Three years ago today we heard that my lovely sister-in-law, Gill, had died the day before. We were preparing for my Dad’s funeral the next day so it was a doubly dreadful time. However, since 2012, we have remembered both Gill and Dad only for the many happy times we shared, the great love and affection they both showed, the creative gifts they were blessed with and their sense of fun.
I admired Gill for her abilities as an artist and craftswoman; she could turn her hand to anything, from painting, drawing, needlework, dry-stone-walling to creating a stone-wheel herb garden from scratch. I wrote about that in Garden of Remembrance.
The first picture is of Gill, with her her great friend Sue. I can’t be sure, as I wasn’t there, but I wouldn’t mind betting that the cake is one of Gill’s creations. I first spent time with Gill and her daughters back in 1974; I was just her little brother’s girlfriend then, but she made sure I was welcomed as part of the family.
This picture is from that Christmas and shows Gill in her Happi Coat, dressing-gown, which I remember hanging on the back of the bathroom door at the family home. Once again, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of Gill’s creations. It’s a patchwork of curtain fabric remnants. Maria von Trapp would have been proud of her.
Each year of our married life, we tried to spend some time with Gill and her family over the Christmas period. Sometimes, my parents would be there too, or Gill’s daughters and granddaughters. I have very happy memories of visiting her in the 1990s, when Gill would devise a Treasure Hunt around the cottage and gardens where she and her husband lived. You can tell she was a crossword expert by the cryptic nature of the clues - and she got them to rhyme as well!
One year, when her elder daughter was living in Australia, we all got together and made a video for her. I still have a grainy copy, and I love it because we all said a piece to camera and my Dad spoke in one of his funny voices; a rare piece of footage indeed.
We all associate snowmen with Christmas, and not just on Christmas Cards. This picture shows both that creative talent and the sense of fun that Gill brought to the job of snowman building; who else would fashion the Three Bears instead of just a plain old snowman?
Below are two examples of Gill’s wonderful treasure hunt questions, and look at that lovely writing too.
|Chocolate cake after the Treasure Hunt 1993|
During the latter years of Gill’s life we spent all our Christmasses here in Lanzarote and when Gill’s Parkinson’s finally became too much, she preferred to be a little quieter. After her second husband died she moved to a care home which catered for her needs. Gill was very content there and the Christmas before she died she was even enjoying making Mince Pies. Sadly the dementia which accompanied the Parkinson’s robbed her of much of that creative ability and the tremor meant she was no longer able to write with a clear hand, but knowing Gill, she would have put her own litte creative stamp on those pies.
We miss her very much but we prefer to remember her as the funny, clever and creative woman she was, and to recall all those times we were lucky enough to spend 'Christmas with Gill’.
For more memories and old photos, visit this week's Sepia Saturday.