Sadly, Mum died Jan 12 2011 after a short illness with congestive heart failure which eventually led her to getting pancreatitus. I knew she was very ill when I saw her at Christmas, but was thinking in terms of months rather than days. In many ways this was better as it was very peaceful and she did not suffer. Otherwise she would have been in and out of hospital, if the doctors could have got her home at all.
The funeral was Monday and I read a personal tribute. It was written with anecdotes from my brother and my nephew and niece.
Mum was very far from a stereotypical mother, something for which I am very grateful. Her example of being an independent, free thinking woman has, and will, give me strength to live my life to the full. She was a woman of many talents and many interests, including but not exclusive to gardening, cooking, reading, art and politics.
Family history has it that she took me on my first political demo while I was still in a pushchair! Needless to say, I do not remember this at all. However, Maurice remembers regular day trips to London which combined a demo with a visit to an art gallery; the highlight being eating Indian sweets from Drummond Street on the train home. Her convictions and principles made her sometimes argumentative and always led her to be generous and empathetic to others.
My successes are due in a large part to Mum. She bought us up to be strong independent thinkers, with the confidence to handle responsibility. She was also directly involved in my learning as early on she spent many a patient and probably an impatient hour, teaching me to read and helping me overcome my dyslexia. Once we were adults she celebrated our successes and commiserated with us when life did not go as well as expected. I knew Mum would be there to support me. If either Moz, I or the grandchildren were ill, Mum was the first to offer help. In fact we knew she was probably more devastated about our failures than we were because it cannot be denied, Mum was a worrier.
One of the things that all parents worry about is whether their children will marry suitable companions. Fortunately,my brother made a good choice as Mum and Nicky, my sister-in-law, became loving friends, enjoying nothing more than comparing notes on the horrors of school teaching. A good thing as her grandchildren gave Mum great joy. Michael and Lucia remember her self sacrifice of taking them to Cadbury World despite the fact that she did not like chocolate!
Both children appreciated having an unconventional grandmother. One so unconventional that she stored her valuables in the waste-paper basket next to her chair. With the rubbish, and with no apparent concern that they may be thrown away next time the bin was emptied.
At one point it appeared that both M aurice’s and my career choices came directly from Mum’s interests. By taking a degree in nutrition I was closely following Mum’s interests in healthy eating and cookery. Moz’s interest in art history perhaps flowed from visiting to boring churches.
Maurice remembers Mum as the very best art gallery companion. She asked so many questions and knew so much, it made it a far richer experience than visiting alone. And although she was notoriously fond of daytime naps, she rarely suffered from museum fatigue. Just ten days ago Moz showed her a story about a Breughel painting, just saved for the nation. Slightly patronisingly, he asked her ‘do you remember we went to a Breughel exhibition; it was nice wasn’t it?’ Before he knew it, she was pointing out details of the painting and talking authoritatively about what it all meant.
I am very grateful that unlike Dylan Thomas’s demands to his father, my Mum did go gently into that good night and she had a peaceful passing. I love you, Mum.