Three weeks ago my friend died of breast cancer. Today we say goodbye to her. The only entry requirement that her husband has stipulated is that we send him a photo and some memories that he and their daughter can share. Here are our memories.
You will have been told many, many times what a hugely inspirational woman your mum was and will forever remain and never a truer word was spoken; and while it’s tempting to share with you the ‘big’ moments, the huge accomplishments of your Mum that keep me forever in awe of her, it’s actually the little things that stick with me the most.
I remember your old home and seeing the large black and white photo of you, your Mum and Dad for the first time, the one where you are refusing to smile for the camera and they just can’t help themselves. It’s a picture that captures family life beautifully and truthfully – it’s a picture that’s just like your Mum.
I remember when you were very little, your Mum popped over so you and L___could play together. For some reason, it was very important that the game be near the doorway. Like you do now, you played together so absorbed in your imaginary world that we didn’t have the heart to move you on just so we could sit a little more comfortably. We stood in the doorway the whole time, chatting, enjoying watching you play. If there was ever a choice between comfort or enjoying the moment, your mum would always choose the latter.
Life gets busy, and when you have a young family it’s hard to find time for proper, meaningful conversations. Without any awkward engineering, your Mum would always somehow find that time. I remember once we went to watch a film together. After the film finished, the cinema emptied and we just sat there talking while the poor folk that worked there cleaned up around us. I have no idea what film we watched, but I remember the conversation well.
I remember how she could be stern with you if you had misbehaved, but that her concerns were always explained to you with calmness and kindness. She’d hold your hands and look into your eyes until she was sure you had understood. Then she’d let you go back to the games you were playing. Life resumed happily. She did not hold on to grudges.
I remember her love of ‘feeling’ nature, of feeling the sand, or the grass between her toes. This week, when it snowed, I went outside totally starkers (too much information I know!!) and enjoyed – before I could no longer feel my feet – the feeling of the sharp, crisp cold. Understanding how much we are a part of the natural world, and the pleasure to be found in just connecting with it, is something your Mum pressed firmly into my understanding of what truly matters.
I remember seeing your mum brave and afraid, happy and sad, content and frustrated. She was always both very gentle, and very strong. It can be hard to balance what at first glance appear to be conflicting characteristics and emotions. Maybe it came naturally to her, maybe it took a little practice, but your mum is the perfect example that it’s perfectly possible for these characteristics and emotions to muddle along in harmony and to come together to form a most beautiful soul.
It is impossible to think of your Mum without thinking of the outdoors, particularly the water. L____s and his Dad’s big memory of your Mum is when L____ and yourself were sailing. You were going so far and so fast that L___’s Dad could not catch up with you. Your Dad appeared from one side on his boat, and from the other came your Mum on the paddle board – calm, determined, happy, and to the rescue.
I remember watching her sail with such grit and grace. And I remember her watching over you while you were on the water too, giving you the freedom to explore under the safety of her and your Dad’s more experienced eyes. That safety net she’s created will always be here. It is here in the skills and knowledge she has passed on to you, the values she has instilled, and the people that her and your Dad have surrounded themselves and you with; people that she knew will always, always be here for you.
I remember her laugh, and how it mingled with your own.
I remember how hard she fought to stay with you.
I remember that she loved Maltesers. This is how I knew we had to be friends.
Lots of love, A, J, L, S and T