Sara’s story was recorded on a sunny day in August looking out over a beautiful garden on the edge of Castlemorton Common. The garden was created by Richard, Sara’s husband, and was just starting to burst into life in mid-March when Boris Johnson announced lockdown. On 22nd March, Richard, who had been feeling unwell for a few days, became very tired and short of breath. When his condition worsened, Sara called an ambulance.
Because of Covid restrictions, she was unable to go with him to the Worcestershire Royal Hospital. She was able to speak to him by phone the next day and tell him how much she loved him but tragically Richard died the following morning.
Julia & Sarah say: “It is hard to imagine a more terrible situation than this, yet Sara bravely agreed to tell us her story to us in the hope that it might help others faced with similar situations. She also wanted her experience to became part of the historic record of the Covid-19 pandemic for future generations. She recalls her mother-in-law talking about the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1919 and regrets that those memories were never documented.
Sara and Richard met through an early online dating company and had been very happily married for 27 years. They bought and restored a cottage on a plot of land in Golden Valley and over the years, Richard transformed the plot into an astonishing garden. Sara insists that it was his creation – she helped, but it was him who lovingly created a series of ‘rooms’ within the garden, each with a different character, beautifully constructed, planted and tended. After Richard’s death, the garden became a burden to Sara but initially it provided her with some solace, as did dog walks with Richard’s little dog Rea.
At the start of lockdown Sara started a diary in which she recorded her thoughts in the early weeks of the pandemic. She continued to write the diary until Easter weekend. Sara agreed to record her diary with Julia. It is an extremely eloquent and moving account of her isolation and grief and a reminder of so many little things that we’ve forgotten about in those strange first days of lockdown.
We wanted to share Sara’s story for many reasons. It is a tribute to Richard but also a practical guide to coping when in a total state of shock and unable to be with your loved ones. Little things like caring for a plant, walking the dog and reading poems sent by her daughter kept Sara going, one day at a time.”
Sarah’s artistic response to Sara’s story was very thoughtful. She too had experienced a recent close bereavement and could identify with the confusion of emotions, intensity and sadness. She did not want the colour palette to go too dark as including colour suggested hope. Where she used black, she also introduced purple and magenta and found it interesting to create a moving pattern to illustrate the waves of sadness and bereavement.
Sara’s daughter is an artist and in the weeks after Richard’s death she painted the tulips outside the cottage, an act that Sara found both therapeutic and inspiring. ‘It caught the moment,’ she says. The painting, in water colour and wax resist, was made into cards which Sara sent to friends and relatives.
Charlotte Hodder – Irises, 1882. C. Museums Worcestershire Collection.
The picture reminded us of a beautiful oil painting in the Art Gallery’s collection called ‘Irises’ (1882), by Charlotte Hodder. Charlotte and her husband Albert were art master & mistress at the Victoria Institute, the current site of Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum. There are several artworks by Charlotte and Albert in the collection, and objects associated with their careers, including a wonderful silver medal awarded to Charlotte.
The poem Sara reads is by Lemn Sissay. Music on Sara’s story from Zapsplat.