When my mother died in 2007, my father was left with two pairs of opera tickets. Understandably, he didn’t feel like making a trip to the opera any time soon, and I was given the small task of finding a new home for them, and hopefully – in view of their cost – recouping him some of the value.
When I explained the circumstances, the Royal Opera House were very helpful: they simply asked me to bring them into their box office for a full refund, not dependent on resale. The other pair went to a Mr and Mrs Cumber whom Dad knew from his opera appreciation group. This gave me the chance to ask him whether they were the Richmond Cumbers or the Kew Cumbers. I was glad to see him raise a faint smile in response to this effort.
But it left a deeper impression when a friend commented that I’d been given a poignant task, and how sad it was that my mother hadn’t lived to use those tickets. And yes, of course, it was sad. But as I thought about it, my feelings changed. Should she have died with no tickets in the drawer, no holidays to look forward to, no plans? Mum and Dad enjoyed a long, busy and happy retirement, full of voluntary work, days out, country walks, family visits and holidays, and, of course, opera trips.
All of that took planning, and the planning was evidence of their intention to live life to the full for as long as they could. And I came to like what those tickets said about Mum and Dad.