Remembering mum

27 Nov

It was this past April when I last posted anything on my blog so I attempt now to fill in what’s been going on.  The saddest news is that my dear mother Edna passed away on July 20th.  She was approaching 89 and so had had a good innings.  The last few years weakened her physical body but she was a tower of strength to us all over the years, and it is my firm belief that she continues to be so, shining down from a far off galaxy… I wrote the following eulogy for her:


I can’t believe this day has come – I’m forever saying ‘bye’ to mum! The last time I left for Spain I didn’t want to wake her as it was early morn and we had been up celebrating with Debbie at Glastonbury. Yes – that’s right-GLASTONBURY! Just over 2 weeks before she left for that big concert in the sky, Edna was up in the wee hours, tapping away to the beat on the telly, ever determined to keep some part of her anatomy still moving now that her dancing shoes had been traded in for a bedside view of life as it paraded before her. Mick Jagger was visiting that night! Where the body may have been weakened, there was no denying that she was finding an almost mischievous delight connecting to the ‘spark’ that music always brought. From her early crush on Mario Lanza to the modern day ‘Mumford and sons’ – Edna was enjoying the lot. Debbie had her attuning to the mysteries of the East, and in her final days she took up playing the Ukulele………God knows where that may have lead had she continued to practice!
What made Edna who she was? Leo the lion heart- brave and enduring – setting an example for us all on how to be strong and weather any storm! Always soldiering on through! Perhaps her memories took her back to those soldiers she nursed in a hospital in Belgium at the end of the war…. An old war torn autograph book I found in her drawer dates back to that time of 1945 full of messages thanking the lovely young Edna, quite the Florence Nightingale…….’always service with a smile’, said one – a major at that! Indeed mum’s life continued to be of service to others. All her children followed suit – Mike with his army and fire service, Barb with the children and always helping others, Debb at the Rainforest, forever campaigning for a better world, me with mine and Kenny- well he got his wings early- our angel watching over! Early childhood brought tales of Africa- dad waking up one night when a snake got into the chicken coop and he put the baby chicks in bed with mum. Malaya I remember – remote army camp in the jungle, monkeys we had names for swinging in the trees, coloured parrots, and mosquito nets. Mum got her first sewing machine there and became adapt at sewing all our clothes. Her love of ballroom dancing continued, even with dad’s 2 left feet. I still remember the lovely ball gown she wore and dad’s tux……they cut a glamorous pair …….who could guess what was to come?
When Kenny left for heaven our world fell apart…..Mum told me long ago she too almost died that day but a powerful force came to lift her up reminding her she still had Mike and me to tend to, and sure enough the gift of life blessed us soon with baby Barbara. We were back in England then- Woolwich, no herding buffalo and feeding wild monkeys there. It was high rise living carrying Barb’s big pram up and down concrete steps. Happy times with visits from the family, all come down to see the palace – not ours of course – Buckingham! and our local pride and joy, the Cutty Sark.
On the move yet again we made it back to Merseyside – all camped in one room for a while, back where Edna and all her brothers and sisters were born. Exotic coconut and lime juice traded in for auntie Dolly’s bacon butties, Uncle Willy’s kind soul, and Auntie Elsie’s cream tea. Finally we were given a council house to rent, a bus ride from the seashore. A garden for dad to grow his veg, back woods for us to play and room for just one more – Our own little Debbie arriving near Kenny’s birthday. Life continued on with lots of love and laughter. Still not much money but needs were met, mum taking on part time jobs wherever she could – Cadbury’s for one and dinner lady too. There were regular visits to Burnley to see dad’s family, and holidays at Pontins. There was opposition from dad when I wanted to leave home at 18, but mum gave her blessing, encouraging me to follow a dream. Mike too left soon after to join the army, serving in Ireland. They still had the girls at home and in 1980 with a surprise win on the horses mum booked flights to America for them all. Dad’s health was fragile I remember and she was determined to show him the wild west, since he had an affinity for cowboy hats, the Beverly hillbillies and the song ‘home home on the range’. I was spun into a panic, still a struggling actress – how on earth was I going to show them a good time, but I needn’t have worried as mum was bound and determined. ‘It’s now or never’, she had said, and over they came. We enjoyed a cabin in Yosemite, with pa panning for gold just like Jed Clampett, mum winning big on the Las Vegas slot machines, and Barb and Debb having fun at Disneyland. Not to mention me almost killing them all when the car I had rented had a blow out in the middle of nowhere. Had they waited a few more years I could have introduced them to Clint and Meryl and Barbra Streisand of course, but there would be no second visit for pa……………………and mum had known that. Over the years Mike and Ann had given her 2 grandchildren, Michelle and Kerry to enjoy and Barb and Ged, gave her Hannah and Luke, and what with Lynn and Carol and their broods not so far away, there was never a dull moment. Edna made it to Spain to meet my Javier, and back again to America many years later- New York to see Betty. And Debb and Graeme showed her the outback of their beloved Sedona…………
So…… it any wonder that Edna’s shoes would one day wear out? Mum went on to survive a serious stroke and make a complete recovery, and for a while there we thought she was invincible…………
Perhaps the greatest blessing is that after managing to circumnavigate the globe give or take a few countries, Edna managed to live her final years at home. Mike became a grandparent himself, and that made mum a great granny 3 times over now…Finley, Will, and Holly are the newest kids on the block. Me – I did my best to simply just keep coming home, even when I knew it would mean saying goodbye yet again. But its thanks in greatest part to the dedication of my 2 little sisters, Debbie who continued to live with mum and Barb living just a back field away. They have been the carers, the nurses, the dutiful loving daughters keeping mum safe and helping her on that final journey home. Perhaps the lasting miracle is that mum passed over on the same day as dad- July 20th – Let’s think he was waiting in the wings for that final dance, having had lots of time up there to polish his quick-step……No left feet in heaven! And so………………….Let the last words come from that little autograph book from the end of the war…..

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