I have no fear of death, it brings no sorrow. But how bitter will be this last farewell. For you are beautiful and I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell… The Last Farewell-Roger Whittaker
Fourteen years ago today, my best friend left us and joined loved ones already gone. I still miss her as much today as i did then. I dreamed of her last night. She often comes to me in dreams, comforting, smiling, loving… just like in real life. To the world she may be one person but to me she was the world. The following is part of the eulogy I gave at her funeral.
There is a song that Mum loved. Part of it says… I have no fear of death, it brings no sorrow. But how bitter will be this last farewell. For you are beautiful and I have loved you dearly, more dearly than the spoken word can tell. That’s the problem I have here today. Sometimes the spoken word is not enough to fully convey the depth of emotion and enormous love that you feel for a person. This is the case with Mum. There are not enough words to describe the wonderful person she was and the massive void her death has left in our hearts.
If you had asked Mum to describe herself, her first word would have been Mother. This was all she had ever wanted to be. Mum was born Mary Hamilton, on the 24th August 1922, the second child of Frederick and Agnes Hamilton. She was only about 10 when Santa was having a lean year and was only able to leave a pair of shoes when Mum desperately wanted a doll. She was so disappointed, she threw the shoes on the floor and ran out. Considering how much she loved her runners later on in life, this amuses me. Seeing her disappointment, her mother (Gargie) told her that she could have the new baby, which happened to be my Aunty Poss. There was a method in Gargie’s madness because she told Mum that if the baby was hers, she had to clean all the nappies and do everything for her. She was as happy as a pig in mud. Mind you, she raised a few eyebrows at school when she told them she had her own baby. When she was only 12, her father died, leaving Gargie with 9 children to raise during the depression. The youngest, Uncle Bill, was only 3 months old. Mum gladly left school to look after the younger kids while Gargie went out to work. She was happy about it as she hated school and loved children. Win win situation for her.
She worked as a nanny when she was a bit older and met and married Dad when she was 22. Having come from a large family, she always wanted lots of kids too. Dad came from a small family and had an unhappy childhood. The only bright spot for him was when he spent time with his cousin’s family of 12 so he had already decided that the key to happiness was to have 12 children. Mum agreed and the rest is history.
So she helped raise her siblings, she raised her children and even looked after Gargie and then Dad’s mother when they got older. She nursed Dad when he became ill and was so diligent when he was diagnosed with diabetes that they both ended up ill with low blood sugar.
When my marriage broke down, she became the other parent in my children’s lives. She spent her life doing what she loved the most. Being a mother and a nurturer. I’m sure I am being totally unbiased when I say, she was the best mother in the world and that we were the luckiest children to have been so incredibly blessed.
Mum was a special person who was loved by everyone who knew her. It is a testament to this to see so many people here in these pews to say goodbye to her today. She became a friend to our friends and grandma to numerous extra children. In the obituary Emma wrote, she said that Mum made room for lots of pretend grandchildren who wanted to adopt her as their own. She also lovingly welcomed extra grandchildren into the fold who came along from previous relationships. It is so indicative of her great capacity to love that not only were these grandchildren treated no differently to those born into the family, but she didn’t feel any differently toward them. She loved them all and felt everyone of them was a special gift from God.
Growing up, it was nothing to wake up and find people sleeping in every corner of the house as everyone was always welcome. We didn’t have a lot as kids yet were still the envy of our friends as Mum was such a dag and so easy to get along with. She’d sing to get us out of bed of a morning, spend time playing games and had a quiet, unassuming way of knowing what we were going through even if she didn’t have the right words to say.
Mum was an exceptionally strong woman, who seemed very gentle to most people but if crossed she could turn into a rottweiler. Many people confuse gentleness with a lack of strength. Where her family was concerned, she would have fought to the death for us. If there was one thing I remember as a child it was that mum was never frightened of anything. Not the dark. Not thunder. Not spiders.. Nor other people. and certainly not teachers. I can remember one teacher at school smacking and pushing me.. and Mum thundering up to the school. I have never seen teachers cringe like they did. She was so brave. Toward the end of her life, she still showed that incredible bravery and courage at every obstacle that was thrown in her way and there were many.
After I separated, Mum received a death threat against me one night while I was at work. She did all the right things; phoned the police, phoned me at work to tell me to be careful on the way home and just waited. I told her and my niece Kylie to lock themselves in the granny flat and wait until I got home or the police arrived. When I pulled into the driveway, I was concerned as I could see movement in Kylie’s car. Next thing, I see Mum’s head pop up and Mum got out of the car. She was dragging a huge wooden rolling pin behind her that she couldn’t even pick up properly, hence the dragging. Although she could barely pick it up, I have no doubt she would have found the strength to use it if it was necessary. She was a quiet, gentle soul who despised violence and would never have hurt a fly, yet where her loved ones were concerned, she would have gone to any lengths to protect them.
When my own beautiful girl Aimee died, Mum was like my rock of Gibraltar although she was devastated herself. I had to go to Melbourne to identify Aimee’s body and the last thing I wanted to do was take her with me. I didn’t think she would be able to cope with it. When I saw my beautiful girl there, broken and lifeless, I crumbled and Mum became the big person again. She almost carried me out of that room. I’ll never forget that show of physical and emotional strength.
And she was a dag.. We went to Mildura for Aunty Joan’s 70th birthday party. There were about 8 adults and 5 kids in one tent. Mum was to have stayed elsewhere but there was a mix up with accommodation and so she stayed with us. When she was ready to go to bed, she tried to walk through numerous blow up mattresses. Of course, she lost her balance and fell, landing face down with her arms pinned underneath her. All she could say was that she was alright, don’t worry.. I hate to say it, but we were too busy laughing hysterically at her that we couldn’t have helped her if we’d tried.
When she needed to go to the loo in the middle of the night, she decided she would crawl though a small zip in the side of the tent rather than brave the blow up mattresses again. Unfortunately, she got stuck and couldn’t get in or out. We finally prised her out and with grass stained knees she went to the loo. On the way back, she had to walk through the mattresses again and this time only made it to the first mattress before she fell, throwing my brother, Donny up in the air as he slept.. She asked me who it was she was beside and when I told her, she decided she’d just stay there.. It was safest.
The next night, she thought it would be best to sleep on the same side of the tent as the kids so she would have easier access in and out. Great idea, only Aimee who was much younger at the time, was a bed wetter and cuddled up to Mum, soaking her through. To someone else, the weekend would have been a disaster but Mum saw the fun in it and the weekend was fantastic. She often spoke about it and what a fun time she had.
Mum was known to spend New Year’s Eve, driving Irene, Theresa and Dad around to numerous parties. She did get embarrassed when they used to call out to police or anyone else on the street. She took it all in her stride though and laughed all the way.
There was nothing you couldn’t say to Mum… Jeanette, Carol, Christine and I used to spend many an afternoon playing Scattergories and teaching Mum a whole lot while we played. Mum always listened to the way you said things, not the actual words so didn’t take offence at things. She used to make us take these awful jeeps and home made bags with us to the shop when we ran messages. It was so embarrassing as a teenager trying to be cool. She had the worst color sense, so you can imagine the bags she made. We had visitors one day when my brother Fred was going to the shop and she asked him if he wanted to take a bag with him.. He promptly walked over and tried to pick her up and carry her out to take her with him. The visitors were horrified that he was being disrespectful by calling her a bag…. she was too busy laughing to take notice of their horror. She couldn’t understand how you could take offence to that. She saw it as a joke and she loved jokes. She couldn’t tell them, but she loved them.
It was an ongoing joke that Mum, although a teetotaller, liked a drink.. So not true. The most she ever drank was a very watered down Portagaff . Regardless, the joke became that she liked Metho on occasions. When she was washing her windows one day with a bucket of water and metho, Fred yelled at her to stop and ran into the kitchen.. She waited for him to come back to see what he wanted. He ran back in with a tray of ice, threw it in the bucket and said “here you go. tastes better with ice” … She laughed so much she couldn’t wash the windows. When her and Dad celebrated their Ruby wedding anniversary, my cousin Robert wrapped a beautiful bottle of red wine for Dad. Mum assumed hers would be the same, although she didn’t drink wine. When she unwrapped hers, a bottle of Metho was waiting for her. She took all these jokes exactly how they were meant to be taken.. As a sign of love, affection and a compliment that everyone felt so comfortable with her.
She was known by many different and bizarre names at time. to her grandchildren she was Grandma, Gazza, Gran, Granny or Mammas. She loved all those names. To her they were the jewels in her crown. Her children had pet names for her too.. Her favorite was Donny’s name for her which was Dougie. She always found it hilarious when he phoned and said.. “Hi Dougie… this is Donny”… Well who else would it be?.. No one else called her that name.
She had, what to some, may be some slight peculiarities. Like her hundreds of earrings. She had some lovely earrings but she certainly had some shockers, everything from marijuana leaves (which Dad bought not knowing what the pretty little leaves were) to toilet rolls with the paper on them. I bought those for her as a joke to stir her about the amount of earrings she had.. The joke backfired when she wore them, especially on days that I was out with her. There were days she would look quite bizarre in her usual outfit of floral dress, mismatched cardigan, apron, joggers and dangly, sparkling earrings on. No fashion sense, maybe… But we wouldn’t have had her any other way.
She never threw anything out. she was the ultimate hoarder. There were hundreds of magazines, recipe books, newspaper clippings, let alone the broken ornaments and dead pot plants she kept. When I was clearing her granny flat for her before she died, I even found the dress she wore for my debut about 22 years before. I don’t think she ever wore it after that night,but you never know when it might come in handy.
She loved a cup of tea.. She had about 22 teapots which may have been a bit of overkill especially when you think she started using tea bags most of the time in the last few years. We always joked that if she turned down a cup of tea you knew she was sick. This proved to be all too true. As silly as it may sound, one of the most upsetting things for both of us was that she couldn’t drink a cup of tea over the last month of her life. Her illness became a reality.
Mum was diagnosed with cancer In June. It was so typical of her love of life that she fought for all she was worth to live. The fight got too hard and about 3 weeks ago after a long stay in hospital she decided that she couldn’t fight it anymore and wanted to come home, where she belonged, to die. She was able to ensure that her possessions went to who she wanted them to and had a chance to say goodbye to loved ones in a more relaxed environment. She was thrilled to have been able to meet her newest great grandchildren, Jack and Shania.
Last Wednesday night, after a long and hard struggle, Mum finally crossed to another, pain free shore, where I know there were family waiting to take her home. I feel extremely privileged to have held her in my arms as she took her last breath. And while her huge heart has stopped beating, her love and spirit will always live on.
Some of Mum’s youngest grandchildren will now place on her coffin symbols of Mum’s life. There are holy pictures that she carried with her all the time. They are symbols of her faith which was always a great comfort. There is an apron, as everyone will know Mum was never without one. It symbolises the most important thing in her life, home and family. The runners are a symbol of Mum’s attitude that comfort was always more important than looks. Finally there is a pot plant, as gardening was Mum’s great passion.
I’d like to leave you with an olde Irish Blessing as Mum was very proud of her Irish heritage and particularly loved these words.
May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again Mum, May God hold you in the palm of his hand. I love you
14 years ago today, my best friend left my life. I miss her as much today as I did back then. I’m glad she’s happy and free of pain. I’m glad she’s with family who have already passed. I’m glad she’s looking after my baby girl and I’m glad one day, many years from now, when it’s my turn to go, she’ll be there to welcome me home with open arms.. She wrote the book on parenting. She taught us how to use our imaginations. She instilled in us a love of life and left us with traditions we will pass onto our own children and grandchildren. She was my inspiration. I miss you still Ma.. xxx
I made this slideshow for a fundraiser for Australia’s biggest morning tea. It seemed appropriate.
If you still have your Mum, hug her…. she’s priceless..
Happy memories …. Livvy 🙂