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.


  1. i am sorry for your loss, jos.

    what a tribute. "i've never met anyone more certain of her own mind." that sentence says so much. stubborn, calcified, determined, yes. but what clarity. don't we all wish this for ourselves?

    i will be back to read this tribute again, to be sure. for now i want to tell you you've done everything so lovingly it will come back to your tenfold.

    and your mother is at peace.

    love always

  2. Jos, I know how this feels and I hope that grace has come to you to help you through it. I am so sorry and that does not begin to cover it. There are no words. Losing your mum is the hardest thing in the world even when it is a complicated relationship. This is a beautiful tribute Jos. I am so glad you were able to be with her in the end. I love you and I am sending you the biggest hugs ever given through space and time. Let's talk soon. xoxo

  3. My dearest Jos,

    How I wish I knew the words that could bring comfort to you, if I did I would be writing them here instead of this foolish attempt to offer my hand once again as we both learn to walk this unknown path, fraught with both Light and Shadow, helping each other over the rough spots and rejoicing in the Light that good memories bring, together.

    Once again I will tell you what I often have said since finding myself here:
    Things will not get better. They will get "different". No matter what there is something that I can assure you: your heart will never be broken this way again. Each love we keep is ours and even when the physical presence is taken away from us, that love will eventually bring back the good memories, and in the end, while nothing in the physical and emotional reign would be better, you will learn as I am, that there is succor in memories and hope. Hope to learn to live without those we love so much, hope that in time what it appeared as impossible to deal with will give way to a new way of dealing with it, hope that those who love you and those who think of you as a dear friend - as I do - will always be there to bring silent reminders that what is in our hearts just simply cannot die.

    Much love to you and come to the garden, please. I will get the kettle on.


  4. I'm so sorry Jos, it's not easy. Your mum looks like my Auntie Fran, same smile, same stubbornness apparently:)

    I think we were both in the same boat. I didn't want to see my mum suffer anymore but I still miss her. It's getting better but it still catches me at strange times.

    Sending hugs.

  5. jos, i am so sad for you but also in awe of how you are able to capture so much of a person when you write. i never met her but you have painted a picture of someone who sounds very like my mother, a woman who was complex and deep. i hope the pain gets bearable soon. much love, angharad

  6. Ah, dear have *joined the Club*....the Club of those of us who have lost their Mums. No one wants to join....but in time, everyone does.

    Although I never met your beautiful Mum... we shared the bond of Music...and it is great connector - as you know. Through your words, I see you both had some rough patches...(as do most Mums and Daughters)...but in her photo - on your Wedding Day,,,,there is true joy and love in her smile and eyes. I believe that the last few years brought you two closer together...I picture you at the Opera - listening to glorious music...I picture you together...knowing that death is near...and your Mum resting her hand on your shoulder....more meaningful than a kiss...
    I picture you at her bedside....waiting for that last is hard to explain....but you know what I mean. The important thing is that you both loved each other....oh yes... you both learned from each other - and in the end - you were together. You were a GREAT daughter....your Mum knew this.

    This is a hard, pain-filled time for you - and for your family.... how I wish I was geographically closer to give you a hug and pour you a cuppa...

    I am late coming to this post...but tonight, I will light my *Renee Candle* for you and your Mum and say prayers.

    Always here for you, dear Jos,

    Love and Strength,

    ♥ Robin ♥

  7. I am new here and just stopping by to express my condolences. Death. No matter what, it is never easy.

    I am glad that you were able to tell your mom the things that were on your heart. xo


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