Photo: In this picture, probably taken in 1957, I’m in India with my father Donald Macarthur Hancock and my mother Muriel Bruce Hancock. How the years have passed. How fleeting is the precious gift of life.

“Stuff just keeps on getting older.”  It’s a catch phrase of mine and I frequently use it in social media posts, usually in the context of new archaeological discoveries that push back the timeline of the human presence on earth and open up unexplored gaps in our understanding of the past.

As we come to the close of this year, however, 2019, the notion of everything getting older has taken on a new, more personal and more immediate meaning for me. This was the year in which Santha and I witnessed the slow decline into death of my mother Muriel Bruce Hancock who passed away on November 14th.

Mum was a teacher all her life and I want to recognise here the vital role she played in encouraging and drawing out my calling as a storyteller. Before I could read myself she would read to me constantly from books such as the Just So Stories, The Jungle Book and the Tanglewood Tales, in the process firing my imagination. She was also a true daughter of Scotland and I grew up with a sense of outrage at the horrific treatment of the Scots by the English from the 13th century through to the 19th century. I was stirred and inspired by the fierce independent spirit and determined heroism of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. I was plunged into deep wells of sadness at the devastating outcome of the Jacobite Rebellion at the battle of Culloden in 1746.

Mum reached a grand old age, celebrating her 93rd birthday on September 10th 2019 with her customary single glass of wine. But she had been in increasingly ill health, and unable to care for herself – requiring round-the-clock nursing support — for several years before that. For this tough, clever and independent Scottish lady, the indignity of being so dependent on others, unable to walk, unable to lift herself into her wheelchair, must have been very hard to bear. Nonetheless she bore the discomfort and the helplessness and the inevitable physical indignities with stoic courage, complained little and always did everything in her power not to be a burden to anyone.

This is the first time since her passing that I have been able to bring myself to write about my mother’s death. In so doing my purpose, first and foremost, is to pay tribute to her.

Mum was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 10th 1926 and became the first in her family to go to university. There, at the University of Edinburgh, she met my father Donald Macarthur Hancock who was in medical school and who would go on to become a surgeon. They married in 1948 and in 1949 my mother carried their first child to term, only to deliver him stillborn. She became pregnant again soon after – with me! – and I was born on August 2nd 1950.

By this time my father, a committed Christian, was a fully-qualified surgeon and was offered a position in Edinburgh. It was a position that would have advanced his career greatly, but he turned it down and in 1954 my Mum, my Dad and I travelled by ship out to India and then by rail to the town of Vellore in southern India (Tamil Nadu) where my father would work for the next four years as a surgeon at the Christian Medical College.

I can never know how deeply the tragedy of losing their first child at birth scarred and hurt my parents. but their ordeals were not over. Soon after arriving in India, Mum was pregnant again, this time with my sister Susan who survived birth and lived to the age on 1 year before dying of a mysterious blood disease.

Mum and Dad tried once more, and another child was born to them – my brother James. He too survived birth and seemed healthy at first but as he reached the end of his first year he, in his turn, fell gravely ill. This was late in 1958. It was as though some awful curse had descended on the family, and although I was only 8 years old I remember how solidly and with what oppression the darkness and gloom settled over us. In a desperate attempt to save James we flew back from India to England. I recall that the aircraft was called a Super Constellation, and I remember the oxygen tent that was installed within it to bring my baby brother alive to London where he was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital but died soon after.

So I was the only survivor of the four children my Mum and Dad brought into the world. I know they did everything in their power to protect me from the terrible impact these losses had on them, but inevitably the grief seeped through and expressed itself, particularly on my mother’s part, in over-protectiveness towards me. I felt smothered, and as the years went by I became a VERY rebellious child and then a VERY rebellious teenager. My whole project was to keep my parents, particularly my mother, at arms’ length, to get as far away from them as possible and to pursue my own independent path even if it involved complete rejection of my parents and everything they stood for.

I realise now that I carried this resentment of my good and loving parents into adult life and I regret that I was never able to return my mother’s love properly. Even towards the end, I kept pushing her away.

After my father’s death in 2003 my mother moved from the North of England, where they had lived for many years, to the city of Bath where Santha and I live. She bought a house in Bath but by 2013 she was already in severely declining health and elected to move into a nursing home where she could receive the nursing care she needed.

Mum was grandmother to six grandchildren – Sean and Leila from my first marriage, Luke and Gabrielle from my second marriage, and Shanti and Ravi, from Santha’s first marriage. Mum was an AMAZING, caring, loving grandmother to all six and the love she gave so freely to all of them was returned by all of them. As more years passed she became a great grandmother also – to Nyla, the child of Leila and our son-in-law Jason, to Henry, the child of Ravi and our daughter-in-law Lydia, and to Leo and Aura, the children of Luke and our daughter-in-law Ayako.

My mother was a very smart lady and she kept her wits about her right to the end, even as her body collapsed into congestive heart-failure and pneumonia and she was admitted to Bath’s excellent Royal United Hospital for the last time. There, I am happy to say, she passed surrounded by love. We will never forget, on the morning of her last day, how her eyes lit up as she awoke from a doze to see us and her grandchildren all around her and the bright cheerful joy of her great grand-daughter Nyla. Despite ever larger doses of Fentanyl to manage severe pain caused by oedema on the lungs. Mum was fully conscious and with us almost to the end. It was a slow descent out of life, each breath shorter and separated from the next by longer and longer intervals.

Santha and I stayed with her in her hospital room for six hours after she had passed. It felt right to do so. There’s no proof, of course, but I believe that the spirit is eternal and the body only a temporary suit of clothes…

I add here a poem on the loneliness and loss of old age written by my uncle James Macaulay, my mother’s brother, the eldest surviving member of my family, who is approaching his 90th birthday. My lost sibling James was named after my uncle James. To understand the poem it is important to know what a tontine is:

Tontine (noun): An annuity shared by subscribers to a loan or common fund, the shares increasing as subscribers die until the last survivor enjoys the whole income…

THE WINNER HAS LOST

By JAMES MACAULAY

In the tontine of life

I saw off my friends

Thus scooping the pool of alone.

 

We joked as we played.

They came and they went,

Their funerals totalled their score.

 

Now I eat on my own

In the Club seen as home

As my golf-playing friends are no more.

 

The tontine of life seemed good at the time

For the youngest of this friendly group,

But none of us won when the playing was done.

And the winner lost all that was good.

 

36 thoughts on “Stuff just keeps on getting older…”

  1. Andrew Lenwey says:

    So sorry for your loss Graham and for the losses of your siblings, I continue to admire and follow your work.

  2. Brian David Riley says:

    Hi Graham, My mother also passed away a few months after her 93rd birthday, 10 years ago, I wish, like you, I could have had a better relationship with her – too late now. she was a fine strong lady like yours.
    I tried to contact you a few months back about a book I have written entitled Avebury and the Great Pyramid. been almost 20 years in the writing. Hoping to get it self published next year. Could I send a copy to your home in Bath- I would like you opinion of its ideas.

  3. Kirsten Corby says:

    Dear Graham. I am so sorry for your losses. What survivor guilt you must feel for your lost siblings. I’m glad you were able to create a large and vibrant family of your own. My sympathy for the loss of your mom. People whose mothers are still in their life don’t realize how lucky they are.

  4. stuart says:

    Beautiful poem, I am sorry for your loss.

  5. Devin says:

    Those are beautiful words for someone who must have been an amazing and special person in your life. We’ve never met, but you have been a role model for me and a major catalyst in me deciding on a scientific career path after my dad passed away. I am very sorry for your loss. I have the feeling that she knew how you felt, as mother’s seem to have a great capacity for this – but more importantly, you were there for her when she needed you. Anyways, I hope you are doing well. Happy New Year’s and lots of well wishes from Canada.

  6. Marco DelPlavignano says:

    My condolences to you and your family Graham! I’m a longtime reader and follower of your work.

  7. William Gazecki says:

    Thank you Graham. You and I are close in age, and as I continue on in this life I see more and more that we all have individual and poignant life stories that really are defined by love. Resentments and forgotten miseries are thankfully overshadowed by what has endured through love. Indeed, this poem by you Uncle says it all. This was the first year in our family “without parents”, as I termed it in a Christmas letter to everyone. I know that I’m looking forward to this next year with optimism and hope, which- as I explained to my sister- I do not think I would feel were it not for the collaborators and other friends of common spirit that I have in my life. None of us can go it alone.

  8. charles newman says:

    Greyem you are a national treasure

  9. charles newman says:

    Apologies for the mispelling of your name very ameture

  10. Jeff Schneider says:

    Wonderful story about your mother, condolences to you and your family on her passing but thanks for sharing.. I’m a big fan of your written work and pod casts! Please keep it up, we desperately need to update our current view of the world…

  11. Tony Bermanseder says:

    Dear Graham!

    Just sent an email to JMJ (John Major Jenkins) on academia to validate his lifelong research. To my shock I learned, that he had passed in 2017. Perhaps someone here can share the email address of his family or legacy fund for me to forward this material?

    Dear John!

    Your “How and Why” paper can be correlated with the much larger and precession based Mayan Kin count.

    Not only can you calibrate all of the ancient solar and lunar metonic calendars to the Mayan long count for the December 21st, 2012 date in a day -5479=-53.19.4.14.1=11Imix 19Pax as 01Mar23,630 BC (proleptic Gregorian=27Aug23,630 (proleptic Julian)=9Tammuz -19,869 Hebrew; but you can superpose the Mayan cosmology in a perhaps extraterrestrial or cosmic Mayan form backwards for 5 precessional cycles superposed as a simple Kin-day count of the ancient chronologists and sky observers.

    Your analysis so depicts only a fractal of the Mayan cosmology and can be extended to say the dawn of homo erectus in 325 baktun (144,000 kin) cycles from -312.0.0.0.0=18Yax 4Ahau=04Dec126,123 BC (Gregorian proleptic) to 13.0.0.0.0=8Cumku 4Ahau=December 21st, 2012 Gregorian

    Should you find the time to look at this paper, you might find additional ammunition to silence your dogmatic skeptics.

    https://www.academia.edu/40686433/The_Ancient_Universal_Calendar

    https://independent.academia.edu/APBermansederacademiaedu

    Cheers, TonyB.

  12. Thomas Fattorusso says:

    Tremendous love is eternal and maybe that is all that lives on past our bodies and maybe all that is needed. The glow in your words warmed me deeply. Thank you for sharing them.

  13. Brad says:

    What an amazing account, Graham.

    Condolences to you and your family.

  14. Süreyya Süner (Mr.) says:

    Dear Mr. Hankock it is true that our souls are eternal and for a while they keep stick to various bodies from one to another up untill the time when they all gather together before the Creator.
    It is so sad to loose mother whatever our age is. Your touching family story reminds me my mum who had had almost the same unfortunate births.
    I feel comforted as I believe your mother now playing with her children those entertaining in the hands of the Creator.

  15. KARL DOVE says:

    Dear Graham. Iam sorry for your mum she was great woman and as i lost my mum she had dementia at 96 she passway on 25/9/2019.Happy New year.

  16. John Capes says:

    Mr Hancock I am very sorry. I have been where you are albeit it came much earlier for me as my dad was 47 and then later my mom was 57. So by 33 I was alone in that regard. Now I am in my 50s and I live every day to the best of my ability by trying to appreciate good moments each day. Like you I believe that the spirit is eternal in some capacity but I have no use of organized religion as a means of better understanding that capacity. I recently heard an interview where you compared a television signal and a working television….the television will eventually breakdown and stop working. But the signal continues. I took a lot from that statement as it reached me in a way that the organized religion I was forced to attend in my youth ever did. It reminded me again that we only understand the smallest fraction of our existence in the greater scheme.

    Thank you for sharing this and for your research and interviews which have peaked my curiosity at this point in my life. Hang on to the positive aspects of your mother tightly and forgive yourself for any transgressions related to her. In my own case I dwelled on the negative aspects far longer than I should have. So remember….forgive yourself. I too was an only child, adopted at birth and smothered with protectiveness. Damage defines us as humans at times but it should not be allowed to rule us. So forgive yourself.

    After you have had time to grieve, reflect, and recover I look forward to your next works. Thank you.

    Best Regards,

    John Capes

  17. Rani Sharma says:

    She was a Virgo – that explainis a lot!

  18. Brandon Quiroga says:

    I love you Graham.youve been a huge inspiration to myself and so many others. You arent alone in the slightest and I know your mother is so proud of the amazing person you are.

  19. Angela Hudson says:

    Thank You for sharing your feelings & thoughts with us all. From my whole inner-self & all i am; I especially appreciate your words. My mom turned 84 on the 12th of December2019.Buried a 3rd child the week before; Mark was 60. Amaze’n at the Strength. I hope to be able to at least KNOW that one day before My End Days, that, that kind of BEAUTY IN STRENGTH & LOVE;will find its way back inside of our human . i will be sharing this with her. Thank You Graham for all you have done, all you do, & all that’s to come😉😊✌

  20. Robert Rust says:

    What a wonderful life shared…My thoughts are with you and your family Graham.

  21. Ximena MIkhailova says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss, Graham. At the end, we all have a life that we shared and enjoyed, loved and cherished. Sounds like her journey was well-lived, full of adventures and very much Indiana-Jone-sy. I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts. Sending you and your loved ones a warm embrace.

  22. John says:

    It sounds like your Mum through both her suffering and the great love of family has led a fulfilled life.
    I offer my sincere condolence to you Graham. One will be lonesome for a spell having lost someone so special.
    May she journey well.

  23. Mathew McGuire says:

    Graham you are an amazing man and I wish you nothing but the best for the coming year. This is a very nice tribute for your Mum and I can only imagine how extremely proud of you she was her entire life. She raised an amazing son and I am sure she knows this.

  24. Anna Baldwin says:

    Thank you for sharing this aspect of your life, Graham. I offer deep condolences for the loss of your mom, and also the loss of your siblings. (I, too, lost my baby brother to crib death when he was 2 months old – I was 2. And my mom passed 4 years ago – we share much in common). I know you miss her.

    She ccertainly made a good Storyteller of you! Please keep up the good work!

  25. Melissa Ballard says:

    So sorry for your loss. Sending virtual love to your family.

  26. Sonia Land says:

    Dear dear Graham
    I never knew your mother but I know you well enough to see all the good in your mother in you and I can say as a mother myself, that if she knew what your obituary of her was going to be, she’d be very proud of all that you’ve achieved and of her only son who has brought a wonderful and loving family to share with her.

  27. Ronald Beaumont says:

    Wonderful testimonial with GH’s vibrant style showing forth amid grief.

  28. Robert Clarke says:

    My condolences, very similar relationship issues with our mothers passing. Time heals all…

  29. Mayavitch says:

    So cool graham. Always been impressed by your contribution to the great debate, and your fortitude and integrity. And now this heartfelt message. Deeply touched.

  30. Carol Nemeth says:

    We do the best we know to do with the knowledge we have at the time. GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL OF YOUR FAMILY……. Graham, you look so much like your dad.

  31. David Ward says:

    I have found something that may be evidence of a highly advanced civilization.

    It appears to be a 60+ mile long pipe that is 10 miles in diameter.

    It is comprised of sections that have interlocking features and some of the sections have separated into rings.

    Could this be a crashed generation ship?

    https://drive.google.com/drive/mobile/folders/1fJAaFCWxXbUWO_2TK_GAigSZInLLfyby?usp=sharing_eip&ts=5e20c4b5

  32. Raney Young says:

    I find your energy and desire to explore and share all you and your wifes undying passion to look in and outside of the proverbial box the most educating subjects there are to know. You have absolutely opened many minds that science and so called proven and therefore no longer in need of deeper or closer looks at these things the most enlightening and interesting learning opportunities I’ve ever experienced. I look for every book , guest appearance or podcasts you are on. Joe Rogan in particular being an almost daily part of my searches for you. Truly a man in search of truth and I’ll pick any presentation you make or show your on. Believe me when i say my more closed minded friends or even strangers have heard my praises of you and i urge all to listen and watch all there is you do. Cannot say thank you enough. No need in me asking you to keep uo your great work. I have a feeling you couldn’t if you wanted to lol. All the best to you and your family. Raney

  33. Sunny Chandra says:

    I am awe struck by your writings and your research. Perhaps the Old Civilizations can explain some of the mysteries in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, e.g. Television, Flying Chariots, Powerful weapons …
    But, more so, I am moved by this piece you have written, laying bare your own feelings. I ached for you and wish you a happy future. PS: Impressed that your Dad chose to work at Vellore. Must have saved many lives.
    Now, you are what you are and who you are, living for your lovely GRANDCHILDREN!All the best, Sunny

  34. Michelle says:

    Hi Graham,
    So Sorry for your loss of your dear mother! Please do not feel you were not loving enough in return to her! I believe once we do make the transition to the next stage, we do become everything! Your life becomes part of her knowings! She can be everywhere! Your thoughts and love is what binds! By this I don’t mean they are simply with you and no where else! For they are not limited by our bodies anymore! Love is the key to everything!
    Love and blessing yo you and yours!
    from Michelle

    PS: Don’t be a self proclaimed prophet! Sometime our own inner thoughts about our own health can contribute to it in being! I’m not saying it causes it but who is to say its not part of many health issues! Not one single thing is a main cause for things like cancer… Gee hope i expressed that clearly!

  35. Nick says:

    Heartbreaking but your parents sound like wonderfully resilient folks.

    Sorry for your loss.

  36. Tom says:

    Very sorry to hear about the passing of your mother. Both of my parents passed away several years ago, and I still wonder if I was good enough to them when they were still here. Be at peace Brother. I would also like to express what a great experience it was to meet you when you gave that talk at the Barnes and Noble in Burlington, Massachusetts(I was the longhaired fellow that said not to give yourself carpal tunnel on my behalf). Thank you so much for the recommendation to visit Pisac when I went on my Peruvian trip. An absolutely stunning feat of engineering(as was Ollantaytambo)! I appreciated reading your book each evening at the places I stayed while I was in country. Thank again, and I hope you are doing well. Cheers!

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