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Posts Tagged ‘loss of mother’

African Violet

On Mum’s window sill in her Jaffa orange kitchen sat a colourful array of African violets.  The flowers would thrive with Mum’s attentive care, just the right amount of gentle sunlight and not too much watering.  I remember calling in for a cup of tea after work and seeing the row of pretty little flowers, bright and cheerful and always in bloom.

A couple of years ago I received an African violet as a gift and sat it on my kitchen bench.  The sight of it sitting there reminded me of Mum and her pretty window sill.

I kept the African violet, moving it around from bench to packing box to table as we recently renovated our home and somehow it made it through all the dust and chaos.  However, the little flowers soon disappeared and the leaves lost most of their green hue. When the building works were finally complete the little plant sat forlornly in the corner of our new kitchen bench and I wondered if it was time to throw it away.

Mother’s Day in my house is rich with all the best parts of family life:  breakfast in bed, laughter, gifts and precious time spent together.  I love being a Mum, but despite my thankful heart, I still miss my Mum.  This Mother’s Day was no exception.

Yet something happened this year which brought Mum a little closer.  A tentative shoot emerged from the bedraggled African violet for the first time in so long, and a small purple flower raised its vibrant face to the sun, bright and bold, greeting me on Mother’s Day morning.  Despite its haphazard care, its lack of watering and being abandoned to a dusty corner, the plant bloomed right on cue, a small reminder of another time, of a small kitchen with the Jaffa coloured bench tops and the banter of mother and daughter, chatting over numerous cups of tea.  That little purple flower brought back so many memories, of the complex mother and daughter bond, of laughter and of tears, but mostly the knowledge that I had been loved.

Sometimes it’s the little things that bring the past alive for us – allowing us to reach back and embrace the ones we’ve lost.  More than anything it reminded me that despite all obstacles in its path, even the depths of grief and loss, a mother’s love endures.

 

 

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The day before we went  to Jindabyne, I visited Mum.    I had almost reached the nursing home when a desire to buy her flowers overwhelmed me.   The urge was so strong, I turned my car around and drove back to the shopping centre, and bought her some delicate pink roses.    Ever since I was a child I have loved to buy Mum flowers, as they make her so happy.

As I placed the roses in a vase in her room, I explained that I was leaving to go on holidays, but would be back in a week.    A wave of sadness washed over me as I told her ‘I will be back soon, but whenever you look at these roses, remember how much I love you.’    She smiled and told me that she loved me, and I reluctantly left, blinking away the tears as pools of guilt and foreboding lapped around my heart.

When I returned from Jindabyne Mum had already begun to slip away.    As we sat beside her bed, day after night after day, the pink roses rested in the vase in the corner, wilted and dry.   Had she looked at them when she began to feel ill?   Did she remember my words?

Today my house is full of fragrant bouquets with lashings of purple, pink and white, sent by kind friends in honour of mum’s passing.    In a week or two they too will wither and die, but I know that my love for Mum, and the precious memories we share, will live on in my heart.

I’m so glad I listened to that inner voice and went back to buy those roses.   It had been my last chance.

Yesterday I stood in the chapel, trembling as I spoke these words, so painful to articulate, but too important not to say:

 Eulogy:

We loved many things about Mum.   She was a vibrant, energetic, direct, honest, passionate, and loving person.   There was nothing luke-warm about Mum.   She either loved you or hated you.   If she were a colour she would be a rich crimson or an intense purple.   Her presence would fill a room and she was full of life.  She was truly beautiful.

She had a wonderful sense of humour and a unique way of looking at people and situations.    While I was going through those awkward teenage years she enjoyed assessing my boyfriends.   When they arrived to pick me up she would greet them with her charm, whilst subtly looking them up and down.   Little did they know that she was trying to work out which animal they reminded her of.  The next morning she would hand down her verdict.    I dated a pigeon, a Rottweiler, a guinea pig and even a bullfrog.   Once I knew which animal they were it became really difficult to take them seriously.   The only guy she didn’t categorise was Chris & maybe that’s why I married him.        

Growing up, Mum often told us that difficult times ‘build your character’ and make you strong.    The final years of Mum’s life were indeed difficult times.   Just over five years ago she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.    There is nothing positive to be said for brain tumours & Mum fought bravely as she underwent surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.   On the day the doctors gave a prognosis of 6 to 18 months she declared that she wanted to live for another five years, and that is exactly what she did.  Only 2% of people with this type of tumour live for five years.   Mum was a champion and we’re so proud of her.

However, it isn’t just the length of those five years that has inspired and amazed me.   It is the way Mum adapted to her illness, accepting the many limitations placed on her as she lost her ability to walk and to find her words.  She somehow managed to smile, laugh and love the people around her.

When I would visit her at the nursing home, her face would light up and she would say ‘hello darling’ and tell me how beautiful I am.    I soon realised that she told all the staff and volunteers at the nursing home the same thing, but it was so uplifting to hear.    She spent her days encouraging others.    She glowed with an inner light which couldn’t be extinguished – not even by the darkness of cancer.   Although she lost her ability to say many things, she never lost her ability to say ‘I love you’.

Mum never complained, and I’m sure there were many times when she was frustrated, uncomfortable and in pain.   After spending time visiting her, I would return to mainstream life to see healthy people with the world at their feet whingeing and complaining, and the irony was confronting.

It has been very difficult watching Mum suffer, but one thing I do know is her strong faith in God carried her along, and as all the trappings of life were stripped away from her, she learnt to cherish the one thing that matters most in this life – and that is love.    She received and offered pure love to her family and her friends, and rested in the love of God.

On behalf of Mum and my sisters I’d like to thank the staff and volunteers at John Paul Village.   Without their excellent care, support and kindness, I don’t think Mum would have been able to enjoy those final peaceful years.   In all the time Mum was at JPV I couldn’t find one thing to complain about, and I have been known to complain about nursing homes.

We also thank the family and friends who visited Mum, sent cards and prayed for her.   Thank you Aunty Joyce, who phoned every Monday night to see how Mum was and to pass on her love.   Thank you to Lois McDonald who continued visiting Mum throughout her long illness.   What an awesome friend she has been – we could all do with more friends like Lois.

Our challenge now is to see beyond the sadness we feel today, and to remember the example Mum set for us – to remain strong and courageous in all circumstances, and to treasure what is really important in life – faith, hope, and most of all, love.

I’m going to miss you Mum!

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