Monday, May 16, 2005

(*) Mum's Eulogy

(NB. Written and read by my brother and here lightly edited by maljam)

Rae Patricia Xxxxx 18/8/1929 - 1/4/2005

Death ends a life, but not a relationship... a relationship that struggles on in the mind of the survivor, to which there is no end.

And so today we gather not to mourn, but to give thanks and celebrate the life and accomplishments of quite a remarkable woman.

Rae Patricia Xxxxx was born at her grandparent's home "Glenferrie", Calypso Ave Mosman (Sydney) on the 18th August, 1929. One of three daughters... she is survived by her sister Pam, her other sister Joan having passed away several years ago.

My mother's great claim to fame was that her birth heralded in the Great Depression, but her memories of the time are not all that grim. This was due to the fact that her father was an officer in the Royal Australian Engineers (RAE...?), and during the depression the lived on the headland at Cape banks, La Perouse (Sydney). As her parents' first real home, she had happy memories of a dog and pet rabbit, playing with the children who lived in "Shanty Town", and of hijinks in an old abandoned Chinese cemetery close by. For several years the family was stationed at Fort Scratchley, Newcastle, followed by a time at George's Heights, located on the headland at Middle Head (Sydney).

It was during this time on the military base at Middle Head that my mother first met her future husband, whose father, a lowly Staff Sargent, was also stationed there. Part of the same "gang", she remembers him as quite an obnoxious and bossy lad at the time... her sister Pam recalling him bossing them about and always wanting to be in charge of the proceedings. Separated briefly during the Second World War, where families were moved into civilian accommodation away from the base, it was not until after the war when my mother was sixteen, that she met up with my father once again. She recalled seeing a tall lad that looked vaguely familiar, riding a bicycle through Mosman Junction... and as fate would have it, they resumed their relationship.

With her father stationed in Japan after the war, her parent's marriage had become strained and eventually led to separation. So her memories of this time were not always happy. But - memories of spending holidays with her beloved grandmother at Lane Cove and being treated to "High Tea's", all prepared on a wood-fired stove that same day... of her grandmother's vast rambling garden, with the smell of Honeysuckle always reminding her of this haven. (NB. Honeysuckle featured across the front verandah of our home too). Another was a memory of sheltering in neighbour's celler during the submarine attack on Sydney Harbour during the war... thinking how exciting it was, that was until she heard the sounds of cannon fire and the explosion of shells as they found their mark not all that far away.

Attending Mosman High School, much to her sister's angst, she was an "A" grade student, being very studious and wearing the flattering school uniform of the time - heavy school tunic, black stockings, hat and gloves. Choosing Secretarial Studies, she became a Legal Stenographer and personal assistant for a prominent legal firm in the city. All this at a time well before computer technology, with memories of masses of legal documents, all typed in triplicate and always with a deadline to meet. If a typing mistake was made, it was often necessary to start all over again, rather than risk making holes in the paper whilst correcting a typo. These skills were to serve her well in her latter years, as secretary for the Manly 16-Foot Skiff Club , by which time she had mastered the marvels of information technology.

In her spare time she enjoyed the company of a number of boy friends (who, by the way, my father made a point of making feel most unwelcome... an example being his insistence on rowing my mother and her sister across the water back to Balmoral - minus their dates). She was also a soprano in the chorus of the Mosman Musical Society for several years. With a fine voice, good looks, intelligence and a sharp witty mind, she was quite a good package in those days, and it was obvious my father, in his own way, realised this. A frustrated writer at heart, my mother was also an avid reader and crossword buff. As such, I have fond memories of composing many short verses and limericks with her as a teenager, recalling one in particular...
"There was an old man from Tibet
Who fell down the hole in his toilet
He went down the drain
And out through the main
And they've not found a trace of him yet."
I know mum would be horrified by my telling of this ditty, but Rae was one for wit and loved the telling of a good joke. She was also what one would call a film buff, another Bill Collins of the mountains, entertaining people for ages with the discussion of films and associated genre.

The remainder of my mother's story pretty well parallels that of her husband... Married at the Sacred Heart Church, Cardinal Street Mosman on the 12th of January 1952, theirs was a partnership that lasted a total of 44 years. until her husband's death at age 66 in 1996.

With two sons - DMK (born 1954) and MJK (ie. Mallard, born 1964), theirs was not the easiest of lives, but as children we never understood this. We both have memories of our mother selfishly serving my brother and I massive servings of dessert, in order to prevent world war three... never realising this meant she often went without dessert herself. With many financial hardships and health problems along the way, my brother and I never lacked for anything, and most important of all - we knew we were loved. When (Mallard) was diagnosed with a speech impediment as a young child, it was mum who spent time with him, fostering a love of reading... this led to her volunteering at the language laboratory of the local Primary School for several years.

Oh, there were moments when we drove her to distraction... an example being of my mother standing inside a playpen ironing, whilst I was having a tantrum on the outside. Of her tackling me to the ground and juicing half an orange on my face when I was all of twelve... mind you, I deserved it. I'm sure (Mallard) has his own memories, but I do recall us getting her back one day by turning on the flood lights whilst she climbed into the pool one night - naturally, all the neighbours were at their fences ready for this spectacle, and my mother was mortified by the occasion.

With her husband heavily involved in the Scouting movement for the majority of his life, and weekends spent on Sydney Harbour sailing 16 foot skiffs, VJ's and converted surf lifesaving boats, my mother often referred herself as a sailing widow. For many years, every Easter was spent up at Gosford for the annual sailing regatta - Rae catching up on her reading and crossword puzzles, whilst her husband was in his element on the water with his rag-tag army of boys. Mind you, she enjoyed the time she had to herself, never resenting her husband's interests and commitments, being a great support and inspiration to him in all his endeavours and achievements - achievements such as "Citizen of the Year" and the "Queen's Coronation Medal" for saving the lives of a number of boys from drowning during a boating incident.

It is important to note that Rae was not only the mother of two boys, but also a mother figure to hundreds of boys who passed through the portals of the scouting movement. She took pride in all their latter achievements, both professionally and personally, but with the passing of time unfortunately lost contact with the majority of them.

In 1986 my father was awarded the "Order of Australia Medal" for services to Scouting and the community. It is a little known fact that at the very same time my mother was honoured with the Title of "Lady Rae" - Lady in Waiting to Lord Lovat, Chief of the Clan Fraser in Fort Augusta, Scotland - a loving tribute from a man who loved his wife dearly enough to arrange this tribute to her, in recognition of her part in the scheme of things.

It was due to the ill health of her husband that a decision was made to move up to the (Blue) Mountains, settling eventually at the Waratah Village, Springwood. Initially reluctant about leaving their home of 36 years, Rae came to love her time in the mountains, and with the death of her husband two years' later, she came into her own. I have visions of her playing Snooker and Carpet Bowls in the community hall - something I thought she would never do. Also she was a volunteer guide at the Norman Lindsay Gallery as well as a volunteer at the Springwood Community Centre, she spent time going on short trips and shopping expeditions for her ever-expanding wardrobe.

The birth of her three grandsons JD, Seb and Ix, was an absolute delight and joy for her, not only being very proud of them, but also of their mother M, who she loved dearly.

It was only in the past two years that her health started to really deteriorate, and with the complications associated with kidney disease and heart failure, she realized she was on her last journey, and in her own words - she was happy to go. Her final illness found her being admitted to Nepean Hospital, where after sixteen days she succumbed quietly in her sleep - a blessing for those all involved.

So, it is with much love, admiration and respect that we say farewell to a woman who was not only a wife, mother and grandmother, but my best friend. Finally together again with her husband, she will be missed by all who had the privilidge to know and love her... from the depths of my heart I say thank you, goodbye and God bless.

Thank you.

Here's the previous posts about my mum's passing. 1 2 3 4


Blogger Alice said...

What wonderful words to honour your Mum with and to celebrate the heritage that she has woven into your life and the lives of your boys.

Bless you heaps!

May 16, 2005 9:13 pm  
Blogger broomhilda said...

A lovely tribute to your Mum.

May 17, 2005 12:15 am  
Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Terrific eulogy.

May 17, 2005 1:40 am  
Blogger gammamoma said...

What a beautiful loving story in tribute to your Mother!

May 20, 2005 2:36 am  

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