My Mum passed away two weeks ago and this is the tribute I shared at her memorial service. People of my Mum’s generation faced many hardships and it’s a reminder that we are fortunate to have so many opportunities available to us today.
I think the word that best describes my Mum is the word resilient. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or challenges; it’s being mentally strong. My mum faced many challenges in her life, probably more than most of her peers, and she met them all with a great deal of energy, determination, and a can-do attitude.
My mum was born on 15th March 1927 in London.
Her first challenge was, after being an only child for 9 years, her sister Audrey was born. We were never able to find out why there was such a large time gap between their births. The English take a lot of their secrets to the grave. Audrey suffered from eczema as a child and consequently was often unsettled. My mother was often a babysitter.
Her next challenge was when she was 12 years old in 1939. World War 2 started. The government decided to remove all the children from London and send them to the country where it was assumed, they would be safer. My Mum’s father ran his own carpentry shop. Her mother helped in the business and by then she had a three-year-old to look after, so she didn’t want to leave. If Pam was going to leave it would have to be on her own, so it was decided they would all stay together in London. But it was the end of my mum’s education as the schools in London were all closed. My mum’s lack of education caused her a lot of heartache over the years, but with her usual energy and determination, she made the best of it.
My Mum lived through the Blitz. I never really knew what that meant so I decided to Google it. According to the Encyclopedia Britannia, London was bombed for 76 consecutive nights and a third of London was destroyed. The English were supposed to surrender, but the English and my mother were made of sterner stuff.
My Mum’s next challenge was living in post-war London. It took a long time for things to return to normal, rationing continued for years, and in many ways life was difficult. But my Mum, from about the age of 14 or 15 managed to get herself jobs in various dress shops. She was well liked and received good references.
Some famous person once said, “youth is wasted on the young,” but there is a sense that my Mum’s youth was stolen from her by the war and circumstances beyond her control.
Just when things seemed to be on the improve, my Mum again faced another significant challenge, she was deeply betrayed by Eric, a man who she married believing that he loved her. When the relationship fell apart. My mum moved to Clacton-on-Sea to help her father run a cafe, at a pitch and putt golf course that he leased from the council. It was called Happy Valley. It did turn out happily for my Mum because it was there, she met my Dad.
After they had been married 10 years, my parents were looking for larger accommodation as they now had 2 children, my brother Stephen and me. Dad was reading the newspaper one day, as he likes to do when he read an article about Australia and the possibility of immigration. He said to my mother, how would you like to live in Australia?
Her response was, when do we leave?
My Mum was up for the challenge of a new country, and as always, she faced it with energy, and the determination to make it work.
My brother shared about my Mum’s life in Australia.
I’d like to finish by sharing my mother’s final challenge, which was having dementia. It’s a cruel disease. It not only steals your memories, but also the memory that you have dementia, and you aren’t able to make and carry out the decisions you once could.
For quite a long time, my mum had occasions where she was very agitated.
She was frustrated about losing her independence, which was important to her. She was also frustrated about the things she could no longer do, and the fact that she could no longer be sure about the memories that she did have.
However about six months ago, I noticed a change, she became more peaceful. She still wanted me to take her home, but she wasn’t so insistent about it. She still walked the corridors, but she wasn’t quite so agitated.
When she was taken to hospital a few days before she died, I expected to find her agitated and upset, but she was surprisingly calm, and even when she returned to the nursing home, and was restricted to her bed, she seemed to me, to be reasonably settled.
Somehow, she managed to find a level of peace, in the midst of her greatest challenge, and for that I’m grateful.
As I said at the start, she was a resilient lady, full of energy and determination.