A Letter to Papounet.

Check, Papounet....Little My playing with you last summer.

Check, Papounet….Little My playing with you last summer.

Dear Papounet,

Since you passed away, I keep finding myself talking to you out loud. The stray cat you used to feed comes running every time, and your neighbours must think I’m one can short of a six-pack as I chat with thin air. I’m writing to you on my blog, because you were a regular reader – you even wrote “MM” on the last envelope I received from you. Knowing you, you are already hooked up to St Peter’s internet router with a glass of punch in your hand, because that’s the kind of person you were.

I hope that you found your eulogy acceptable. I wrote my own eulogy for fun once, but I never thought I’d have to write a real one – why did it have to be for you? None of us wanted corny, tear-jerking crap, so I put a dose of MM humour in there, and we managed to raise a laugh at your funeral. I’m sure that the vicar will get over it. (That, and the assorted platters of cold meat we cheerfully offered him afterwards – the resident font frog nearly keeled over with shock, and we had to revive her with a glass of orange juice. In all the kerfuffle, we had forgotten that it was Good Friday. I can hear you laughing from here.)

Grief is a weird thing – we’re new at this game. I You’ve been gone for exactly thirteen days, and the feelings are still raw. Your favourite magazines are still in a neat pile, and your armchair has been literally shouting into the room for attention. Nobody has moved your favourite cup. Everything has changed, yet in appearance, nothing has changed. Life appears to be suspended in mid-air, waiting for you to walk back in and slam the door.

Yesterday, the wind whipped through the olive branches as I pegged the laundry out to dry, coaxing a silver ripple out of the leaves on its journey to freedom. I pulled the flannel from the tangled pile, and the tears welled up.

I angrily wiped them away and lectured myself. Who cries for a flannel?

I do.

I’ve become an emotional crumple zone. PF had been surprised to see me cry when I saw the pot of your favourite jam sitting on the breakfast table. Ordinary, everyday things now spark off a wave of feelings – inanimate objects have suddenly and inexplicably started yelling your name at me, whispering memories into my ear.

Like the flannel. I pegged it on the line and stared at it. The last time I had held it, I was joking with you in the hospital room. I had taken the flannel, a basin of hot water, some soap and the nail clippers, and took care of your feet. As I trimmed your toenails, you recounted the history of the scars on your toes. A nurse came in, and you asked her to take me on. I enquired if there was anyone she didn’t like on the ward today, and offered her the nail clippings to put into their coffee. She declined. You grinned.

Shortly afterwards, PF called and asked me to give you a hug and a kiss. So I carefully snuggled up on your shoulder and you put your arms around me. I kissed the warmth of your neck, and told you that it was from your son. Then I blew a gentle raspberry on your skin, and it tickled. You laughed out loud. I stood up, took my bag and promised that I would return with PF and your grandchildren, and you promised that you would wait for us. I turned in the doorway and told you to fight, flexing my biceps. You pulled a face, and did likewise. I blew you a kiss, and you said good-bye. I cried on the motorway – you had never called me “ma fille” – “my daughter” – before that day.

I kept my promise, and you kept yours. It will take us some time to adjust to life without you. For the moment, life is a bowl of toenail clippings – you would have enjoyed learning that expression. I’m proud to have known you, Papounet… and I know you’re still here with us.



90 thoughts on “A Letter to Papounet.

      • Oops, sorry. I can imagine how tough it is for you after knowing him for so long, sounds like you were very lucky to have such a great relationship x

  1. I am so very sorry to hear of your great loss. Your writing oozes your love and the loss you feel.
    As you know I am no stranger to loss and just last week another friend lost her son in an accident.
    I am glad you can feel him around you. I find that those tears filled with grief are a good release and in a way remembering is now the closest you get to spending time with those you have lost.
    Grief is a long lonely road my thoughts are with you today. Virtual hugs. Xxx

      • Hi MM, I was asked by an Ex pat who lives on the other side of Italy if I could send her some of our crisps. I checked out the price of sending them by TNT and it was the same price for 2 boxes or 3 boxes (20 packets in a box) So she ordered 3. They arrived in 3 days.

        We mixed the flavours for her, lots of salt and vinegar, bacon etc and only a couple of the chilli crisps. I would be happy to send some to you 🙂 Honestly they are to die for.

        I do have a big problem….. The crisps are stored in the wine cantina next to my house and they are too great a temptation for me, I need to sell them before I eat them.

    • Hi Elaine! Thank you. I will be using your lemon drizzle cake as a necessary medicine to comfort myself. Probable the best remedy for the blues that I have ever seen (bar an evening with George Clooney).

      • George Clooney and lemon drizzle cake – Yum. 🙂
        I’m pleased to know that my recipe has medicinal properties, which will of course cancel out any calories that it may contain!

  2. Sorry for your loss, but this is absolutely beautiful. And even in your grief, you managed to make me laugh with your “life is a bowl of toenail clippings” comment.

    • Cheers, my lovely. I first saw “Life is a bowl of toenail clippings” on a wall when I was a child – I was fascinated by graffiti. I never forgot it, and in the present case it is strangely symbolic. I cut my toenails this morning and thought of my father-in-law – how incongruous can life get?

  3. What a brilliant letter written with such feeling that I had to read it twice… your loss is felt in a post written that can be but described by one word… brilliant

    • Hi Bulldog! Are you feeling better? I hope that I’ll be back to more regular blogging soon so that I can catch up on your blog and everyone else’s, but life has been a bit of a vortex recently. I’ve been spat out at the end and am in the process of picking myself up, dusting myself down and getting back on track. Hugs x

      • You hang in there MM… it can be soul destroying and when time is needed, take it…
        I’m slowly returning to health, just the collapsed lungs are taking time to repair…
        Go well and take your time to mourn, it is all part of the return to normality…

  4. Beautifully written and laden with such love and grief that it brought tears to my eyes,. MM. I remember Papounet’s comments on here and the mutual affection shown in them and your replies. The severing of that kind of loving relationship leaves a big wound which will take a long time to heal. Big hugs.
    PS Humour at a funeral is good. take it from one who knows.

    • Papounet was very enthusiastic about the blog, and I was always nervous about what he would think of the posts. He stopped commenting when he got too ill to do so. He told me to publish. I will.
      I thought of you at the funeral – how vicars and priests manage to hold it all together faced with so much distress is a mystery to me. The vicar was however affected when Little My pulled out her guitar to play a short piece for her papi at the end of the ceremony rather than subject everyone to heavy and sad classical music. We wanted to do something simple and personal to avoid making everyone cry, but it had the opposite effect and they all dissolved into tears. Sigh.

      • That would have had me in tears too, MM. But tears are GOOD too, even in public and I used to encourage bereaved people not to be afraid of them. It can be hard to keep one’s emotions in check when officiating at a funeral and I didn’t always manage it, especially when the funeral was of a parishioner who had become a good friend. No-one ever minded though. As someone once remarked to me, “At least it shows vicars are human inside all those robes” 🙂

  5. Dear MM, I’ve been thinking of you and wondering how you were doing since your last post. My condolences to you all and especially PF. Your blog made me smile and well up at the same time. I’m sure Papounet is smiling down on you as he reads over your shoulder.

  6. A beautiful letter MM – I read it with tears streaming down my face. Grief is something we all share and feel and your touching words certainly were soul-felt.
    My deepest condolences. Hopefully the good memories, laughter and joyful times will soon start to crowd out the tears.

    • Thank you! Papounet was a wonderful father-in-law – a real friend. He was French, but was a real anglophile and read in English. When he discovered expressions or words he didn’t know, he called me or wrote me an email to find out what they meant. We used to play around with each other’s language, translating idiomatic expressions so that they didn’t mean anything at all.

  7. I’m so very, very sorry to hear of your loss. I know a little of the feeling that comes with “seeing the jam jar,” as my mother-in-law lived with us several years before she passed. She was my friend, not just my husband’s mother. I know you gave Papounet joy, and that’s a gift that passes with us on the next leg of the “journey,” I think. Now it’s time to grieve, and I would only encourage, as have others, to take your time to feel that loss and cry those tears. You’ve touched me deeply with your love for him. Big hugs. ox

    • Maybe we should write a song called “the jam jar blues”. It’s fabulous that you made a friend out of your mother-in-law. Not many people manage that! I bet she was very happy to be with you, too. Hugs right back at you, girl xx

  8. You are beyond beautiful. No wonder your family treasures you. You speak of grief in a way that brings all loss to weepable distance – something that, I believe, is a service – and yet this is particular to you. Thinking of you with love.

    • Beyond beautiful? That’s lovely. If you saw the state of me today I think you’d rephrase that – I’m all wild-haired with bags under my eyes 🙂 Love winging its way back to you, with a cherry on top.

  9. Such beautiful letter MM …it is obvious from your writing that you shared a very special relationship with your father-in-law which will in time be a huge comfort to you.Be prepared for the jam jar moments to pop up many years from now – my Dad died over 12 years ago and I still get them from time to time only now they bring with them lots of happy memories which do eventually replace the grief…..wishing you and your family many happy memories too xx
    PS I would have cried buckets at Little My’s guitar……

  10. I remember his comments on your blog…and what you have written about him makes it clear why you feel about his death as you do….so very sorry for you and your family.

    • Thanks, Helen. I hope you have some coffee left in Costa Rica – I’ve probably drunk all your stocks dry over the last three weeks, but I’m still a zombie.
      Papounet was an exceptional person. I’ll miss him.

      • Hi MM ! Well, we would have to ask my cousin when she was 2 years old. She called her “grand milou”, I think just because it sounded warm and kindly, then the name remains for ever 🙂

      • Awwww, that’s so sweet! My son called my grandmother GGB – Great Grandma Barmcake – because she made him memorable sausage sandwiches the first time he met her, and they are called barmcakes. My Grandma was barmy, so the name fitted her perfectly 🙂

  11. I feel for you, MM. My dad died two years ago today. April is a cruel month.

    Your letter is lovely and heartfelt, and Papounet sounds like he was a very special man. No wonder you miss him so much. Big hugs. xxx

  12. beautiful letter MM. Someone told me that “grief is the price we pay for love”
    how very true this is.

  13. Words fail me.
    Luckily, they didn’t fail you – that was beautiful. I wish I had your talent for writing.
    Best wishes to you’n’yours at this time.
    Mic (aka NobblySan)

  14. Oh my… such a beautifully written and heartfelt letter to your dear Papounet. You had my chin all wobbly and the tears flowing. You obviously shared a wonderful friendship and I’m sure he appreciated the humour at his funeral, as well as Little My’s guitar playing. Those jam jar moments come at us out of the blue don’t they? When my grandmother died, I found it really helped to keep a journal… I use it to write to her, whenever I want to say ‘Hey Granny…’ and talk to her about whatever’s on my mind. Big love and hugs to you and yours MM xxx

    • Noooo, don’t cry, TAC 😦 The jam jar moments are numerous, and I’m at the stage where I want to look at photos, but they just make me cry. A year ago we were together, celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday; this year we’re picking up the pieces and going through all the fun and games of reorganizing life for her. Love the idea of a journal – I wrote a journal for a long time to get over a bad experience. Writing is cheaper and better than seeing a therapist 🙂

  15. What a lovely tribute and such a lovely emotional outpouring of love! Very sorry for your loss….give yourself time….it never goes away but you do learn to adjust…….

    • Hello, and welcome to my place 🙂 (Hang on, I’ll put the kettle on.. TAC, where have the hobnobs gone?)
      Thanks for your compassion. The French say that you “have to give time some time”, and I guess that’s what grieving is all about. We’re trying to get used to a huge hole that has appeared in our lives – it’s going to take time to adjust.

  16. RIP… emotional, nice and touchant… life goes on and all our loved ones who have left for good, will continue to live in our hearts… bon courage! ❤

  17. I am so sorry for your loss MM. The delightful ease in your relationship with your father in law was evident from his comments on your blog. He would be proud of this beautiful, touching tribute. Take care…warm hugs 🙂

    • Thank you, Madhu. We got on well, which is rare – he loved my language; I love his, as well as his son 🙂 The jam jar moments are still there, but the tears are less frequent. Life keeps tapping us on the shoulder and pointing forwards, and so it should. Hugs right back at you xxx

  18. So sorry for your loss MM. I adored my late father-in-law as well, and still miss him and find myself crying about random things that remind me of him almost six years after his death.

    Wishing you strength!

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