Tuesday, 10 January 2012

On death, sorrow and being so far away from family

My Uncle Denis sadly died in his sleep on Sunday morning and today is his funeral.  Although he had been unwell for some time, as his heart function was poor due to previous heart attacks, it was still a shock and has caused great sadness amongst our family.  I am finding it particularly hard as I am so far away in Tanzania and unable to be with our family.  In Jewish tradition the burial is arranged quickly so it was not possible to even contemplate returning home.  Denis leaves his wonderful family; his wife Yvonne and their children Leo, Jessica, Olivia and Justin.

Passover 2009 - the Afikomen presents

On Sunday I sat with my boys Zac and Josh and we remembered Denis together.  We talked about how Denis gave Josh his flaming red hair.  We talked about all the Jewish festivals that we had spent together and we had such happy memories of being in the garden at Holne Chase on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year).  Somehow regardless of the true date of Rosh Hashana (usually in September but the Jewish calendar is based on the lunar calendar so the dates of festivals change each year) God made sure that it was always sunny for the Rosh Hashana lunch festivities in Denis and Yvonne’s beautiful garden.  I remember standing in the garden every year talking to Denis about his beloved plants –  the delight he had when he told me about successfully growing passion flowers.  Zac and Josh talked about the happiness they had playing with Sybilla and Madeline for hours in the garden and climbing upstairs to play with the toys.  I in turn remember being Zac and Josh’s age and having the same happy Rosh Hashana times with Denis and Yvonne and the family: finding the Alladin’s cave of toys.  I remember all the seders (the Jewish festival Passover) we spent together with Denis as celebrant and him hiding the Afikomen and giving us clues as to where to find it.  I remember feeling very special when I was promoted from the childrens’ table to sit with my older cousins Leo, Jessica and Olivia who always looked so stylish and adult to me.  Then when I could keep up with the songs after the service had ended I thought ‘now I am an adult’.
Josh, Madeline and Zac at the Seder 2009: sorry only have laptop here so limited pictures!

The huge seder at Jessica and Keith's house - Denis is hidden under Madeline's arm! 

Denis was always so interested in my progress at school and later at Medical school.  He was made Professor of Chemical Pathology at the Royal Free Medical School and published an excellent student textbook.  Now as you might have guessed chemical pathology was and is not my strongest subject.  I remember spending an afternoon with Denis at Holne Chase before my final chemical pathology exam with him kindly and patiently explaining various concepts to me and helping me with my revision.

Although death is part of life it is so hard.  Denis was much loved and will be missed by all.  I am thankful that he died so peacefully in his sleep.  My thoughts and love are with his closest family Yvonne (his wife), Hugh and Raymond (his brothers), Leo, Jessica, Olivia and Justin (his children) and all his grand-children and great grand-children.



  1. Thanks Zanna

    Love Justinx

  2. We are so sorry to hear of your loss and we couldnt imagine how difficult it must be when your so far away. Our thoughts are with you and your family at this sad time. We didnt know your Uncle Dennis but after reading your blog he sounds like an absolute gem.
    I am having so much enjoyment reading your blogs while I sit here mending. It makes me smile when I see all of you having a great time.
    Dissappointed not to see Aaron having a go at kite surfing, I did it once and flew over a road into a nearby gravel works so give it a wide berth would be my advice, great sport though.
    Great blog and the children look like they are having a ball.
    Our thoughts are with you at this time. Gaz Char and boys.xx