This photo of Pam was taken after my parents had visited a dog shelter. They walked out of the shelter saying they didn't see a dog that they wanted so Pam marched them back in and this little puppy was the result. They called him Spikey, he was dad's constant companion until he died in 2005 (the dog not dad!) Pam loved dogs with a passion.
I was listening to a man on the radio last night, Frank Mundo as he talked about losing his brother a year ago. He and his family have a website where they put all his brother's art work and photos and memories. They also put stories and memories on there that friends share. So I invite all those people who knew and loved Pam to please email me and share your stories so that I can put them on this blog. Don't be shy! Come on!
Pam's husband Keith (who was learning to fly planes that's how come they were killed) always said Pam reminded him of Lucille Ball. She sure had that Lucy goosey dizziness going on. She had the same wide-eyed quality, she could make her eyes move really fast from side to side. I never knew anyone else that could do that. Pam got in some scrapes in the multitude of jobs she had over the years... like this...
I wrote this quote on a piece of paper in the months following Pam's death. I found it in a file where I put all the hand-outs on grief that were coming my way. I don't know who wrote it.
"When all the family members are alive, the family system is carefully held in place. When one member dies, the system is thrown into a chaotic state destabilizing each family member. Old ways of coping are no longer effective; those left behind feel exhausted. This exhaustion combined with a sense of disorientation and disillusionment make room for new awarenesses to break into consciousness..awarenesses that at other times a person could keep at bay."
A few months after Pam's accident Ron and I started watching anything we could lay our hands on about the Afterlife. It was comforting. My friend Terry introduced me to her meditation class too. I went there with her once a week. She thought it might help with the pain. And it did for a while. But one night I told the leader I had been overdosing on this afterlife material and she said, "You know the Buddha said all that is a waste of time as we don't know. You'd be better to concentrate on your suffering in the here and now." I wish I'd said what I wanted to say in that here and now moment which was, "Fuck the Buddha!"
Oh day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
2001. Outside the inn in Newport, Rhode Island where Pam was working. She is hugging our nephew Billy and one of the Irish girls. With Mum and Dad and that's me behind them.
I remember sky is a song I used to sing when I was an
actress going for auditions for musicals.
“I remember sky. It was blue as ink, or at least I think I remember
sky.” It makes me feel like
crying. Like now here I am today
finding life a pain in the ass because my back is aching like mad, it’s really
dragging me down. How can I be so
misery-ish when I’ve lost you Pam?
I’m sorry. You probably
think, “Well girl enjoy life, you are alive and I’m not!” Or perhaps you are thinking, “Actually
I’m frigging glad it’s over and I don’t have to suffer backache like you today
ha ha!” Well, which one is it
Pam? I wish you could tell me now. It’s such a bore when I’m ill, it makes
me very serious and at a loss as to how to respond to it. I looked at myself in the mirror and I
said, “You don’t know what to do to look after yourself when you’re ill do
you?” And the answer was no.
I finally lay on the tile
floor with the dogs and tried to be a dog. I lay next to Paako and I lifted his paw onto me. Anyway I got bored being a dog.
I remember being able to call
you Pam when I felt like this and tell you about my funk and then you could do
the same with me. I remember that
was before we started working on our codependence and then we thought we
couldn’t do it anymore. But
sometimes when things got really bad we would. Like when I first started dating Ron and he didn’t call me
that day and I went into a pit of horror I called you and you said, “no Jane I
don’t think I should do another tarot card reading for you because I’ve just done
one and it said everything was great.
Why don’t you just feel your feelings instead?” And I did. And then the next morning when I called
you again to tell you I was still in a state you said to keep on feeling those
But I haven’t been able to
feel my feelings lately. I feel
cold inside. Perhaps if I could
call you, you would know what to say to me. I think you knew me better than I knew myself. I want to remember and I don’t want to,
it hurts too much. That is the
problem you see Pam. I don’t
remember the details and that’s what bothers me. Oh I remember the room at the inn and the kitchen down below where you
used to bake your little muffins.
The flat upstairs which was so cozy and you letting me come and stay
there with you even though it was too small. I remember reading a book that I found in that little new
age bookshop about Jane Roberts and Seth.
And we cycled around Ocean Drive me talking like the Irish girls who also worked at the inn and you laughed. I kept calling you Dervla, do it again you kept shouting, do it again! And you laughed and laughed. You watched me cry because I was so
upset about men and you saw me get drunk out of my head that night and throw
myself at that man who owned a boat called the Pearl Necklace. You were right there by my side Pam, my
sister all the way. Right up until
the end. I remember the problems
you had too and the way we would talk and talk about all the problems and the
dysfunction and when we went home that Christmas your face looking at me as if
to say what are you doing this for?
When I was singing those carols so loudly and acting out like an
angry daughter. You looked at me
with disapproval I remember, you keeping a lid on it. Sitting there in a grey cardigan keeping a lid on it. Letting it all run on.
Andy Connelljust put this on Facebook of himself and my heart skipped a beat. This is the last song Pam sang to me. Bitter, bitter sweet Andy and Pam...two people I love dearly.
It was December 2007 and we were all wending our way to
England to spend Christmas with our parents. I decided to go to Pam’s B&B in Newport for a week on
the way. Pam was taking part in a
dinner theatre Christmas cabaret at the time and had a solo spot singing the
above song. She was eager for me
to watch the show and I of course was eager to go along. So we drove over to this cute little
venue in her silver Mazda sport’s car.
She introduced me to the other singers who all seemed of course to
adore her. As they each
walked away Pam told me their back-stories. I sat at the bar with Pam’s husband Keith to watch as the show began. They sang the typical Christmas fare
all of them dressed in glittery clothes with warm winter scarves thrown around
their necks. Then it came to Pam’s
solo. She sat on a chair centre
stage the other singers draping themselves around her some sitting on the floor
looking up at her as she sang. She
was enchanting to me as always, and tears welled up in my eyes. And what a truly gorgeous song this is I mused,
perfect for her. I scanned the
room proudly but to my indignation you COULDN’T hear a pin drop! People in the audience were holding
conversations whilst my beautiful sister was singing! This will never do! How very dare they! I began to beadily scrutinize her performance for clues. Right! In no time at all could see what the problem was. I made a mental note to
set this matter straight as soon as we returned to the house. Having worked for many years as an
actress I knew how to fix this.
So when we got back I threw my coat on a chair and launched
into action. I immediately
declared, “Pam! You are singing the song all wrong!” Pam winced a little knowing her sister only too well. She tried to explain to me that she
didn’t really care but I was adamant.
“Look Pam people were talking!”
Pam shrugged. “Don’t you
want them to listen?! Oh come on
of course you do, come on let me show you.” I went to find YouTube on Pam’s laptop and started searching
for a clip of Judy Garland singing the song. “But Jane,” Pam bleated “It’s OK as it is. The other singers love me singing it
this way.” “Yes but Pam it’s not
good enough! We should have been able to hear a pin drop. We'll have none of that audience talking while singer is singing lark around here! Come on, please, look.” Pam sighing sat on the high chair next
to her desk and as we both focused on the computer the master class began. “Now Pam this is the problem. You are singing the song
cheerfully. Right? Wrong! You are swaying rather jauntily from side to side and it’s
all kind of upbeat and jazzy. No,
no, no! Now watch.” And I clicked onto Judy singing. Pam looked at Judy and then looked at
me expressionless. “Do you
see?” Pam shrugged
melancholy Pam, sad not cheery. Now let’s get to work.” And whether Pam liked it or not I
completely changed the way she delivered the song until to my mind it was perfect. “There! Now when you sing that song tomorrow
evening I guarantee you will hear that pin drop.”
The next evening I stayed at home. When Pam got back from the cabaret I asked rather smugly how it went. "Worse," she said. "What? You're kidding me why?" "The other performers didn't like it. They were going mad asking why I'd changed it and to change it back!" "Oh, that's ridiculous!" I said, "Ah but what were the audience like?" I asked confidently. "Quieter," she said, "listening." "There you are then. I told you! Well weren't you pleased?" I said. "Yes but anyway I think I'll change it back to the old way." "Do what? But why?" I asked. I think it was probably peer pressure. This turned out to be Pam's last Christmas.
In about oooh 1988/89 I was in a production of The Little Prince at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre. I played a Rose and a Fox. Pam came to see it. She particularly liked my Rose. I'm going to write the story of this sometime. Oh did we giggle. She liked my Fox too and bought me a toy fox soon after which I still have.
I think about this story from time to time and the fact that it was written by a pilot. This pilot,Antoine St Exuperydisappeared whilst flying his plane. The last Christmas before the accident I bought Pam's husband Keith one of his books called Night Flight. Keith was learning to fly planes, that's how my sister died. The instructor and Pam and Keith all died. Like with Antoine St Exupery no one knows what happened. He once said, "Only the unknown frightens men. But once a man has faced the unknown, that terror becomes the known."
Have you seen the documentary Man on Wire? It is about a Frenchman who tightrope walked across the twin towers in New York. My friend said when he saw him on that wire he couldn’t stop crying. The man on the wire is walking. People are walking. Alone. Up steep hills, into a temple. Walking alone, silhouetted in darkness against a blue horizon, head down. All heads down. I hardly noticed the twin towers. There are so many buildings that block the view of the sky and the little rabbit is so sad that all the seeds are taken away and the smoke is taking over. In my dream I dreamed that the Nazis were coming and my father put on a suit and tie in readiness and I said no, no that is not the right thing to wear, come on we must run, get away. To talk to Pam that’s all I wish for now. To get past those stones that wait in the garden, as the little girl lies sick in bed waiting. The stones moving closer every time she looks out of the window. What do they want those stones? Why can’t I go with you? Oh, my spirit. With the man dressed in black with the red belt and the heavy bag as he goes into the temple. Maybe I could sing in the glow of that golden light? At the foot of the world trade centre? My sister has been killed like Joan of Arc and the burning meanders in my mind and it is like JD Salinger who wrote about a family like mine who’s brother dies and Franny gets a little book and wants to run into it and she can’t eat her sandwich. Seriously you couldn’t stop seeing him could you? If you had this would never have happened so precisely. My Joan of Arc. My little daisy, my buttercup. But you cared for him didn’t you? Like an octopus kiss and you were his little moon. Angels part the clouds and grant us deliverance.
The mysterious hum… it sounds like a cue for a song with my sister. I was so angry. But you are so soft like the soft animal body covered with stars. You are white and alabaster and I have to learn a new language. I’m looking for the mysterious hum at the earth’s centre to find my forget-me-not. I am the daughter of the name of my mother and today when I got out of the bath I sat for a moment and gently sobbed, my skin looking for you. Meanwhile the world goes on. You are like a jewel a huge precious sapphire and your gown gently blows as the breeze calls to you like the wild geese. I sit day after day with my ear to the earth and my face cracking. I met Jayne Liddy in my dream, she wore blue first then pink as she disappeared down the hole right to the earth’s centre. The bird is in flight moving on from loss from the time that was. There was a mouse there on the stair and now it’s gone. You are gone and so has Jayne Liddy but she came back to me in the dream like the lady in white and we talked and then she said she’d better go and wasn’t sure how long she’d got. And now the star shines bright and she has a green rabbit and a starfish and she’s all right. He said she’s all right now it’s us left behind who have to deal with all the shit. A little mouse with clogs on, there on the stair going clip clippoty clop on the stair right there. I’m looking for the mysterious hum. I’ll find it and when I do we can still sing together you and I we will sing. I’ll do what he said I’ll sing and I’ll know you are singing with me… the daughter of the name of my mother.
I am so glad that something told me to look at my blog yesterday, which I hadn't done for ages. To my surprise someone had left a comment! I haven't shared anything on here since last March...kind of lost my enthusiasm. But how great to know from the comment that this blog has helped someone in their grief. I am really grateful for your generosity..commenter. And now re-inspired to carry on...thank you!
The deep black water shimmering in the moonlight oozes, engorged towards a waterfall of mist, my sister. As I stare at the black water, black like my fingernail I feel dizzy, like I’m falling into a trance. I can’t see. I don’t know the darkness outside and in. The velvet water calls me and like the golden vase I empty myself dreamily like pink cascading flowers into the deep place. My sister is dead. I see Ron’s eyes looking at me as I lose focus. I dream and from my dreams the thunder wakes me. The flickering lightening flickering my eyelids bringing me back to the fact that I know. She’s running, drinking tea to forget you. The dream was dropping me into the water. I was losing you. I left you for New Mexico and it’s glorious sunsets and it’s dark nights. As the crickets whisper and the candle and the shrine I think of you. I know it was you that night at my window. Calling to me, calling. I dreamed that you were happy and present enjoying the flowers in my garden, and the breeze. Leaves are green and my sister is dead. And the pink flowers continue to tumble and the black sea continues to ooze. I’m sad that you won’t be going to the wedding with me. My fervent vain wish is that you were still alive happy and present and enjoying the flowers. On flower after flower you would land like a butterfly. That is how you lived your life. I’m afraid of the judgment like you used to be. I’d like to sit by the glow of the golden light and lose myself in the inky black waves. It’s cold, cold without you.
This blog is about me and my sister Pam who was killed age 43 in a plane crash on July 3rd 2008 along with the instructor Charlie and her husband Keith who was learning to fly. These stories and thoughts keep me close to her, it's her shrine.