Saturday, 25 August 2012

Eulogy

We wrote the Eulogy for my mother's funeral service. I really wanted to remember her for the times in her life when she was healthy and vibrant and not the last few weeks. I decided to publish it here.. I have changed a few names as it is a public blog but I don't really expect many people to read to the end!

Lovely's Mum- the original Spice Girl

There are a few things about Lovely's Mum that you might not know.

She might have appeared a quiet and unobtrusive person, but underneath that exterior there was the heart of an adventurer; a free spirit with a sense of humour, a keen wit and an eagle eye.  Long before ‘Girl Power’ Lovely's Mum was doing what she really really wanted!

She was born on her mother’s birthday and grew up as an only child, describing her own childhood as quite lonely. However this forced her to be self sufficient and to seek out her own entertainment. When she was evacuated to rural Shropshire with her mother during the War, she became a teenage rebel. Her mother fretted as Lovely's Mum became fascinated with the local gypsies, running off into the woods to watch them roasting hedgehogs over their open fire.

The War was a difficult time and she spent much of it in fear of what would happen to her if the Germans invaded. However, these experiences seemed to spur her on to explore and discover other places and cultures. Shortly after the end of the War she and a friend got on their bikes and cycled through Northern France wearing the shortest of shorts! They started in London and made it as far as Reims, a distance of some 269 miles as the crow flies. France was still recovering from occupation at the time and they made people laugh by asking for coffee with cream, something that had not been seen for a while! They slept in fields, on one occasion in a brothel and on another in the cell of a local police station, when the local Gendarme took pity on them. And it would seem that this love for cycling was something which Lovely's Mum passed on to the little Lovelies!

Lovely's mum in her shorts


Also around this time Lovely's Mum became pen-pals with someone in Minnesota, as part of a project organised to link up young people from different cultures. Lovely's mum and Loris wrote regularly to each other for the rest of their lives. Loris visited London in the 1960s and Lovely's mum repaid the visit in the 1980s, making the news in the local papers and radio. The last letters they exchanged were last Christmas.
Lovely's mum and Loris


She also visited the Soviet Union before the end of the Communist regime, with a friend from work. Her one frustration was that she couldn’t speak any Russian and communicate with the people she met.
She would never turn down an opportunity to travel when she was in good health. When Youngest Lovely was sent on his first business trip t o New York, he half jokingly said to her “you can come if you want”, not really expecting her to say yes. Well he obviously underestimated her tenacity and she jumped at the chance; and so Youngest Lovely was accompanied on his first proper business trip by his mother, who enjoyed several days of 5-star luxury in the Big Apple!
She also enjoyed many walking holidays and her most recent trip was to Eastbourne in May, with friends from her apartment block. In one of Lovely’s last conversations with her she said that she was still planning to visit her in her new house in France when it was finished and would soon sort herself out a new passport.

Lovely's Mum was not a drinker, although she would occasionally have a glass of wine. This aversion to alcohol stemmed from her 21st Birthday party. Her parents had organised a big family party and she celebrated by downing a whole bottle of port. The ‘other side’ of her character then  emerged and the quiet Lovely's Mum was replaced by a far more outrageous version as she systematically  went round all the invited guests and told them exactly what she thought of them. This was much to the embarrassment of her mother who refused to talk to her the next day (although in later years it was a story she loved to tell everyone). From that day Lovely's Mum decided that the excesses of alcohol were not for her and she preferred to keep her wilder side well and truly hidden.

Lovely's Mum met Lovely's Dad on the tennis courts at the Civil Service sports club. A friend bet him that he couldn’t get a date with this young girl, as he was quite a bit older than her. They underestimated Lovely’s Mum's sense of adventure. She described Lovely's Dad as being far more dynamic and energetic that any of the men her age. Marrying someone 26 years your senior was a controversial thing to do in the 1950s but she never let what people thought stop her from doing what she felt was right. When people said, “well with that age difference you won’t be having any children”, she replied by saying “oh yes we will, lots”. She refused to wear a white wedding dress, saying the colour didn’t suit her, and on the morning of her wedding she returned from the hairdressers and washed out the shampoo and set, preferring a more natural look.
Lovely's Mum and Lovely's Dad


Lovely's Mum never liked to push her opinions on others but she did have them and was not averse to expressing them in a well penned letter. She was particularly fond of the cricketer, Ian Botham. She entered into a serious correspondence with John Junor of the Mail on Sunday when he wrote an article accusing him of being a foul mouthed yobbo. She concluded her letter to John Junor by saying
When I read your remarks I felt like “planting one on yer” which is what us true foul mouthed yobbos say!! “ and signed the letter
Yours ever, Lovely's Mum”.
The following year she sent a letter to Ian Botham himself when he announced his retirement. It said
Just a short ‘thank you’ note for the many hours of wonderful cricket. I have enjoyed your playing career especially because you have always appeared to be so competitive and keen to win. Cricket will be the loser on your retirement, but thank goodness for ‘son of Botham’- there is still hope.”

As a mother, Lovely's Mum had a very relaxed approach to parenting.  She certainly didn’t “sweat over the small stuff”.  Domesticity was not one of her great loves and it suffices to say that from fairly early on we all learnt to do our own ironing, if we were being fussy.  She was loyal, loving and always there to pick up the pieces if things went wrong.  In her own quiet way she inspired us to be true to ourselves and lead the lives we really wanted to.

Lovely'a Mum did not like being the centre of attention and she will probably be cringing now at all this fuss. She would want to be remembered as she was in life; her own person, determined, adventurous, thoughtful and considerate to others and definitely not ‘plain vanilla’.

Lovely's Mum on her 80th birthday with the little lovelies


Signed The Little Lovelies, August 2012

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The end

In the end the end came quickly. Over the weekend she seemed to be asleep more than she was awake and when she was awake she pulled out her feeding tube. My sister watched her in a physiotherapy session and the only time she seemed to respond to anything was when she heard my sister's voice. Another feeding tube was inserted but she pulled it out almost immediately. Hard to know whether this was just a response to the sensation or a conscious decision on her part. If it was the latter I can't say I blame her. My sister was called to say that her breathing had deteriorated but by the time she arrived she was already dead. The most likely immediate cause was that she had been sick and inhaled her own vomit. We were left with mixed emotions as a life as the one that loomed ahead of her had she survived would have been no life.

Now it is over the idea that she was unwell for only 3 weeks before she died seems relatively short compared to what some people suffer but in the middle of it we suffered every minute of it with her and it felt like an eternity.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A strong heart

My mother has a strong heart. She has never smoked or drank large amounts of alcohol; has always eaten well (despite the love of all things sweet and chocolaty) and although never one for sport, she enjoyed walking and kept active.

Now it is her strong heart that is keeping her going although her brain has all but given up the ghost. Two weeks on she remains much the same, with some minor improvements in consciousness, although I am not sure how much of that is wishful thinking on my part. I am not sure how good her strong heart is for her well being. She is completely dependent for everything, being fed and given fluids through a tube, she has a catheter and wears pads. The only parts of her body that she can move herself are her left arm and leg. She can shrug her left shoulder and use her left arm to feel her face and hair, and while she is there play around with the tube in her nose. She seems to be able to see things when she is awake and at times can recognise us, but as she can't communicate in any meaningful way and I don't know what she understands of her situation.

I know that there is always hope for improvement and it is early days, but looking at my mother now and remembering what she was like only two weeks ago, and thinking about the best kind of improvement that we can hope for, I am still undecided about what I wish for. Her suffering is plain to see.

Because of her strong heart she has survived and so we must offer supportive care and clutch at the positive signs as we can. If she continues with no improvement I am sure that nature will take its course in a matter of months and her strong heart will eventually be weakened by infection or just the burden of continuing to live.

In the meantime I have to continue my life and am returning to France soon, leaving time and nature to run its course.