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| www.donnan.eu
the website for a selection of writing by Stuart and Beryl Donnan
in Southampton UK, and links to the wider Donnan family


The following pieces (written by Stuart and Beryl, mostly for friends at Christmas time) represent snapshots of how life has felt for us since Beryl's stroke mid-2000.

What we thought of as honest representations of some darker moments were not always approved of
by those who received them, much to our puzzlement. What do you think?

website updated on 18 September 2016
end 2012

... Beryl needed a wheelchair for much of the cruise
more here
end 2011

... here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come
more here
end 2010

... waken us from the greyness of our apathy

more here
end 2009

Much love, much trial ...

more here
end 2008

... why should we expect even God to make sense?

more here
end 2007

... they should always pray and not lose heart

more here
end 2006

Our pilgrimage has taken us far and wide, and up and down ...

more here
end 2005

the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places

more here
end 2004

we must be still and still moving ...

more here
end 2003

... the tossing of the boat is part of the mystic journey.

more here
end 2001

Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?

more here
end 2000

someone is thinking of me now ...

more here



end 2012

We haven't - for the first time ever - managed to get cards or messages out before Christmas.

It has been a challenging year but we managed to take our first (probably last) cruise around the north Mediterranean for Beryl's 75th birthday (a photo in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul is attached). Beryl needed a wheelchair for much of the cruise, and we have a wheelchair at home now for major outings.

Another large number (horrors!) is Stuart's 50th anniversary reunion of graduation from Sydney University Medical School. On seeing the invitation Beryl said, "You must go. I will stay somewhere." So in March 2013 Stuart will have 2 weeks in and around Sydney by himself while Beryl stays at a care home in east Southampton, not far from family and friends. Her needs for personal and other care are too great now for her to stay that amount of time with family despite their willingness in principle.

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end 2011

At the end of a pleasant spring week in Crete (in a monastery garden, above) Beryl had a fall which caused her admission to hospital back in Southampton about 3 weeks later. She recovered fully but her confidence was shaken. She had already been seen by the consultant at the Memory Clinic and later was given a trial of Aricept (donepezil). But this caused notable deterioration (sleep disturbance and more confusion) and the medication has been stopped.

We continue in fair spirits. Stuart has had to ask to be released from his Quaker responsibilities because of his full-time caring role, but he has managed to keep up orchestra with Beryl having a sitter at home on rehearsal nights. Beryl enjoys trips out and about, and we get to lots of galleries locally and in London. Our new garden room (conservatory) promises to be a great pleasure and facility.

We have been able to arrange Christmas in Australia this year — Bowral, Canberra, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth in a month, with our sisters and other friends. Beryl is really looking forward to the time away, and the warm weather.
Amongst other things Stuart has been reading about 'meaning and mystery'. Beryl's reading facility has been increasing this year at the same time as her memory has been deteriorating — the human mind and spirit are wonders indeed.

In our meditation group Stuart has been playing some of Brahms German Requiem as a conclusion; the start of movement VI is from the letter to the Hebrews: "For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." For us the meaning seems largely to be in the mystery.

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end 2010

The highlight of 2010 for us was a 3 week journey by train from east to west coast in the USA. Beryl visited the Guggenheim in New York (not been since 1983) and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco where she had walked the labyrinth both before and after her stroke in 2000. We were amazed by Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, and struck by the wonder of the immense age of the earth shown in the geology visible everywhere.

But 2010 also saw the death of Stuart's mother Dot just 4 days after her 104th birthday. She had faded quickly after a few months in a nursing home when it became impossible for Delle (Stuart's sister) and Vic to provide care for her at home. She was a spirited and resolute lady who had seen more changes in her lifetime than we can fully grasp.

Beryl recently chose the piece below for our meditation group and to the surprise and delight of us all she managed to read most of it out loud - the first time that she has done that in 10 years! We send our best wishes for the season of light in darkness - but south of the equator you will be enjoying more of the 'shining'.

O Morning Star, Splendour of Light Eternal,
O Radiant Dawn, O Dayspring from on high,
Shining with the glory of the rainbow,
Come and waken us from the greyness of our apathy,
and renew in us your gift of hope.

from Jim Cotter 'Cries of Advent'

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end 2009

It has been a happy year for us - we were last in Venice 40 years ago - but with lots to think about including Stuart's mother at 103 entering a nursing home for the first time.

Stuart visited the grave of much-loved little Annie Darwin at Great Malvern Priory. Many years after her death at age 10 Charles Darwin wrote to a friend whose son was ill: "Much love, much trial, but what an utter desert is life without love."

Beryl often thinks about words from Psalm 86 as paraphrased by Jim Cotter:

I am with you always as I always choose to be with you.
I shall be there in the encounter you cannot predict,
but there you will meet me,
and I shall be for you as the one who there shall be.

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end 2008

Now able to read few words, Beryl remembers the prayers of the sensitive British Anglican priest Jim Cotter. In "Prayer at Night" he guides our prayers to:

O Thou, Most Holy and Beloved, my Companion, my Unicorn, my Guide upon the Way.

Focusing on the way and the guide, Beryl was then intrigued by the unicorn. Asked 'Why unicorns?' Jim Cotter writes that these mythical creatures are vibrant and powerful, yet also strangely pure and innocent. For medieval Europe the unicorn was a symbol for Christ, for the gospel of truth, and for freedom. And he says to play with the unicorn, not too solemnly. Why should we expect even God to make sense?

Stuart's photograph of a tapestry is from a visit to Le Musée de Cluny (du Moyen Âge) in Paris

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end 2007

The calligraphy is by Stuart's Chinese language teacher 25 years ago.

The words are from Luke's Gospel:

Jesus told them a parable
to teach them that
they should always pray
and not lose heart.


The encouragement not to lose heart remains ever relevant to us today, and to our friends and neighbours.


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end 2006

The West Gate of the old town of Southampton and the Tudor Merchant's Hall, from our front door.

Following the troops of Edward III and Henry V through the gate, several centuries later, the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for the New World.

Our pilgrimage has taken us far and wide, and up and down. Beryl recently heard (again) a song from the Iona Community with this verse which resonates with her pilgrimage at present, and may also relate to the challenges being faced just now by a surprisingly large number of our friends and acquaintances (who are ageing as we are).

The grace of God comes close
to those whose grace is spent,
when hearts are tired or sore
and hope is bruised or bent:
the grace of God is here to stay
embracing those who walk his way.


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end 2005

In April this year we moved back to Southampton where our children grew up and where we have many old friends.

Four years ago, about 18 months after Beryl's stroke, we wrote: Beryl sits by the sea and muses and remembers a verse in Psalm 16, "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places". Similar thoughts come to her mind now.

The photograph is from our new living room in Southampton: part of the mediaeval city wall, the Mayflower Park (where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail), a tall ship on Southampton Water, and the New Forest in the background.

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end 2004

from East Coker by TS Eliot (final section)


Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living.

...
Sea and sky from our balcony in Rustington

We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise.
In my end is my beginning.


Text chosen by Beryl with Stuart's help after listening to a tape of the author reading The Four Quartets

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end 2003

The Mystical Boat — artist: Odilon Redon

We enter God's energy when we pray.

The sea is not still for one who prays, it heaves and is turbulent, but the tossing of the boat is part of the mystic journey.

from Sister Wendy: "The Gaze of Love - meditations on art."


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end 2001

... our major frustration - both of us are affected but especially Beryl - is in writing. This year the aphasia has not really improved and Stuart is writing this joint letter by reading successive drafts to Beryl and incorporating her ideas for amendments.

One of the pleasures of the visit to Australia was to receive plaudits about how well Beryl was doing. It's all relative - isn't it? - but we need to remind you that one of the real issues about her overwhelming disability is that it is not observable directly. Not being able to write what she wants to say - and not really being able to say clearly and succinctly what she wants to say - is often quite overwhelming (as we have just said). Sometimes it is enough for Beryl to think, and say, "I've had enough - I can't go on" or words to that effect. ...

But today the sun is shining (the house is too hot) and we have walked along the sea shore and bought organic bread and had morning tea in the village, and bought little presents for the grandchildren, and had lunch at home, and we are both feeling that sometimes life is not just bearable but maybe even enjoyable.

We hope for ourselves and for you that the Christmas and New Year season includes joy amongst all the other emotions.

  • Beryl sits by the sea and muses and remembers a verse in Psalm 16: "The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places".
  • Stuart wonders (with Job), "Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?"

(Beryl's name was printed because it would take her 2-3 minutes to copy her name)

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end 2000

a letter from Beryl, written by Stuart with her words in January 2001

This is the first time ever that I have not sent out Christmas cards. Life has changed very much since my stroke in May 2000 ... How am I doing? It has been a long process, nearly 8 months now. I am aware of general support and want to thank those who have prayed for me ... I have had lots of time to think about life, the universe and everything, and also about other people with problems who are not great achievers.

I remember especially some words from the poem "Believe me" by Irina Ratushinskaya (written in Kiev on 10th October 1986):

Someone is thinking of me now,
Petitioning the Lord for me.
My dear ones, thank you all
Who did not falter, who believed in us!

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