When I got the news, last Thursday afternoon, that my mother had passed away, my reaction, as a writer, was to want to write about it. So, I wrote down a page or two (or four) into the wee hours of the night.
I have been afraid of public speaking all my life. I’d only just joined Toastmasters a few weeks ago, and was due to give my first speech, the ‘Icebreaker’, in the second week of July. However, this huge event of losing my mother, demanded a speech. I knew it in my bones. It was the right thing to do, to overcome my fear for her, in order to pay her tribute. This is the speech I gave, based on my writings from the day my mother, Shirley Angela, died.
25 June, 2015
Where to start, to say goodbye?
When I think of my mother, I see that I got my bubbly nature from her, all my siblings did, we’re quick to laugh and to be silly and that was mum to a tee. From mum, I got my taste for chocolate as well as for the finer pleasures of life. I’m not averse to skipping the main course and going straight to dessert, nor do I have a problem in applying second and third dollops of cream.
Though ma got into her eighties, she was perpetually young of spirit, I know I have that same youthful spirit in me, all of us do. Not just my siblings and I, but the next generations too. We share in the spark of grandma. Who else but mum could come up with her own, nearly-famous interpretative dance – “the G-Nu” – performed with usual panache, her own unique blend of graceful exoticness. Be warned, kin who reside in New Zealand, the role of carrying on “the G-Nu” appears to have fallen to us! My sister and I performed our own rendition of “the G-Nu” (while dad read the spoken parts), for the entertainment of the whole family!
Mum had a good heart and she was generous to a fault. I remember when I married my first husband. Mum was the only one who believed in me, and it helped. Her support always helped. She could be counted on in a bind. I remember when I presented my poor stunned parents with the news I was pregnant as a teenager, that it was mum who immediately stepped forward, put her hands on the table and said, “Right, what are we going to do?”
The last eight or so years since the strokes have been difficult. The strokes made mum angry, aggressive at times, and tearful and sometimes fearful. She had her good days and her bad days. She and I had a few altercations. At times, things were said – she may or may not have called me ‘a cockroach’ on my last visit. But in my eyes, the time had simply come to stand up and say a few home truths between us. So we did. Mum and I cleared the air a few times which I felt was good and healthy for us. So our relationship did evolve in these last years.
And through her friendship with the therapeutic masseuse, Erin Lees, who she was seeing for treatment once a week, mum experienced some real moments of peace, joy, and lucidity that gave me great hope.
I think I’ve had some of my most enjoyable times with ma in these last years too. She had moved on from only ever being the one doing the talking, to being the one who could also sit and listen.
In my adult life, she featured greatly. Mum and dad were a great support when my eldest son was little. I remember I went to see a clairvoyant around that time, the first thing he said was, “I see your mother and father at your shoulders, that’s how close you are.” And he was right!
I owe ma and dear pa a great debt of gratitude, and I’ve expressed this to them before. But now that my mother has passed, I want to take this opportunity to say it again. When I gave up freelance journalism at the age of 25 and asked them if I could move back home to pursue my dream of being a writer, they didn’t hesitate to open the door. They believed in me. They gave me wings. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Mum and dad arranged things so that I was able to take on the purchase of the family home, ‘The Stags’, at a good price when my marriage ended. They gave me and my younger boys a stable place to settle down and grow roots. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Ma had developed a real keen interest in my stories. Nearly every time I visited them, at some point we would talk about what I was writing. She would ask and then really pay attention to me spinning my worlds. She had a childlike way of going there with me, which was deeply rewarding. Ma, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Last year, she was talking about dying, as she had taken to doing at times, and I suddenly felt this need to truly thank her for letting me return home and pursue my dream in those early years. I said I wanted her to stick around and see my first book published.
I wanted that full circle moment, not just for me, but for the three of us. I wanted ma and pa to have that gratification, that knowingness that their faith in me had been well-founded. Their money well spent.
So, when my brother, Al, rang this afternoon to say that ma had died, I thought she can’t have died, that milestone moment hasn’t happened yet. Here I am, in the last throes of getting my first book ready for publication, and I didn’t get a chance to tell her yet. Ma left already, to move on to the next part of her journey. Which is wonderful for her. But no full circle moment.
This is why I had to take this chance to say thank you now, while I have the chance and the public floor. For your unwavering, rocksolid support, ma. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Ma, your spirit in life and in death will always be bright. We’ll never forget you. How could we? We’ll be telling grandma stories until the end of time. You’ll never be forgotten isn’t that wonderful?
Ma, where to start to say goodbye to you? How do I say goodbye to you?
With a tribute speech like the one I’ve just given. My first ever proper public speech, two weeks shy of my ‘Icebreaker’ for Toastmasters. You pipped them at the post! I give this honour to you, ma.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
Yvette K. Carol