopped the car at the side of the road to let her remove her jacket. She began to feel unwell, suddenly looking quite pale, but still assuming it was just the heat I wasn’t too concerned and was happy to wait until she felt well enough to continue our short journey.
But within 15 minutes I was calling an ambulance, unsure if I was overreacting but unwilling to take the chance - 24 hours later my aunt was dead.

Those 15 minutes stay in my head and haunt me each time I pass the place it happened. What exactly happened? Could I have foreseen it, or done anything differently? I realised later that it was just one of those times when you have to follow along from moment to moment and see what happens next. But I sometimes wonder what we would have said to each other, if we had realised it was to be her last day. At times like this I try to remember that she was so happy to be going out rather than sitting on her own at home, but those long minutes at the side of the road stay with me.

Life continues and this Christmas we have the joy of a new baby in the family. During the celebrations, especially when recalling family stories and happy times, we will raise a glass to my aunt and the others who are no longer with us, remembering them not with tears but with smiles and laughter.

So, to all the Awfully Big Blog Adventure readers and writers and your families -I wish you happy memories, a warm and joyful Christmas, and a wonderful and successful 2010.

Visit my website at www.lindastrachan.co.uk


Rosalind Adam said...

What a moving article, Linda. Losing your aunt like that may have been traumatic for you but it must have been so much more reassuring for your aunt to be with you rather than sitting on her own at home. And now a baby to share your Christmas. How wonderful. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

I agree. A much better way to end than on your own and with nothing to do. And you did call an ambulance, so you didn't just ignore how she felt.

Unknown said...

How strange, the struggle between the belief that we are in control of what happens and predestination. I travelled to spend a day with my husband's aged aunt and uncle, she very infirm and unable to move, and he died in my arms, leaving me - a part time minister in the church of England -to support all those present.

Linda Strachan said...

Thanks Rosalind, I am looking forward to this Christmas with little Abigail.

Bookwitch, yes, she really enjoyed going out and about and it is some consolation that she was not on her own that day.

Carole Anne - how difficult that must have been for you