Twenty-five years ago today, early in the morning, I received the very worst of telephone calls to tell me that my dear Mum had died in her sleep. As the Minister at her funeral explained later, she had gone to sleep in
one world and woken in the next.
I don’t remember much of that terrible morning, but I do remember having to phone my brothers and sister to tell them the
awful news. I remember my Little Sister’s delight at hearing my voice on the other end of the phone, and knowing that my very next words would break her heart. I remember Mr B only being allowed a morning off work to be with me; the kindness of the police
officers who attended (it being a sudden death); the Youngest of the Darling Daughters staying close by my side like a lovingly persistent shadow; and recalling, through my tears, driving to visit my mum the evening before and noticing the most amazing full
moon low in the sky. Like me, my dear mum loved the moon in all its phases.
Time isn’t exactly the great healer that people say it is, but it does help you
to come to terms with the reality of loss. Over time, the happy memories come thick and fast, each one cementing the feeling that our lost ones never really leave us.
In particular, all my Foursome and all the Tremendous Ten grandchildren use, often without realising it, words and phrases that my mum used. “Remember, they’re all mad except you!” she would exhort me, when waving me off in the car.
Ask her if she was okay with something and she would reply: “I’m alakefic!” As a child, I never quite understood where that strange word came from (it is apparently Egyptian in origin) but I knew it meant that she wasn’t bothered.
So many poems remind me of her; I can almost hear her voice reading aloud to my sister and me. Being exhorted always to “do your best” instilled a strong sense
that only the best could ever be good enough. Whenever I see the magazine People’s Friend in the newsagents I think of her and how she loved all things Scottish.
In her later years, she developed what she called her “Forgettory” - it was typical of her to rationalise what was happening and manage it in her own inimitable way. In her final six months when she was living in a rest home just round the
corner from us, I would take her to my church every Sunday morning where she would introduce me to all my friends: “This is my Jaqui, this is my love,” she would say and my kind and loving friends would greet me for all the world as if we had just
On one memorable occasion I had driven her to church in a courtesy car, as my own car was in the garage for repairs. The car had a manual transmission rather
than the automatic transmission I was used to so before we could make the return journey, I was struggling to find reverse gear. Mum sat, serenely, in the front passenger seat and remarked consolingly: “Don’t worry about it, dear. I’m the
only one who knows you have had trouble - and I’ll have forgotten all about it by the time we get home....”
In these days when everyone is talking
about being kind, I have to tell you that my mum, who was kind by nature, took kindness very seriously. Heaven help us children if we were less than kind to others or thought ourselves better than our peers: “You mouldy thing!” she would
chide us - such a mild rebuke but one we very much took to heart. My mum taught equality and kindness long before they became buzz words.
Sadly my mum never
met any of my Tremendous Ten grandchildren - she would have adored them all. But just because she never knew them, doesn’t mean I can’t make sure that they know all about her. After all, that’s part of my job, as self-appointed family historian.
The photo illustrating today’s Daily Blog shows mum (front right) with my two brothers, her sister, her sister in law and small niece during the war when her resilience was tested to extremes.
“Are you keeping well? Are you busy?” she would ask whenever she saw me, along with enquiring after my health and (on cold mornings) whether I was wearing a warm vest.
I’m not very good at wearing a warm vest when winter strikes - but I hope I always do my best to treat people equally and always, but always, with kindness.
Life lessons from my dear mum - like her, never forgotten...