I try as hard as I can to keep in touch with members of my family by letter as often as possible. Letters to aunts, uncles, cousins and most importantly to my parents and especially Mum. My Mum was confined to her home for the last two years of her life and so the letters were a way of showing her my world that could not be conveyed by emails or phone calls. They would be on hotel stationery written in longhand whenever possible if I was staying away from home. Other times, even though we only live 15 miles from where my parents live, I would type something up just so they got something in the post.
Anyway, here is ‘My Last Letter to Mum’ which was read at her funeral.
You must be so proud of how Dad, your Good Guy as you often called him, has coped over the last few days with dignity, pride and an enduring love for you.
That has been the foundation of your life; love.
Love for Dad, love for your family, love for your friends and love for life.
It was love for Dad that took you away from Bournemouth to the semi Arctic town of Dawson Creek in Northern British Columbia. From a comfortable family home to a wooden house without heating, gas, running water or an indoor toilet. Long dark and cold winters punctuated by very short hot and dry summers.
David told me about the tin bath episode.
I am sure that it was out of love that you had the idea that instead of filling the tin bath with water boiled in a kettle that you would place the tin bath on the stove, fill it with water to heat up, slide the bath on to the table and give David and Brian their baths. On this one occasion Brian had first dips and burnt his bottom.
When I read the words David sent earlier about your days in Dawson Creek I gained another understanding of bravery. Bravery is about being a Mum who makes sure that your family is going to be safe, warm and secure. Bravery is also about coping with grief born out of love for your second son, Brian.
I had it easy when you brought me into the world in Edmonton. Home was on 9418 – 94th Street. Centrally heated, inside toilet, hot and cold running water. You made it a safe haven for all of us. Christmases were always, to use David’s words, ‘a time of joy, excitement, surprise and family’. Yes, they were always warm with Christmas dinner served on plates that only came out once a year with special cutlery from a velvet lined canteen. Mum gave me the job to put this cutlery back in its right section.
‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ was one of your sayings. It worked with the cutlery but not our bedrooms.
It was also out of love that you spent hours one Sunday evening just after we moved into Larkfield, sewing a new zip into Brian’s battle trousers that he needed for his Army Cadet Force parade on Monday morning. Buttons on shirts and holes in socks were your favourite needlecraft activities but zippers were not. Anyway, you finished the job and presented the trousers to Brian who went upstairs to try them on.
‘Mum! It’s upside down’ came echoing down the stairs at Larkfield.
‘What is upside down?’ Mum replied.
‘My zipper!’ came the anguished and possibly pained reply.
I think I heard you mutter a very restrained ‘Oh, Damn and blast’ before retrieving the trousers and starting all over again to get them ready in time for Brian’s parade the next morning.
Love was also your shadow going across the living room window at our Larkfield and a light being switched off when you went back to bed knowing any of the three of us who had been out had got home safely. Then in the morning saying over breakfast ‘You came in very quietly last night as I didn’t hear you’.
I am also sure that it was out of love that as I was leaving to go on my very first business day trip to Europe you nearly made me late for my flight. You insisted on making a pack of cold beef and mustard sandwiches for me to take. Just in case Alitalia did not serve breakfast on their early morning flight to Rome.
Mum, I have a confession to make. I made it to Rome and back that day but the sandwiches languished in a rubbish bin at Heathrow. I am sorry.
Even up to a few months ago whenever I rang you or visited you at Harkwood Court one of your first questions would be ‘Are you eating properly?’.
Your love for life got an injection when you started to work at The Fulcrum in Slough. There you met Vera, Ted, Dennis and Stuart. You had always enjoyed classical music. Last Night of the Proms in October was one of your favourite nights. Eric Robinson on Sunday mornings on Radio 2 playing selections of light classics. But it was through Dennis and Stuart that you really were able to experience live music and attend various events including The Oak Day at Chelsea Hospital. A photo from that day is proudly standing on the writing bureau in the living room.
You loved looking at views. Most of the time I could see what you were looking at. More recently it was difficult for me to understand what you were looking at in the distance. Today, I and all of your family and friends with all their love hope that you are there now.