A couple of months ago I reported an adventure while in a shopping centre with my mother. Now, I must report that my wonderful, maddening mother has died. Recovering from an unexpected operation, her tired heart gave out. She was tiny in body, but big in impact, and to the very last she was making her presence felt: in order to be at her bedside I had to return in haste from Barcelona to the UK having been there barely 12 hours! And the day before she died she was pressing doctors into service to get chairs for her visitors. Always polite, if not always tactful, I remember an occasion when my late father was taken ill and she responded without hesitation. 'I'd have rung the Queen if I thought she could have helped,' she said. This fearless habit of going straight to the top once caused me much embarrassment, when she came to my school and asked the Headmistress to deliver my forgotten lunch. But then I was 13, an age when the least thing makes you cringe.
Her sudden passing has released a huge flood of love and support towards me and my family. 'She always made you welcome.' 'She always wanted to give you something.' 'I'll miss that cackling laugh when she rang me.' 'She never forgot your birthday.' 'She was a one-off, an inspiration.'
I will miss her very much, of course; especially in the last three years since my dad died, she has been in my thoughts a lot of the time, and even after she died I caught myself thinking one bitterly cold day, 'I hope mother is warm enough.' But I am not sad for her. She lived independently, with a bit of help, right to the end, and that end was mercifully swift, with her beloved granddaughters by her side, and me too in the last few hours. I don't know if she knew we were there; people say that hearing is the last sense to go, but she'd mysteriously managed to break her hearing-aid - the bane of my life - so it's anybody's guess. Like the funeral, these necessary rituals and assurances are for the living.
As she grew older and less mobile, her fund-raising activities were curtailed, but she continued to knit blanket-squares for a local charity, and in few weeks' time her last blanket will be draped on her coffin. Flowers will be few, because she hated to see cut flowers die. Instead, we will raise donations for that same charity, and I feel sure she would approve. Her funeral will be as much of a joyful celebration as we can make it. She was a woman of faith, and I have no doubt that she has gone to her great reward. If the angels have pocket-money, she's probably got it from them by now for some good cause.
Sad, yes, sometimes. Clearing her house, with all her things still there, will not be fun. But mostly I am thankful: for a long life well lived, for all the love she gave and received, and for the many hilarious things she said which are her most appropriate memorial. Go forth upon your journey, Christian soul.