Having only recently completed my Dad's eulogy, it was hard to face writing Mum's last week. Losing both parents so close together has been tough even more so because of Mum's dementia which meant that we lost her over and over again. I am saving it here as a permanent reminder of my Mum.
Over the last few years Mum had become less and less Mum and that has been incredibly hard to face. Mum survived so many falls, bumps, bruises, tumbles and near misses that it is simultaneously hard to believe she survived so long and that now she has gone.
The illustration I always used to make sure that any health care professionals really understood the magnitude of Mum's ‘high pain threshold’ was the time when Mum and Dad got knocked over by a car. Dad was airlifted to hospital while Mum sat on the kerb insisting she was ok. They both went into hospital, Dad came home with bruises and broken toes. Mum after insisting she was fine was sent home. A few days later complaining of a ‘bit of pain’ Mum went back into hospital. She had broken her hip. Then there was the time she broke her arm while the car was in the garage so her and Dad got the bus to hospital rather than trouble anyone for a lift.
Mark suggested selling her DNA to some sort of military training base to build super soldiers and I think he was only half joking. At times I was convinced that stubbornness alone kept her going.
There were always glimpses of Mum there though. Marie told me at one visit that Mum had told her to do her cardigan up because it was cold out and another time Marie said to her ‘When Lawrence visits I bet you talk more – you can’t get a word in edgewise with us two’ (me and her) and Mum laughed. She loved looking at old photos too.
We want to thank Aaron Court for the care they took with Mum and for making her life comfortable and happy. The love and compassion that they show on a daily basis is incredible.
But Mum was so much more than these final years. As you know Mum and Dad lived in Liverpool during the blitz. Mum was evacuated with Aunty Eileen. She told the tale of how they arrived in a church hall with lots of other children, gas masks slung over their shoulders and then the adults who they would live with arrived. A tall thin woman dressed all in black entered and Eileen apparently whispered to Mum ‘I hope we don’t get the witch’. The numbers in the room dwindled and eventually Eileen, my Mum and ‘the witch’ remained. It turned out that she was an incredibly kind woman who looked after them as though they were her own.
In a time of emails and skype it’s difficult to imagine those children gathering at the train station to see if a family member was coming to visit. If no-one visited sometimes a neighbour would bring a package or letters.Those tales always brought home to me how hard the war was both for those who stayed and those who left.
Some of my earliest memories of my Mum are when we would go down the Port together. She would stride along with me having to run a bit to keep up. I remember getting to the top of our road and turning on to the main road. It was raining and Mum was wearing a carefully selected headscarf tied under her chin, protecting her hair and as we turned a lorry went through a huge puddle and soaked us both. I think I had started to cry, and Mum was dabbing at me furiously (and ineffectually) with a tiny handkerchief -probably embroidered with delicate flowers – then she just started laughing. She laughed till she was crying, and I laughed too. Then we just turned around and went home.
Regularly as we got very close to home, Mum and I would discuss which was the quickest route home. Of course the best way to settle this was to split up and see who reached the house the quickest. We would both agree to walk and solemnly agreed not to cheat and she we would walk looking back at one another and as soon as we rounded the corner we would run like hell. At least I did and the fact she was always slightly breathless (and very indignant) suggested that she did too so we never solved that! I never thought anything of it at the time but often now I think of her – a stylish, well dressed woman in her late 40s, in heels sprinting down the street alone and it always makes me smile.
This is the same woman who in her late 70s had to be told off for cheating at Elefun where you have to catch butterflies which are fired out of an elephant’s trunk. It’s not often that Mum had the height advantage and she was making full use of it to beat Edward and Molly!
Another shared early memory was Mum, Aunty Molly and Aunty Terry sorting out money at Grandma’s. You could only watch open mouthed as it went from ‘I owe you £4.50 and I owe Terry £2’ ‘Oh that’s OK because Terry owes me £1.75 and I owe Mam £5 so if you give me £1.20 and I give Pat £1.50 I’ll owe you…’ and so it went on. Until inevitably someone would utter the words ‘So if I give you 30p we’re all square’. And they would put their purses away and carry on chatting while we experienced something like the start of a migraine if we tried to work out what had just happened.
Mum used to love having everyone over and at Christmas, she spent most of the day in the kitchen. She was in her element - she was always the last person to remove her Christmas hat. For Christmas tea we always had frozen cream cakes – she would defrost them as per the instructions on the packet and every year we had the same conversation. Mum would worry that they were still frozen in the middle (they were) we would insist they were fine (usually whilst trying to melt a lump of frozen cheesecake under your tongue). This conversation always rumbled on for a while – Mum worrying and us re-assuring her whilst all the time wondering why none of us just said!
Then there was Aimee’s special role. Aimee was appointed as the person who knew when the pizzas were done and was able to de-shell the eggs. Any help you offered would be turned down on the basis that Aimee ‘knows’ how to do them ‘properly’. Mum took pride in being able to provide for us. Statements like ‘Marie likes me to make her coffee because she likes the way I make it’ meant that being given any kitchen responsibilities was a huge compliment.
Grandma’s cooking was legendary – her home baked jam tarts and scones were far superior to her defrosted desserts. And search as I might, I can’t find scouse that tastes as good as hers. Her sausage rolls were particularly loved by John, Edward and Molly. Emma and Aimee once saw her take a tray out of the oven with her bare hands and then just carry on. Another example of her bizarrely super human skills.
When you visited she would basically force tea on you. If you ever watched Father Ted you’ll remember Mrs Doyle – Mum’s offers of tea were reminiscent of Mrs Doyle’s. She would offer someone tea and if they said no thank you she would turn to one of us and ask again in a tone that suggested there was something wrong with our guest ‘Doesn’t Sally want a cup of tea?’ she would say to Lawrence. It was always easier to say yes please. Mark for some reason had the special privilege of making his own tea so he didn’t get two sugars which everyone else did because and I quote ‘John has two sugars’. Even I went to make a cup of tea for Mark only to be told that ‘he likes to make his own’.
Mum was always strong and proud which made it difficult to help her at times. One Christmas a toy went under Dad’s chair and without a moment’s thought Mum went over and attempted to lift the chair while Dad was in it! Once, after ‘allowing’ us to help her move some furniture for her she tried to move it on her own as it wasn’t in just the right place.
To say Mum was house proud was an understatement. She is the only person I know who ironed every item of clothing. She maintained she enjoyed it and it was the only time she got to think. She would often come into the living room cross her arms over the back of the chair and say ‘I was thinking while I was doing the ironing…’ and then she would relay some tale or pearl of wisdom.
When Mum told funny stories, usually about Dad, she would start to laugh until she cried. By which point you couldn’t understand anything she was saying because she was laughing so much – she would carry on trying to tell you though. I remember Mum rang me once to ask for Katherine’s postcode. She couldn’t hear me properly and we couldn’t even get past the first letter before we were both crying with laughter. It took ages to communicate the postcode.
I hope that you will share some of your memories of Mum and that even after today we can remember the laughter and fun we had with her. She was the bravest, toughest person I’ve ever known. I hope that this eulogy will prompt some memories of your own.
29th November 1931 - 30th August 2018