mother and grandmother

Before the funeral. #latergram

This is the text that I read at Mum's funeral. Here seems to as good place to keep it as any.

Hi I’m Janet – one of Kay’s daughters and I’m going to talk a little bit about Kay’s really important role as a mother and grandmother.  But first I’d just like to put something out there and maybe it’s a little bit awkward but I’m going to do it anyway. If Kay had loved horses and had died in a horse riding accident we would have all said she died doing what she loved and it would have been perfectly acceptable. Fifty years on from when she started smoking, it has become (with good reason) less and less acceptable and for Kay smoking became something she did away from others, and I didn’t really acknowledge it.  Sometime in the last week when I visited her at Caritas, as she was being wheeled outside for a cigarette she said to me, I do smoke you know. I used to love smoking too and there were times we enjoyed smoking together, as people do. Of course I wish she had stopped but in a way I miss that.
Ok let’s talk about Kay as a mother and a grandmother.  When Betty and I were growing up, our Mum was much younger than all the other mums. Sometimes I wanted an older Fletcher Jones type mum who knew all the right things to do and who dressed conservatively but most of the time she was our beautiful, youthful mum and we adored her.
After we grew up and left home to make lives of our own we seemed scattered for quite a while. Then mum started talking about starting a fish shop business. That didn’t happen but one day we woke up and we’d renovated an old restaurant in Gertrude street and we had a cafe! Goodness! For 6 years Betty Mum and I worked together. There were ups and downs and it was certainly hard work, but most of all, it bought us back together again.
One thing about Mum that Betty said, was that Mum had absolute belief in our abilities to do things that are non conventional. For example, Arcadia and Betty’s business.
As we got older and older, I think mum despaired of ever becoming a grandmother. She had me when she was barely twenty. When I became pregnant (some 40 years later) in 2003, she was overjoyed. However little Frank was born way too early and died soon after. Mum supported me and Gerard through that dark and difficult time in a very close and real way. For a long time she would regularly visit and we would garden together. Not talking much. Just being together.
So in 2005, when I found out I was pregnant again, she came with me to appointments where there might be bad news until the good news appointment where we discovered Grace was a healthy girl and we danced for joy. After Grace’s birth, Mum took to being a Nana with great gusto.
Two years later Ruby Lee was born and Mum was really happy all over again. Mum had a natural ability to communicate with babies and young children. Ruby lee would often sleep at Nana’s during the day. Mum’s presence seemed to reduce some of Ruby Lee’s general anxiety and Mum loved having Ruby for the day.
Then after another two years, Maeve was born. And mum had three grandchildren. I think that made her very happy. Maeve moved to Queensland when she was 6 months old but she loved to talk with her nana on the phone and on skype.  Even though she moved away when she was very little, Maeve took to her Nana immediately on seeing her. As if there had been no separation.
When Mum visited Ruby lee and Maeve in Queensland, she would sit in a chair and the girls would swarm all over her. They would bring her books to read, pencils to draw with and could be found all curled up in the same arm chair hours later.
When Kay and Lance came together, Lance’s daughters Rachael and Vivian became part of Kay’s family too. As did my partner Gerard and Betty’s partner Cam. Family was always an inclusive thing for Kay. Rachael told me that that Kay was a kind and loving step mum who welcomed her into her family with open arms. They shared many hobbies (I’m guessing cross stitch and knitting?) and had great conversations together. Vivian told me that she thought that although they weren't really open about how they felt for each-other they had kind of an unspoken agreement and they enjoyed spending quiet time in each other's company.
In closing I would just like to acknowledge how well Lance looked after Mum/Kay. Betty and I were talking about it the other day and we felt that it shouldn’t go unremarked. We know that he looked after her because she needed looking after and because he loved her. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy because such things never are. But just because it was done with love, doesn’t mean we should take it for granted. Thank you Lance.
The funeral seemed to go well, if you can say funerals go well. It was nice to see people, even if it was for a sad occasion which sets up a weird feeling. An old childhood friend of Mum's and a recent friend spoke. The house was full of people afterwards. Sad and strange.


Mum died last Tuesday, Remembrance day. She had been in the hospice for nearly two weeks and she became sicker quite quickly. Actually it all happened a lot more quickly than I expected. Even so we had some good visits with her and she was fairly with it up to a few days before her death. Grace and I visited on the Saturday before (in between visiting Gerard in two different hospitals - he is fine and back home) and I visited again during the day on Tuesday. The hospice looked after Mum very well and they minimised her discomfort as much as they could and I don't believe she was in any pain. However her breathing was difficult and I'm glad she could let go when she did.

It's a queer old time. I don't think the full weight of grief and loss has hit me yet. Been going through photos and planning to help Betty tidy up her garden for the funeral. There will also be a Northland trip as Grace has nothing to wear and I should be sewing something black for me. I'm thinking about speaking at Mum's funeral and thinking about what I would want to say. It's obvious that I would talk about how Mum delivered Frank and how she was there for me in a really big way afterwards. I could also talk about how Mum came to my ultrasound appointments and other results appointments when I was pregnant with Grace. How we danced with happiness when we found out that Grace was OK and a girl (although I would have been just as happy with a boy). I could also talk about how she was young and glamorous when we were children, how she drew us and the neighbour children pictures of her upcoming tubal ligation (a bit not done in those days).

I don't know whether to mention her smoking or not. She loved her cigarettes and sometime in the last week when I visited her, she said, I do smoke you know, as she was being wheeled outside for a fag. I used to love smoking too and there were times we loved to smoke together, as people do. But I was angry that she couldn't give up. I wanted more time with my mother, more time for Grace to have her grandmother. In the end I kind of let go of that anger so that I could have time with her. Who knows whether it will bite again. This is what I was thinking about in the shower (as sung by Joan Baez on one of our much played childhood car tapes).

Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man
Be not too hard when he is sold or bought
For he must manage as best he can

Be not too hard when he blindly dies
Fighting for things he does not own
Be not too hard when he tells lies
Or if his heart is sometimes like a stone

Be not too hard for soon he'll die
Often no wiser than he began
Be not too hard for life is short
And nothing is given to man
And nothing is given to man


Caritas series

It's been a bit of a day. Windy. My thoughts are buzzing but I can't seem to get anything done, and getting things done seems important and attractive but probably isn't really. Well, not beyond the basics anyway. And I have been on the threshold of tears for most of the day. It's all a bit much. Mum has gone to the hospice, the same one Gerard went to for a weeks respite two weeks ago. She seems to be getting more and more frail and now has difficulty walking. I think she is being offered thickened water. To stop her inhaling it. Hopefully that will make her cough less. I can't imagine what it would be like to have thickened water instead of real water or other liquids. Anyway it seems as though she is having good days and bad days and will be staying there longer than first thought.

Today I had the thought that really, Gerard should be running things at home while I visit mum and go through all the things that happen when your mother is dying. I feel cheated. And a bit lonely. We are all talking about mum today and wondering what will happen but it is not like before. We had a big talk about things today and I think he is going to try and be softer, to swear less. And I am going to try and be nicer too. There has been too much yelling and it doesn't do anyone any good. It would be good to get to a point where we can work on things together. There is still a lot to do in the garden. We had a working bee here a couple of weeks ago and some lovely local ladies weeded and mulched the front garden. It is so nice to look at it now. The back yard on the other hand is full of weeds and vegetables gone to seed that tower above me. There are bits of things that have been done, like I have pruned the plum tree and the blackberry bush. But I need to get some tomatoes in.

We have friends coming to mind Grace and Gerard on Wednesday nights so I can visit mum. I hate asking but I am very grateful for the help. Actually for all the kinds of help that we are getting (help deserves a post on its own). Dad and my sister are also coming to visit. Mum is mostly fairly alert and with it but I wonder how long for. Like I said before, good days and bad days. I'm wondering how to get some more visits in and I think I might just have to take Gerard with me. And I think we will have a whole family visit on the weekend. Everyone thought that was a good idea.

But really, it is all a bit too much. And kind of fucked.