It’s common to speak of the recently deceased as if they were a saint, but my mother, who died on January 12, actually was one. Mum may not have invented the concept of ‘keep calm and carry on’, but she embodied it, sailing serenely and smilingly through the storms of life, especially those brought about by having 10 children.
Mum may have been saintly but she wasn’t dull. She was charming, funny, quick-witted, well-read, well-travelled and well-dressed (except when in her motley collection of gardening clothes or in the various ‘idiot’ hats she wore to the beach). She was also a fabulous cook, both inventive and adventurous. When most of my school friends were eating meat and three veg, we were eating dishes mum had discovered on her travels or in books. When failing health meant she was taken into care last year she told my sister that the rest home food wasn’t bad, “but it definitely needed condiments”.
Last week, as our family gathered to farewell mum, we spent a lot of time sitting around the table that has been the scene of so many meals, conversations and celebrations; laughing, crying, talking.
Mum and Dad should have been there; one standing on the other side of the kitchen bench looking for their wine glass, the other telling us we were making too much noise. Their days, as their headstone will read, “were filled with gladness”. Now all we can wish for is that they are reunited, enjoying a gin and tonic and talking about what to have for dinner.