A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about my father. Recently I was looking through my old documents and I found the following tribute to my mother which I wrote after she passed away, and read at her funeral. At a time when my life seems so full of anger and disappointment, I felt the need to spread some love, so I would like to share this with anyone who cares to read it.
"My mother was the bravest person I have ever met.
During the last 25 years of her life, she endured a bewildering succession of life’s cruellest tricks, whilst maintaining, at least outwardly, a quiet but stubborn sense of optimism, and, given some of the blows she was dealt, a quite remarkable lack of bitterness about her lot in life.
Most of the people who knew her during the last 10 years of her life will remember her as a kind, sweet, funny, caring, lovable, occasionally feisty but endlessly entertaining person. Someone who was full of life, and full of fun. Very few of those people however will ever have seen the depths of despair from which she repeatedly extricated herself with nothing more than sheer will and cussedness.
For myself, I would not say that I really knew my mother in any normally accepted sense of the term, until 1986. Even then, it was not until I had lived through some very difficult times with her that I truly began to appreciate either her strength of character or her incredible ability to bounce back from seemingly hopeless situations. It was during those first few years of getting to know her well that I learned something which helped both of us on numerous occasions. I found that if I could make her laugh, no matter how grave the situation seemed, she would generally be back on her feet in pretty short order. In fact it was only when I realised ten days or so ago that she could no longer raise a smile, that it dawned on me that this time there may be no way back.
I have to confess to not being any sort of an expert on the etiquette of these occasions, having thankfully not had to attend too many, but when I read through the cards I received both from Mum’s friends, and indeed my own, it struck me that it might be a nice thing to do to share some of those people’s thoughts with you.
With that in mind, here are a few examples:
“Dorothy had amazing spirit and determination and loved being surrounded by people. She had the ability to make friends with people of all ages because she was genuinely interested in what they had to say. She was warm and sincere and liked to laugh”.
“We are very glad that we had the chance to meet her, and were full of admiration at the way she coped with her illness… She was so full of fun and good spirit it was hard to realise how ill she really was”.
“You Mum was such a great woman, so wry and sharp, amusing and inspiring. We miss her”.
“Your Mother was a wonderful friend to me and I already miss her”.
For myself, I am happy to say that I have an abundance of great memories to treasure, amongst them some of the funniest and most memorable times of my entire life. Some of my fondest of them concern her unique talents. For example, her ability to sustain a conversation, seemingly for days on end, by questioning me on the minutiae of the restaurant menus I encountered on my business trips abroad was genuinely awe inspiring.
I think though that if one story sums my mother up then this is it.
One Friday afternoon, probably around 1994/5, when she was living in Dymchurch, I got a call at the office. “You have to meet my friend”. “Oh, OK” I said, “who is she and where did you meet her?” “I picked her up in my cab”. “Ah.” It turns out that during her days as a cabbie, Mum had arrived at Charlton station in the pouring rain to collect a fare. Unfortunately whoever it was had long gone, and the only person in view was a young woman in floods of tears. Having established that this person (a) was not her fare, and (b) she did not have any money or place to stay, anyone might have been excused for making the appropriate sympathetic noises and driving on. Not a bit of it. “Well you’ll have to come home with me then” was the predictable response. Ingrid remains a close friend to her to this day, having invited Mum to visit her in Vienna on at least a couple of occasions.
I know of very few people better at making and keeping friends, and none who are or were more universally loved by those close to them. In her own gentle way, she set me an example which I hope I can live up to, and I certainly would not be half the person I am if it were not for having known her."