This was the speech I gave at my Mum’s funeral – shared so that you can understand what a spectacular mother I had and how she is sadly missed. Regular posting to be resumed on Friday.
About three or so weeks ago, Mum asked me if I would speak at her funeral. I hummed and haaed, unsure that I would be up to it. She told me that I spoke at everyone else’s funeral so I better bloody well speak at hers. That’s Mum for you, that woman knew how to tell it like it is.
So here I am. The only thing that makes it somewhat easier is that she and I got to say everything that was important to each other before she died and that just leaves me to share how special and important she was to us, and especially to me.
Mum showed us that love was something that wasn’t finite – it stretched and stretched and there was always room for one more. When I was little, it felt like my mum knew everyone; later on, when we worked together at the Lotto shop, I realized that seven-year old me was probably right. I was, and still am, in awe of how quickly she made people at ease. She was that lady who would just strike up a conversation at the bus stop. Heck, she was still that woman on Monday. I left her at the chemist counter waiting for her prescription while I ran into the supermarket and came back to find her gone. She’d been wheeled over to the cosmetics counters and was having a great chat! Twenty years having passed since bored me hung off the side of the supermarket trolley, I was just happy she was having a great day and getting to see so many of her friends.
It was a family joke that Mum collected strays… Not animals, but people. Over my teenage years, for many reasons, almost every year saw an extra addition to our household. At the time I just thought it was cool that my friends had somewhere they could stay when they needed; it’s only now that I have a house of my own that I understand the depths of that generosity. She was an ear to our friends when they felt like they couldn’t talk to their own parents and genuinely wanted the best for each and every one of them.
Mum also taught us to be independent, while letting us know that the safety net was there if we needed to fall. She would let us go out with our friends at night with the proviso to “be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful”. We knew that whenever we felt out of our depth, she would be there. I’m not ashamed to say that at the age of 23, I called my mum to pick me up so I didn’t need to get in the car with a drunk driver. And at 2am, in her pajamas, she came and got me.
My students tell me that one of the things they love about me is how open and honest I am. I think it’s because I had a pretty fabulous role model. The quickest way to tick mum off was to lie to her – she would always stress to us that the best thing to do would be to tell her the truth and she would deal with it, whatever it was. Then she would just sit and patiently listen before taking action. I try and live that philosophy in my teaching and I hope that I’ll be able to be the same when I have kids of my own.
My mum taught me that marriage was special. She taught me that it was important to understand about what my future husband did and I now know more about dangerous goods and freighting animal serums than I thought possible. She taught me that you can love people ceaselessly without liking them in the moment. Most of all, she taught me that the real secret of a long marriage is continuing to choose that same person every day of your life.
Mum didn’t have the easiest of lives but I’m yet to find anyone who can overcome obstacles with the grace and beauty that she did. People say that us girls are all like her but those are massive shoes to fill. I’ll be happy if I grow to be even half the wife, mother and friend that she was. Hers was a life lived at maximum volume, and the silence that her passing leaves is deafening.
As hard as it is to move on, as hard as it is to accept that the world looks the same when we feel so different, I know that mum does not want us to dwell on her memory sadly. She asked me to read the following Shakespearean sonnet:
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell
Nay, if you read this line remember not
The hand that writ it for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe
O if I say you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse
But let your love even with my life decay
Lest the wise world should look into your moan
And mock you with me after I am gone.
We will not dwell in sadness too long, Mum, but we will always love you and you will never be forgotten.