Mum.   06 Dec 1936 -  13 Apr 2013

Isn't she beautiful. This was taken on my wedding day in September 2008. I love Mum's smile. There was such strength in this woman, I can't even to begin to tell you.

Mum died yesterday morning in the hospice. I was there with her and she knew it. I held her hand as she passed and talked of my love for her, I talked also of the love her most beloved John had for her as well as all my siblings by name. 

I told her what a brilliant mum she's been ... despite the complexities of our relationship I truly believe that Mum did what she thought was best most of the time. She fought through some very difficult battles in her life. Some of those battles have had a lasting impact on me and my siblings. Family relationships aren't always easy. I did and do love my mother nonetheless and I am glad I got the chance to say so.

I talked too of some of the things she'd taught me. Mum was always a woman of great certainty and confidence in her own understanding of right and wrong. She taught me the importance of self sufficiency and self reliance. Perhaps too well. Some years ago I started to lose some perspective on that front but I am finding my way back towards a better balance these days.

Even if I sometimes found her manner distant and somewhat lacking in warmth I've come to understand in these last years just how important it was for her to stay true to herself. I came to understand too that love does not necessarily use words of a sentimental nature. Although Mum never said to me that she loved me I knew that she did. 

One of the reasons I love this picture is because on the morning of my wedding day Mum told me she was proud of me. I think that was the nearest she ever came to telling me of her love. In the last couple of years Mum even started resting a hand on my shoulder rather than simply brush kissing my cheek.  I don't think she'd have been particularly comfortable about me talking to her of my love for her. I hope she didn't mind too much that I did when the time came. I needed her to know.

Then I spoke of the things I would tell my nieces and nephews about her to help them remember her. I mentioned her strength and Independence. How she taught me the importance of acting on principles and not merely talking about them. I said some other things too. The nurse told me she was taking her last breaths and left me with her after closing her eyes. I continued talking for some time ... you never quite know when someone is truly gone. I'm glad I was there and that I had the chance to say so many things.

And I will talk to my nephews and neices about her life. I will show them some of her paintings. She loved to paint, loved to read Proust and other great writers of fiction. She loved going to her book club despite being quite vitriolic about some of the choices of reading matter chosen by other members. She loved robust intellectual debate on an incredibly wide range of subjects ... only conceding rarely and not always with good grace. She knew so much about so many things and was a very cultured person.

She also loved cooking and listening to all sorts of classical music, especially opera ... a love we shared more and more over recent times. She played the piano at concert level as well as the oboe, and played an awesome baroque recorder. Completely fluent in french after spending a year or more in Paris as a late teenager she was often taken for a Parisian by the locals when she lived for a time in rural southern France during the 80's and early 90's. John told me that she used to help their neighbours with their tax forms because they couldn't always understand the words on the forms.

An expert seamstress, knitter and embroiderer, mum loved to do craft and art at home ... something of a necessity in our early years when money was tight. I remember wearing clothes she'd made for us all. She was politically aware and an activist in both the anti-nuclear movement as well as Amnesty International. She studied history as an adult and gained first her Bachelors and then her Masters degree when I was about 6 or 7 I can't quite remember exactly.  I remember going to see her graduation ceremonies and the funny flat hat and gown she had to wear. Somewhere we have a photo of her wearing them and holding a scroll. She looks as proud as proud can be ... and quite right too. She was a teacher, (French, English, RE and Maths) a health-food store owner, a believer in thrift, good simple nutrition, clear thinking, robust rule making and plain speaking. She was an environmentalist and practised recycling long before it was widely popular. I remember as a child wondering why we saved so much stuff to re-use.

One thing Mum loved was her garden. She grew flowers, shrubs, vegetables, herbs and berries for as long as I can remember. Regardless of how small a garden she had she always managed to grow something and took great pleasure from doing so. She loved creating order and her garden reflected this. I remember how she found it hard to leave her garden to take even quite short holidays away from home during the summer months ... worrying that Kath or I might unwittingly do something wrong in taking care of everything in her absense. I don't think anything ever actually died under our care but that thought never quite left her. My sister over-waters whereas I tend to under-water so in fact mum had the perfect duo of caretakers in a way!

In the time I knew her Mum was a mother, sister, aunt, niece, grandmother, daughter, wife, cousin, and friend. Her influence ran broad and deep.  I've never met anyone more certain of her own mind.

I love you Mum. I am proud to be your daughter. I will miss you more than words are capable of conveying. Love always,  Jocelyn.

Time Passes

It seems my time is less and less my own these days. I know it won't be like this always though. I shudder at the thought because the time is coming when the reason I'll have more time is because Mum is no longer with us.

It's been a strange time ... a healing time too altough that seems utterly ludicrous given the ravages cancer is visiting upon my mothers body. Her mind remains very much her own though, a blessing of huge value to us all.

In the lead up to Easter Mum was taken into the hospice. Family members were informed and in response to the clarion call my brothers hot-footed it with their families to England from their far flung homes in Canada and the US.

It's odd to be spending time as a full family again. Whilst most of us are close to my eldest brother my middle brother has cut himself off entirely from me for the last 20 something years, been out of touch with Mum for at least 15 years and remained in only the barest of contact with my sister during the last 10 years or so. Thus the dynamics are strange and somewhat uncomfortable but that's to be expected. What's encouraging though is that we are able to engage with one another as adults ... no re-hashing those ancient pointless animosities nor wilfully opening old wounds ... just kindness and tolerance. We are all so very different from one another and yet finally that seems to no longer be such a cause of conflict. For all of our sakes I am glad.

I am spending long hours with Mum, sometimes with other family members but more often just the two of us. I time my visits for later on in the day ... a time when she would otherwise be alone waiting for someone to come with food, bath or meds before bed. It can be a lonely time for someone unable to move from bed to chair let alone make her way to the communal areas where company might be sought. We spend time chatting, but more and more we end up sitting quietly. We are healing our bond in words and in silence.

I love my mother. I wish this were easier for her. I hope the end comes in a peaceful way.