My father entered the Glasgow Silver Slipper Café with a friend and saw her across the crowded scene. The clattering cups, hissing steam and duke box could not detract from her vivacious laugh or auburn-haired beauty. “That’s the girl I’m going to marry!” he boasted- and so they did.
In the wedding photos, if she hadn’t made him throw them out because they were amateurish, they would have looked young, fresh and happy, suited and booted and at the beginning of something wonderful. Not that a room and kitchen with outside shared “facilities” could necessarily be called wonderful. I’ve been told they went on Honeymoon to Rothesay and the downstairs neighbour complained about their night-time noises until finding out the reason for their holiday – dad assures me he was just hungry in the middle of the night.
They moved to the sunny climes of Ayrshire when I was five and it must have seemed quite heavenly – a two bedroomed flat with kitchen, bathroom, lounge and underfloor heating. Mum hated it from the word go but part of that might have been that she had no telephone and she missed being able to call her mother so we all trooped over to Glasgow every Sunday for soup and a roast chicken dinner and extended family gatherings. They were happy times.
Mum and dad often took my grandparents to Blackpool for the summer holiday and on one memorable occasion the car ground to a halt on the notorious Shap. The fan belt had gone and my mother had to delicately remove a stocking so that my rain drenched father could get us back home by using it as a temporary fan belt. I think, perhaps, my mother was racier than I have given her credit for.
Mum had been very clever at school but her mother hadn’t been able to let her stay on to take the qualifications that would have led to university but in Irvine she worked her way up from a nursing auxiliary to typist to company secretary to company director, all the while encouraging me to stay on at school and have a career so that I could be earning my own money. She forced me to do the things I didn’t want to do like pass my driving test and supported me so I could get back to work after divorce and the joys of single parenthood. Later on she qualified as a Chiropodist but found it hard to charge people what the job was worth so often did it as a favour to elderly relatives of friends.
My parents have been very happy together and enjoyed each other’s company. She took driving lessons without telling dad and met me after school one day waving her new licence in her hand. A few years later she was driving her company car and bringing home a puppy in the passenger seat – what wasn’t to love? They had little projects that they did together like taking Highers at night school or going to dancing classes but mum was very much her own woman – meeting up with the girls or reading the latest book or organising secret holidays to Paris to surprise my dad – who didn’t suspect that she was going to whisk him away for a romantic getaway, just the two of them – see, I told you she was racy. We shared many a trip to the theatre or cinema and mum could always be relied upon to have a secret stash of juice and treats in her bag to enjoy at the intermission. The funniest of these theatre trips however was quite by accident. We sat in the box waiting for the curtain to rise on a last minute purchase of tickets for the ballet only to find out it was an opera in Italian. While everyone else was preparing themselves to cry at tiny frozen hands, we were chuckling silently at our mistake with tears falling down our cheeks for a different reason.
Mum has always been known for her kindness to others. She gave away more to others than I’ll ever know about because she never let her right hand know what her left hand did but I do know that she was a Samaritan even although it was a hard thing to do and she was always giving gifts to children as she had always wanted more than just the one. For those of you who do not know, mum lost 8 children due to stillbirths and that is why we request that you give a donation to Sands in her memory.
She got a second chance at helping to raise a child when I had Nadia. She was devoted to Nadia and relished the chance to be a Gran who was fully involved and she was selfless in that role while she was well enough to do it.
Mum took people on trust and remembered everyone’s name taking an interest in every minute detail of their lives so I know it won’t just be immediate family who will miss her.
When others would have been slowing down she took up piano playing, swimming despite being afraid of getting her hair wet and singing lessons. Dad, being the gardener to her flower saw to it that her every whim was catered for.
It did of course all go wrong medically and the last few years have been hard, but it was a life well lived surrounded by family and friends who loved her.
Mum would not want us to be sad and morose – afterall what is the point of faith if it doesn’t get you over that hurdle of the transition between life and the next stage?
Consider this poem:
Death Is Nothing At All
Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped away into the next room,
I am I, and you are you,
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still,
Call me by my old familiar name,
Speak to me in the same easy way which you always did,
Put no difference into your tone;
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect, without the shadow of a ghost on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was; there is absolutely unbroken continuity,
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am just waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.
Henry Scott Holland