My Mum died on the 23rd of October 2015 of metastatic breast cancer. Her Thanksgiving service, to commemorate her life, took place today (6th of November, 2015). It was a lovely service, with hundreds of people turning out to celebrate Mum’s life and to say goodbye to her as best they could.
I made a short speech during the service. I finished it at 11:30ish the night before, and the first and only time I read it was during the service. It was, I think, the most difficult thing I have ever written. No single speech could ever do justice to Mum and all she did for me, nor should it. I decided, therefore, to do my best to consign myself to one side of A4, which is about four minutes of speech. It is one of the most important things I have ever written, and as such I feel it deserves it’s own page on this site, to remain for posterity, to remind me of her, and to prove that no writing task is too difficult to be undertaken if one only has enough motivation to begin it.
Good afternoon, everyone.
I’m Jonathan, and I’m Fiona and David’s middle child (who I’ll refer to as mum and dad for the rest of this because otherwise it’s going to confuse me).
The other people who are going to speak today have known Mum in ways which are relatable to a lot of you – as a friend, or as a colleague. My experiences of her, on the other hand, are radically different. She was my mum, and initially that’s an experience I seem only to share with my siblings. But when I think about it, she acted maternally towards more than just Naomi, Edward and me. There’s the children of other families she spent lots of time with, and then there are cousins and children of cousins who she looked after during important family functions. In fact, she was such a caring person that actually, the care and love and attention she paid to we, her children, can be recognised in the way she treated everyone.
That may be a natural gift of hers, but her talents didn’t end there – for years she was reigning Pictionary champion, the head of any walking party in the Yorkshire Dales, eerily accurate at predicting Bake-Off champions, and an actual medical encyclopaedia for any malady we could present to her. Her memory was far too good for my liking, actually, because she could always remember the homework I was trying to forget to do.
Her memory, and the way she used it, was certainly among her greatest strengths. Like many of you here with children, she soon became an expert at rousing her first child and getting her to school each morning,. But the way she adapted herself to doing this for all three children by the time Naomi was in year 6 was nothing short of remarkable. And on top of that, on our way to school she’d even find appropriate brain power to test us on our times-tables or spellings, before heading home to begin a days work or baking. She would always remember what books we’d need for school that day, when we’d need our P.E kits, what homework needed completing and when for. I am, however, still very proud of one particular parents evening, in which I decided Mum didn’t need to meet my P.E. or D.T. teachers to discuss my progress in those subjects – so I simply didn’t book times for them!
It took me a long time, though, to think of her as a person, rather than just “Mum” – and I think that’s true of every parent and child. It wasn’t until she became ill that I found out just how incredible she was at her job, or became aware of how loved she was by her friends, or how amazing her and Dad were as a team. I feel incredibly blessed to have had time with her where I was able to appreciate those things, and to give thanks for how wonderful she really was.
She was fantastic at growing up with us, preserving a sense of fun and innocence in our childhoods while still guiding us and letting us grow. She was amazing with holidays, early mornings, baking marathons, Christmas time, car journey games, character/word count reduction on essays, positivity, cuddles, and she cooked a mean spaghetti bolognaise. I’m grateful for the time we had, and for the position she left all three of her children in to continue our lives where she left off.
Whether you knew Mum or not, thank you for reading this. To all who’ve supported my family and me over the past days, weeks, months, and years, I just want to say: thank you for everything. Those upon whom such blessings fall, never should be less than prodigiously grateful, and I find myself in such a rich position as I write this.