A hymn to my mother

My mother, Joan, died unexpectedly on the morning of the 14th November 2013.  My parents had decided to move to a flat in supported accommodation where they could have help with the care my father now needs.  Having decided that this was the best course of action, my mother tackled the move with her customary determination, organisation and flair.  It would have been such a good place for both of them.  They had been there ten days, all the boxes unpacked, pictures still stacked against the walls waiting to be put up, when my mum came into the room where the carer was getting ready to give my dad breakfast.  "Can you get some help?" she said.  "I think I am having a heart attack."

She died in the air ambulance on her way to hospital.

The last three weeks have been full of arrangements for her funeral and arrangements to put in place the care my dad will need if he is to stay where he is, which is very much what he wants to do.  He is facing his own loss with impressive courage and determination.  So now I just want to sing my mother.

Deep red hair, blue eyes, fabulous cheek bones.  My mother was beautiful.  I have spent my life having people say "Don't you look like your mother!"  We didn't really look that much alike but you can't object to being told you look like someone who is beautiful.  I have a look of her, that is all, something similar about the mouth, and we sound the same.

She was also brave.  My own father died when I was three and she returned to her home town, a young widow, only twenty four with two young children.  Was it coping with that devastating loss that gave her an inner strength which belied her slight stature?  I don't know.  Maybe it was always there.  She came from a long line of strong women.  It was easy to be distracted by her smile, her ready laugh, her love of a good time, a tea shop, a glass of wine, a long laughing day in the kitchen making fabulous food for family and friends.  You would see her generosity, her hospitality, her tolerance and her readiness to forgive small slips and perhaps you might think that this was a soft and gentle woman.  You would be wrong.  She had a deep, deep well of kindness and a trust in humanity that brought out the best in people but she was as strong as tensile steel.  It was a formidable combination.

When I was a child I used to look at other people's mothers at the school gate and know that everyone must want to have mine.  She was younger and prettier than other people's mothers but more than that, she was nicer.  She hated to hear parents shouting at children or ignoring them.  She didn't snap or criticise.  She had a way of making you feel loved and cared for even when she was showing you a better way of doing something.  As I grew older I knew she trusted me, trusted my judgement, liked me as well as loved me and believed in me.  She rarely advised, and then only if asked and never seemed to mind if you ignored her advice in the end.  She never criticised.  And yet she had high standards, for herself and for her children.  Kindness was paramount and respect for other people, good manners, generosity, putting yourself in other people's shoes.  Whining and moaning were not allowed, although the occasional bout of raging was ok.  She was very clear about the importance of doing things with a good grace.  If you really don't want to do something, then don't do it, but accept all the consequences of that in terms of loss of approval or of guilt.  If you decide to do the difficult thing, then do it with a good grace.  Don't moan, don't whine, don't fret or worry away at whether the decision was right after you have committed yourself.  Decide, do it, smile, move on.

When she remarried she and my dad together built for my brother, my sister and me such a cheerful, adventurous life.  Mum loved change and challenge and she encouraged all her children to have a go at things.  While she was physically cautious, she was intellectually and emotionally fearless.  Try it.  Have a go.  Why not?  Of course you can.

Combining that adventurousness with a total steady, reliable love for us all was a great combination.  She was a hard worker who loved having fun, someone who could make a pound go a long way, conjuring amazing meals from almost nothing but who could also be suddenly, gloriously extravagant in producing celebrations for family and friends.  She was both Mary and Martha: the person who had the great time at the party and then got up quietly in the morning so that all was calm and cleared up when you came through the door the next day.

As my father became ill she never wavered, never complained, only very rarely shared her worries.  She was there, cheerful and smiling as always, helping him unobtrusively and gracefully in his increasing dependence, making him laugh.  About eighteen months ago, we were talking about how they were managing his increasing ill health.  "I wake up every morning" she said "and I wonder what we can do that will give Graham and me a good day.  And then I do it."  And that was her most amazing quality, an ability to live in the moment and to make the moment shine.

I have no idea how we will manage without her.  I can barely believe she has gone.  I know what she would want me to do and what she would say "What can you do today to make it a good day?"  So I will try and, eventually, I am sure, maybe not today, I will do it.  I learnt at her knee.

Comments

  1. You have done a lovely thing for your remarkable mother. My condolences and warm good wishes to you as you continue the journey without her.

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  2. I lost my mum last year. It's hard, stepping up to the plate that your parents were on.

    Sorry for your loss.

    Christy

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  3. Oh Elizabeth, so very sorry to read this.
    It is such a moving tribute to your mother. Her philosophy of life is one I can only aspire to.
    With very best wishes to you and your father as you come to terms with your loss. Jx

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  4. My sincerest condoleances Dear! Your Mum sounded as she lived life with both hands and your post is a magnificent eulogy!
    Thank you so much for sharing this sad moment yet reminding us all life is to be lived to its fullest...You do have more in commun with your Mum than you think!
    God bless,

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  5. So sorry to hear of your loss Elizabeth she sounds a remarkable woman. A lovely tribute.

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  6. A moving tribute to the mother you loved and who loved you. My thoughts are with you as you move forward with your life without your mother. Learning to live without a much loved parent can be a tremendous challenge, but take strength from how your mother coped with her loss.
    With sympathy,

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  7. I am so very sorry, I know you will miss her terribly. There is nothing I can say that seems appropriate or helpful but my thoughts are with you and your family. I hope writing this post has helped you, I did the same when my sister died and it did help a litte

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  8. So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your Mother with us. She led by example. She'll still be there to guide you forevermore.

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  9. A wonderful tribute to your mother - she must have been so proud of you. Such a terrible loss for you and your family and you will miss her so much, but how lucky you are to have had such a wonderful mother - her strength and love will stay with you forever.

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  10. Dear Elizabeth
    To have been loved and raised by a good mother is such a wonderful, random thing. It's winning the very best lottery and being given the gift of passing it all along to the next generation. A mother who was both Martha and Mary - what a treasure. I am so sorry for your loss.
    XO

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  11. Oh Elizabeth, I am so very sorry, she sounds like a remarkable woman, and a wonderful mother, the hole she leaves in all your lives must feel enormous at the moment. I hope that remembering her will help.

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  12. What a beautiful song and tribute. I'm so very sorry for your loss. I wish you solace, and the strength to keep finding those little things to hold onto each day as you work your way through this painful time.
    Sara x

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  13. Elizabeth, I'm so sorry. Your mother sounds like a most special lady and your hymn is a moving tribute to her and the legacy that she has passed on to you. My thoughts are with you.

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  14. A moving tribute for a special lady. Elizabeth, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss.

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  15. Such a wonderful tribute to your mother. I still go to ring mine. This has been a year of loss for me, I still cant believe my younger sister died unexpectedly last month. Thinking of you.

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  16. Elizabeth, I am so sorry to hear this. My deepest condolences. Your mother sounds to have been a remarkable woman and the proof is before us - yourself. You obviously loved her very deeply.
    It is always tragic when a parent departs and all we can hope for is that the departure is sudden and as painless (to the person departing) as possible. Your mother seems to have chosen this path with great competence, though the timing was probably unfortunate. In the ambulance she might even have been singing .....'isn't it queer.... losing my timing this late, in my career,'......I do hope your father manages to cope. No doubt he will be numb and stunned. But no doubt also you will be there for him. And if you again find a peacock on the lawn, it may well be Mum, checking up. Big hugs and kind thoughts. Fenniexx

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  17. I am so sorry, no words to say. You said them all, take care, Jane x

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  18. I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your mother was a remarkable lady. Prayers for you and your family.

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  19. What a shock it must have been. You have described a wonderful human being, someone of such value to everyone around her. I am sorry you have lost her.

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  20. Wonderful, loving tribute to your Mother. I love her wisdom about living in the moment, what a wonderful outlook on life. We humans find it incredibly difficult to enjoy 'the moment', your Mother triumphed over that with amazing grace and enthusiasm. I'm sorry for your loss.

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  21. Elizabeth, I send deep condolences to you and your family. I also must tell you how beautifully you have written of your mother. She clearly was a remarkable woman with much depth of feeling and spirit. It seems clear to me that you have inherited her spirit, wisdom, grace and understanding.

    What I have just typed seems so inadequate to express what I felt as I read your words. You certainly touched my heart.

    xo

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  22. This is a beautiful tribute to your mother. May God bring you peace and love during this season of grief in your life and the memories you treasure help your heart to heal.♥♫

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  23. I'm so sorry for your loss!

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  24. What a lovely tribute to a mother who had a great impact and was a wonderful example to her family. You have my deepest sympathy.

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  25. What a beautiful tribute to your mother ! I know loss, too. For, my mother died just over a year ago. As I wrote in my 9-11-2012 post, "Remembering my Mother", she lived 32,754 days. Prayers sent for your loss...

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  26. As a recent reader of your blog, I just wanted to add my sympathies and thoughts are with you. She sounds like a strong lady and my instant thought was "She made sure the last thing she did was to make sure your father was settled" and that alone shows caring and forethought. May she rest in peace.

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  27. My sympathy to you and your father. Your mother was, obviously, a remarkable woman.

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  28. You carry your mother's gifts inside you and I hope they will help you through the pain and shock. Our thoughts are with you. Xxxx

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  29. I'm so sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. I read this first last night but struggled to find the words - still am, actually. What a shock for you all, but what a beautiful, moving tribute to your mother. My thoughts are with you. Cx

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  30. My condolences to you and your family. Your beautiful,clear, joyful hymn to your mother was touching and inspiring. May her memories and her teachings and her eternal spirit bring you continued joy and gratitude.

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  31. Dear Elizabeth, how sad! I am very sorry for your immense loss and send my deep condolences to you and your family. You have been very lucky to be able to keep your mum for such a long time. How blessed to have had such a fantastic mum! How strange that there is one new arrival in the family and another is taken away. But how comforting to know that she did not suffer and how good for you to have such a great memory to remember when the feeling of loss will overcome you.

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  32. Elizabeth - no woman, no mother, can ever have had a better tribute than this from a daughter. I am so sorry about your loss - but it was quick, there was no long term life of illness, which such a dynamic woman would have hated; Perhaps you have inherited more from her than you realise - thinking forwards, moving towards the light - best wishes to you as you fight to come to terms with it all.

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  33. Oh how I envy you your time with your mother Elizabeth,(my mother was forced to give me up when I was fourteen months old); please accept my condolences. And what a beautiful, wise and wonderful mother she sounds - I believe she is still with you in spirit, if not on this plane and you will never lose her. This is a loving tribute to an exceptional woman. Look out for white feathers.

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  34. I'm so sorry, Elizabeth. My condolences to you, your father and all your family. Your tribute to your mother is truly lovely; I read so much love there and so many happy memories. My best wishes to you during this difficult time.

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  35. I am so sorry to hear this news, Elizabeth. An unexpected death is so hard to bear and the death of one's mother the hardest of all. Please be kind to yourself a little, as you dash about organising and coping with practical matters. Your mother sounds as though she was a wonderful person and one who was truly appreciated. Your post is a great tribute. Take care. x

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  36. Oh. Elizabeth I am so very sorry for your and your family's loss. She sounds like the most remarkable woman and mother ... few have such a hymn written on their passing. x

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  37. my sympathy to you and your father.
    This will be our first Christmas without my mother, who was so happy to celebrate one hundred Christmases.

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  38. I am so very sorry. As you might remember, I lost my own mother earlier this year, although with more warning than you had. It's so hard, isn't it, especially when a mother as wonderful as yours obviously was -- what a beautiful tribute you've written. She comes alive, again, at least for us, your readers. Take care.

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  39. Elizabeth, I'm so sorry to be reading this. HUGE hugs and kisses to you and the rest of your family and if there is anything I can do to make your day better, I'm here. xxx

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  40. Elizabeth - sending you hugs and support and thanking you for writing those wonderful memories of your mom. I almost feel as if I'd met her. She was as lucky to have you for a daughter as you were to have her for a mom - I don't doubt that for a second.

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  41. What a wonderful template for a life, beautifully expressed. My mother died unexpectedly just five weeks before my father (ten years her senior and ever the source of anxiety).

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  42. I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful eulogy you wrote!

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  43. Elizabeth, I am so sorry to learn of your loss. But, Oh what a beautiful tribute to your mother! I think the most any of us can hope for is that our effect on our own families will be as great, and as good, and as much appreciated as your mother's was. She was a lucky woman to have you for a daughter -- you are a lucky woman to have had her for a mother. Hugs to you, xoxox

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  44. I am so very sorry. You've written one of the nicest tributes I've ever read - I think because it was so full of your love for her. I hope your dad will be alright. How very sad for him, and all of you.

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  45. My heart goes out to you Elizabeth, but what a stunning eulogy to your mother! I'm sure you are all in a state of shock at the moment, and there is so much to do and think about. It takes time to absorb the loss and be able to savour the memories, to stop reaching for the phone whenever you have something you want to share with her, but she will live on in your mind and heart, always.

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  46. I'm so sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. From what you wrote, I can see that you were lucky to have her in your life. It must be difficult going through the holidays without her for the first time. This was a beautiful eulogy. I'll be thinking of you and your family.

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  47. What a wonderful tribute to your mother! Celebrate her life and cry when you need to....you are in my prayer this morning.

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  48. A beautifully expressed testimonial to a most remarkable mother. My thoughts are with you at this time of such a grievous loss.

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  49. What a befitting tribute to an extraordinary woman; so very beautifully expressed.
    You'll be in my thoughts, dear Elizabeth. Take care.

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  50. How fortunate you were to have such a wonderful, wise and beautiful mother Elizabeth. Any mother would be so proud to receive the moving tribute that you have given to yours.
    I am so sorry, you and your family are in my thoughts at this difficult and sad time.

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  51. Much sympathy. What a loss but what a lovely tribute.

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  52. Hi Elizabeth
    I just stumbled across your blog again and I am so sorry to hear about your Mum. You will find an inner strength cause you are your Mums daughter. Eventually you will delight in having known her,remember her with love and gain strength from your loving thoughts of her.
    Barbara🌹

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  53. I am sorry for your loss, Elizabeth. You have written a beautiful tribute to your mother, I'm sure she is proud of you.
    May her memory bless you each day.

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  54. A wonderful tribute to your beautiful mother.

    I am so sorry you have lost her. Thinking of you.

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  55. what a wonderful tribute and I'll be thinking later what I have done to make today a good day for those around me xx

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  56. I'm so sorry to read about your loss. Thanks for sharing a wonderful tribute to her - she sounds an amazing woman.

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  57. That's a beautiful tribute. You will find that she lives on in you; it may not be a comfort now, but in years to come you will remember all she said and did, and realise that you're carrying on that tradition.

    x

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  58. Elizabeth - I am so sorry I have come to this after having seen your most recent post first. I therefore had not realised you had lost your mother in November. Offering my deepest sympathies can never touch the depths of your loss. You have given her so much back with this beautiful tribute. She sounds a truly wonderful woman and mother and wife who has left a lasting legacy in you and your siblings. She must have been so very proud, just as you must be - of both her and yourselves. I now understand even more the sentiments in your latest post - all of which I totally agree with. Your mother was a very wise, sensitive, kind, generous, insightful, strong woman - just like her daughter. x

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  59. I've been away from blogland for a few months so I've only just stumbled on your post. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I know what you're going through as I lost my husband very suddenly at the end of September.

    What a wonderful tribute to your mum. She sounds like she was a wonderful woman. We have to carry on as best we can and find inner strength with the help of close friends and family around us. Sending you much love xx

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