Wednesday, April 13, 2005

(*) Sweet and innocent

I had a good vent with my brother yesterday, and I feel a whole lot the better for it today. He's sensible enough to let it wash over him, and we were laughing again when I rang him tonight. He was going thru some of mum's photo albums, and sorting some of them out to pass onto me - whoo hoo! There's a whole heap of great pics of me as a kid - I looked so sweet and innocent... whatever happened to...? lol

I'll be seeing the boys twice next week (whoo hoo - school holidays too), AND - M agreed to the date and time to meet with myself and a neutral mediator in about 2 weeks time - thank goodness! (About bloody time...)

Well, I wanted to write about mum's funeral last Wednesday - it was such a positive experience for me. I know mum would have appreciated the service greatly.

My brother, his wife ("C") and I went to see mum at the funeral home on the Tuesday arvo before the funeral the next day. C was away when mum died, so she was anxious to have a more positive final memory of her, rather than of mum sitting gasping for breath. The 'viewing' was at the same location that I saw dad after he died, so I knew what to expect. What can I say - mum looked really great! It's the best we'd seen her in absolutely ages! They did such an amazing job to make her look so natural-looking and vital. She actually looked like she did before she got really sick, which was nice to remember again. It's never the nicest thing to see your last remaining parent in their coffin, but seeing mum looking so relaxed, peaceful (asleep) - and not fighting for breath - was such a relief. She sure looked a million-times better than when I saw her last, and that was on Friday night after she had passed away.

My brother and C ensured they stuffed me with an awesome baked dinner that night, as I stayed over at their place that night - and I couldn't possible refuse such famous hospitality now, could I??? C is one of the great magicians in the kitchen, you know... Afterwards, my brother and I sat and watched "Finding Nemo" on DVD - just relaxing and having a laff together. It's so wonderful to be able to do that, you know. We finally hit the sack, making sure we were ready for a 10am funeral next morning.

We arrived together at the Leura Crematorium about 20 minutes early, and I was able to see and chat with some rellies I literally haven't seen in over 10 years! Mum's sister had come down from Cairns in far-north Queensland, and I also saw my cousin - who I hadn't seen since my wedding day! That was really positive for me. Altogether there was about 30 people in attendance - a few of mum's friends from the retirement village and old friends, and a few family. Our small family keeps getting smaller, I quipped to my cousin, and she smiled understandingly - her dad passed away also a few years' ago too. My brother wore dad's medals on his right-hand-side chest on his jacket - and I wore dad's ribbons on mine. I felt so proud with them on. It really helped me in some way. My brother and I were pall bearers, and I was really quite surprised at how heavy the coffin was - it was obviously just the wood, because there was practically nothing of mum when she slipped away. My brother and I were feeling relieved that it was all happening at last, and we relaxed - as much as you can - as things got underway.

We had a funeral celebrant (mum wasn't a religious person), and she did the most fantastic job of facilitating a wonderfully warm, sensitive and compassionate celebration of my mum's life for us all. My brother and I placed a large candle with mum's name on it in front of her coffin, and we quickly whispered that I should light it, and he could extinguish it later. Handed the long matchbox, it took me three strikes to light the match - and then the 15-or-so seconds it took for the wick to actually catch seemed like minutes to me. My brother and I quietly smirked that "it was dad stopping the candle from lighting", we smiled to ourselves in jest, to ease the moment for ourselves. My brother read the absolutely best eulogy I'd ever heard at a funeral - he'd written it himself, and it was really funny, which is what mum was like when she was at her best. I haven't been to too many funerals where people felt comfortable to laff in remembrance. Good stuff. Then I read Psalm 23 from the Bible (as mum had asked me to) - it was her favourite passage. I used the family heirloom bible, with a frontspiece signed and dated 1832 - a very special item to use at such a precious occasion. I'd practised reading it a few times, and I was fine with it, but it wasn't until I got upto the lecturn-thingy that I realised that the ancient print was so tiny-tiny that I couldn't read it without holding it almost right upto my face! It was a mixed blessing - at least I didn't have to look around at people as I spoke (as I may have lost it - my tears... and my place! lol), and it gave me the calm to read it slowly and purposely. My brother was astonished - he'd never heard me 'public speaking' before, and he was really exited by the way I'd read it... but it's not as tho I haven't read the Bible in public before, you know... I used to do it for a living a few years' ago! lol.

The part when I finally did loose it was when the celebrant offered flowers to mourners, who had the opportunity to place them on mum's coffin, as a form of goodbye. Well, I went up and placed one on the head of the rosewood box, touched it gently, and sat back down. I felt fine and happy with that. Nice touch, I thought. Then the friend who came with M came up with flowers, a photo and letters from each of the boys to place on mum's coffin. M is quite large so late in her pregnancy, and she didn't feel comfortable walking up the front. Yes, the boys each wrote a private letter to "Nanna Rae" to give to her - no-one else read them. Isn't that absolutely precious? (tear break...) Along with flowers the boys picked from their place that morning, a recent picture of the boys was also placed on the outside of mum's coffin. What finally made me 'loose it' was the large child's-handwritten "Nanna Rae" on the envelope next to the flowers. I just fell into my brother's lap and sobbed for about a minute, as he held me. (Another tear break...) That was so precious for both of us.

Then - it was all over. We extinguished the candle, they played an amazing song that I tried my best to ignore, so I wouldn't totally loose it again, the curtain closed, and we slowly filed out, everyone tinged with mixed emotions and memories of a really nice lady. Mum, like dad, chose to be cremated, and both of them will be 'together' (in a sense) with their memorial plaques side-by-side at the same venue. It's a beautifully light and lush garden on the side of a hill, overlooking beautiful Blue Mountains bushland. It'll be a place to be able to bring the boys to again and again in the future years. For me, mum and dad won't be 'there' (as such), so I don't really consider it their 'grave' - it's just a site where those left behind can have a point of focus to remember with gladness those who have left us. (I'm not going to even attempt to untangle my own confused theological issues about the hereafter here! lol)

A few people came back to my brother and C's place for light refreshments - I ended up out on the back deck with the 'smokers' bludging a smoke! I don't smoke, but I needed one to just calm my nerves a little bit, I think! (I can't explain it! lol). Anyway, we just sat around in the warming sunshine enjoying the peaceful solace of my brother's place - it's in a beautiful bush setting in Katoomba. You'd never have realised that only the day before, the weather was cold, wet and foggy! The sun shone the whole day - what a relief. When I got back to my brother's place, I went upstairs to get into my 'civvies' again. I totally lost it - I just missed my boys so much. I wished they were there in some aspects, but of course I knew it was best (at this point) for them not to be there - and JD is old enough to make his own decisions about things like that, and I totally respect him for that. I was just momentarily selfish - I wanted my boys with me so I could hug them forever! I managed to pull myself together, slip on some comfy pants and get the shoes off, and went back downstairs to have a cuppa and a sandwich.

Unfortunately, M decided that day to play a few of her childish 'games' with both myself and C and my brother - and totally ignored my physical existence thruout the whole day. That's her problem, and it didn't worry me at the time. It wasn't until the day before yesterday that her actions suddenly got to me, and I was able to give a good long rant and loud vent of my anger to my brother. Needless to say, I had a great time hanging out with my brother's sister-in-laws (who are very cool people), enjoying the sunshine and greenery together. Catching up with my uncle and aunt (mum's sister) was really great - we haven't been in the same room at the same time for over 10 years, so it was good to actually talk, rather than the occasional letter between us! lol. About 20 years' ago, they used to live about 40km's from this town, so we were talking about all the changes around here since then... like the new traffic lights and roundabouts (just kidding...).

Before we knew it, the time had crept around to almost 1pm, as people started to make their moves. M had come with a girlfriend, who thankfully drove her up and back, so we all said our goodbyes. My bro and C were going to have a nap, so I headed off back to mum's flat/villa, to pick up a few bits and pieces that she wanted me to have. While I was up in that direction, at least I could get some bits into my car. It wasn't weird going into mum's empty place, and she not being there - as I'd stayed there a few times when I visited her in hospital, and it was just kind-of the same feeling. I didn't stay too long, and packed-away a few kitchen utensils and some linen/manchester I could find use for (which mum wanted of it all), a few photos my brother and I had discussed about - and also the stereo with a turntable. I was excited about this - in a childish way - because, as I said in yesterday's post (I think), I have all these records but nothing to play them on. I've only got a little car, so the big furniture and white-goods that mum wanted me to have (to set-up my own place with) will have to wait for a little while yet (no dramas - I've nowhere to put it yet!)

I had the quickest trip back home I'd ever had - there was just hardly any traffic along the way, and I was unpacking the car by 4.30. Sure, I was emotionally tired after the past week, and I just kind-of stumbled about when I got home. I bit the bullet, and was naughty - I rushed out and got some hot chips and had hot chip butties (hot chips wrapped in buttered bread) for dinner! Stuff it! lol.

It's been a week since the funeral, and I've honestly felt fine about mum's passing. Mind you, I've caught myself going to ring her at the hospital to see how she is... but that's probably just habit, I guess. But, no, the general feeling is one of relief and release - not only for mum, but for myself too. It's funny to realise I'm an orphan at 40 (I'm not being phececious (?) saying that, OK?), and it's strange not having both mum and dad around to just be able to chat with, but it's also a sense of release that I can kind-of get-on with my life at long last. I don't how how to explain it, Paige. It's just a sense that one huge chapter in my life has closed, and something new and exciting is just around the corner. Hmmm... what or how that is, I have absolutely no idea, naturally!

Mum didn't have a huge 'estate' - my brother are happily splitting everything 50-50 (just as mum wanted) - we're not bickering over anything of mum or dads! Life's too short anyway, you know? No, my brother and I are really fine together about that sort-of thing. One of mum's wishes for me was to i) get a car (which she did by helping me enormously late last year with the purchase of my little car), and ii) to have a place of my own. Once we manage to sell mum's villa/unit, I'll have about 80% towards a place of my own to live here very comfortably. A 20% loan towards owning property certainly won't kill me! At least I'll be out of debt at last - spending 2-years at Uni has set me back... well, I've not got a lot of cash flow anymore (let me put it that way...). So, maybe the new start will be finally having a place of my very own to call 'my home' sometime in the next year or two? Who knows?

Thanx for listening to me prattle and rabbit-on, Paige - I guess that's what you're here for, in one sense. I don't have many 'pen friends' that I write to nowadays (unlike I used to), so this has been wonderful being able to put thoughts and feelings down in some basic way. Thanx! Typos and all! lol

Pic links:
Mum // Dad // My brother // Ix and Seb // The boys and myself

On This Day...
Born: Jack Cassidy (Jefferson Airplane, 1944); Al Green (muso, 1946).
Events: Handel's 'Messiah' first performed in Dublin, 1742.
Useless Trivia: James W Rodger's last request, before a firing squad in 1960, was a "bullet-proof vest".
My Soundtrack: Crowded House "Together Alone" CD.
Weather: Glorious sunshine, lightest NE winds, practically cloudless low 20's. When will the cold weather come...?
How I wished I'd have played the fool
And danced and sung and been cool
There would have been nothing neater
Than to appear with Benita
And John on morning 'Playschool'!

Email: mal [@] maljam [.] cjb [.] net
Message Board:

"Excuse me, which way is the stage?" (Audience member, lost at Altamont, 1969.)


Blogger gammamoma said...

Mal, what a great tribute to your lovely Mom! You and your brother and the rest of the family will remember the good times for the rest of your life. Best of everything to you and the family.

April 13, 2005 10:49 pm  
Blogger broomhilda said...

What a beautiful way to honor your Mom! Love and Light to you and your family.

Great big {{{{{{{{{HUG}}}}}}}}

April 14, 2005 12:40 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, ladies. It was good to put things in some sort of writing, anyway. I appreciate your kind thoughts.
Mal :o)

PS. It's another late night (I'm getting into a nasty habit again - gotta break it), so I'm not going to write silly poetry at 1.30am - but I'm going to bed instead! lol

April 14, 2005 1:27 am  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Thank you so much for posting that, Mal. You know I'm a sucker for a good funeral story, and that was an excellent one: fascinating and moving. And, yes, laughter at a funeral is a wonderful experience. Take care.

April 14, 2005 6:19 pm  
Blogger birdychirp said...

thanks too from here for that lovely post. Sounds like the ceremony was just right for you and yours.

April 15, 2005 5:58 am  
Blogger jo-less said...

Sounds like you all had a good day given the circumstances. I still find myself thinking about calling my Mum after three years without her, it's natural I guess. Remember the good things and make sure you keep the memories alive. There is always happiness despite the grief, the trick is to find it and spread it around.

April 15, 2005 8:24 pm  
Blogger 3rd daughter said...

lovely post mal. i love it when funerals celebrate the person's life rather than mourning their passing.
take care and keep smiling

April 15, 2005 10:53 pm  
Blogger Trollmama said...

Mal, that was a beautiful post, really. i love the way you really celebrated your Mom's life.

(By the way, you spell it like this: facetious... sorry to be so [sic] facetious, but once an english teacher, always an english teacher. Spelling is my life. Not.)

Came here via Zinnia, and i'm linking to you!

April 16, 2005 4:10 am  
Blogger Raehan said...

Beautiful post. I'm coming from Zinnia.

April 17, 2005 6:47 am  
Blogger Deirdre said...

I haven't been here for ages, Mal. I'm so sorry your Mum died. Like the other commenters have said, this was a lovely post, a tribute to your Mum and the love within your family.
Best wishes.

April 17, 2005 11:28 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home