In Australia, Mum lived in five houses – that’s if you include the one my parents demolished and rebuilt. My Dad felt the quote for pulling the house down was ridiculous so he did it himself. Mum helped, everyone helped. In all of those gardens my Mum planted marigolds. She enjoyed time in the garden but was not a landscaper at heart as it was Mum’s mission to rid her gardens of any trees which dropped fruits, flowers or attracted noisy birds! Perhaps Mum’s preference for flower gardens may have stemmed back to her young days in Glasgow where the parks with spectacular seasonal flower beds were a treat to visit when the weather was fair.
It is eight years since Mum passed away from heart failure just five weeks after Dad died from cancer which had spread throughout his body. The passing time has meant that I no longer think to call Mum, I don’t fall to pieces when I see someone who looks like it could be her from the back, to eternally discover – of course it is not my Mum. I don’t only recall the images of Mum as she was in palliative care. Now, I have a fuller repertoire of memories, am able to make happy Mum reflections with my family and can fully appreciate any time I spend thinking of her. It is a blessing that time almost certainly eases unbearable loss into a season of more soothing remembering.
My dear friend is not in this season. She lost her lovely Mum more recently and it aches me to know somewhat of what she is enduring, My amazing friend Brenda had a spectacular relationship with her Mum, Loreen Burton who was born on the 4th of February, 1929. They were absolutely best friends and shared many interests. Spending time with them left me feeling like I had just been given a beautiful little gift – the present of being in their presence. This was felt even deeper when my own Mum was no longer with me.
They are accomplished women. Brenda is a highly qualified nurse who has all the gentleness and nurturing skills from a long career – the qualities we often associate with nurses from a previous era although she is also a recent Master graduate, is a leader and teacher in her profession and nurses in private practice. My parents had some brilliant and beautiful nurses at the end of their lives but if I had magic, beyond healing them, I would wish that Brenda was their nurse. There may be some as good perhaps – but none could be better.
I came to know Brenda’s funny, outrageous and energetic Mum later in her life. Do not think I knew an old woman for a second – far from it. She had a sharp mind, excelled at anything she turned her hand to, remained fit, mobile and independent until her gentle and unexpected passing in her 90th year. She personified role model. Loreen was great company and was wickedly happy to have a sassy flirt with my husband!
Last year during their annual visit to Caloundra I offered to collect Loreen from her morning of cards at a local community hall. I was searching for a parking spot, expecting to go into the hall and help Brenda’s Mum walk down the steps. Before I could do so this spritely lady was already out, (having won at cards) and had descended the small but steep flight of stairs and was making her steady way towards the car!
When I visited my dear friend in New Zealand earlier this year we paid a visit to Loreen who lived independently in an immaculate, lovely home about ten minutes by car from Brenda. Loreen was beautifully dressed, groomed elegantly as she had done so for every day of her life. Her soft hair was beautifully brushed and her make up and lipstick were faultless. Loreen spoiled us with a lovely afternoon tea although the exceptional treat for me was to witness this amazing lady moving about her kitchen – hosting and busily preparing tea for all of us.
I miss Loreen deeply for Brenda and I feel very blessed to have known her and to have witnessed first hand the special bond this wonderful mother and daughter shared and still do. In the next few days Brenda will be attending to her Mum’s possessions. Gentle and loving hands on the everyday things that make up a home and reflect a life. The harsh reality of boxes and decisions will not out weigh the deepening of sweet and loving memories collected in the necessary gathering. When my Mum died I understood that people mean to be kindly but inadvertently say things that are less than comforting. Some try to offer positivity in listing the many achievements of a life well lived. However, it was during a private and quiet moment when these words were spoken to me – “It does not matter how old you are when you lose your Mother, it’s hard, very hard.” That tender acknowledgement felt like the first tiny loosening of the grip of grief.
Be as well as it is possible to be my friend during this season. In knowing you, your grandchildren will know Loreen. It is a given that the loving nature, capacity to give and that cheeky humor shall be passed to them just as it was bestowed upon you.