For the record, for posterity, here’s the text of what I said about mum on Wednesday:
About 6-7 weeks ago mum and I got together one Saturday afternoon to plan out this day. We sat at her dining table and discussed different readings and poems, sorted through menus, and picked through old photos. It might sound morbid, but it was nice. Mum always was very particular about these sorts of things – she liked her parties – and somewhere in the midst of it all we managed a few laughs over forgotten photos and the moments they depicted. I remember how we looked at the different catering menus without getting too excited until simultaneously we happened across the menu we both spontaneously thought, yep, that’s the one! Between us we had agreed on the most expensive and extravagant option, and hang the expense. The important thing was to do it right, it always was. She smiled ruefully, though not sadly, sounds great she said, pity I’ll miss it.
Somehow I doubt mum is missing out on much. For all I know she’s got a full dance card of things she must do up in heaven, and she’s probably got new drapes already on order, but I’m pretty sure before she gets into any of that she’ll be a keen observer of today. Mum loved an occasion; she loved an audience and the opportunity to entertain and share time with her friends and family. She’d be delighted with the turn-out today – though perhaps a bit fearful that we haven’t catered for enough. Though she isn’t amongst us, she remains the star of the show.
Everyone has different attributes: we remember people for different things. I think for most people mum is remembered as both the stylish life of the party, and for her kindness and warmth of heart. Mum had style and pizzazz. She was social and glamorous, which she delighted in: she liked nice things, and believed in living well. Along the way she had umpteen adventures around the world, in Africa and Europe and Alaska and so on, and a multitude of stories to tell which I think everyone here would have heard at least once, or possibly several times, and, for some of us, hundreds. Timeless tales though, and a part of who she was.
Of course the essence of story-telling is to share. Mum needed people around her, she was the very epitome of a people person, didn’t matter who you were. She lived for her family and friends, but was equally adept at striking up conversations with shop assistants and passing strangers, all with the same smile. My mother was a sensitive, engaging women who had a genuine interest in others. I know most of you will have your own memories of her like that. Of the countless memories I have what I remember now is the time she spent with her grandchildren to make them feel special.
Clearly mum was much loved by many, and more than most I think. She was blessed to have so many friends who cared for her, and so many great relationships to enrich her life. She left the world a better place by her presence, and the proof is in the room here today.
Sad as this last 18 months has been it gave me the chance to become closer to my mum. Besides the medical appointments and so on we attended together, there were also shared meals at nice restaurants or at home where we would speak freely of what was happening with the characteristic honesty mum showed in her last months. If there is some positive from impending death it is that it concentrates the mind: you remember what is important.
Naturally this is a melancholy occasion for a son to stand-up at, but I know mum would want this to be a celebration of all she was, and the occasion for everyone to remember her in their own way. For me amid all the mad rush of the last few days trying to get this organised I had long forgotten memories return to me as if randomly. I remembered growing up as a kid that most nights we would have an exotic, or at least an interesting meal in an era of meat and three veg, and had a dessert every night of the week – something I took for granted back then but which my friends would marvel at. I remember how mum would sing as she was cooking or attending to some other household chore. If I can hold a rough a tune in the shower these days, and recall the words it’s because of her.
I remembered how at Easter for years on end we would have an Easter egg hunt for both kids and adults. It was great for all of us, but none more so than mum who took delight in witnessing our pleasure. She was a whole-hearted woman who took an almost child-like pleasure in the simplest of things: she got the most out of stuff, and that was magnified when it came to us. Every triumph of my life was greeted with jubilation by her, and perhaps a bottle of bubbles; and every setback was felt more earnestly by her than I would ever admit to myself. She wrapped our life, our dreams and hopes and fears, in hers.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. A void has opened up. Gone is the one person I know who would always willingly listen to every bit of my life, from my grizzles about work or romance, to what I might be cooking for dinner that night. She was always there, at the end of a phone line if not in person, someone who loved me without qualification, she was like gravity. She’s gone, and I don’t know what will become of those words now that before I would share with her.
I know mum is listening, and drinking in every moment of the day, with Fred by her side and most likely with a glass of good champagne or a G&T. Well, this is to attest that we love you mum, we’ll miss you with all our hearts, for every day that remains to us without you.