This one is for you mum

Hi All,

Yesterday my mother died. She had been a constant reader and commenter on this blog and loved how she was able to get a little bit of us and where we are and what we are doing each and every day. I wanted to share my mum with you all so that you could see a little bit of what formed the words that I type here each day. I won’t do a eulogy, that’s for funerals and this isn’t about her funeral this is about her life and who she was. I am sure that all of my siblings will agree with me when I say that mum was one of a kind and that they broke the mould when she was born. She was an amazing mix of stubborn willpower that steadfastly refused to give in and she always found a way to do what she wanted to do no matter what obstacles were put in here way and through her life she had many obstacles that she had to hurdle. My grandmother was her constant strength and they shared an amazing relationship. When my parents separated my mother took on the role of looking after us and worked in many different jobs to provide for us. We were quite poor monetarily but I cant ever remember feeling poor because mum always found a way to provide what we needed when we needed it. Despite so many problems that she had to put up with from her children she loved each and every one of us unconditionally. She had a fierce loyalty towards us like a tiger with its cubs and would stoically stand up for us even when we really didn’t deserve her praise.

Grandma, Uncle Wally, Uncle Dough and mum. All gone now

Grandad, Uncle Dough, Uncle Wally and Mum in White Gum Valley

My mum was a worker. She worked tirelessly to do so very many things. I loved her steadfast refusal to give in to monetary constraints and how she was always able to make a beautiful garden wherever she was able to put roots down for more than a short time. Cuttings, a seed or two pinched from over someones fence and some lovely trees that she saved up to buy, all tended with loving care and that rewarded her with fruit, vegetables and a simple solace that she was unable to find in the world. Mum was unique. I don’t know that we always appreciated her uniqueness. She would grow and manufacture copious quanitites of jams, pickles, sauces and wine and we would be the dubious recipients of this produce. When I left Albany to move here, I had so many prehistoric jars of green tomato pickle that after collection day, the tip would have been redolent from the scent of it. She worked hard as a shearers cook and raised the money to go to the U.K. which she loved with a passion. She kept in touch with cousins and relatives over there constantly and I dare say her presence will be sorely missed by these long distant people that we hardly know. Mum knitted us all together. My sister, brother and I were like mums jumper project. We didn’t fit very well, she wasn’t too good at knitting collars and a couple of us had sleeves too long or short, but we all fit together, albeit looking a bit strange and our fibres having a bit of static friction occasionally. She held us together with her unconditional love and her steadfast desire to remain constant in our lives.

A rare shot of mum and dad in happier times…

You always had a little garden every place you went and a few potted plants…

Receiving an award for her winning darts team

Mum and my natural nudist tendancies at Caruso beach in Denmark.

I didn’t have a photo of mum with us all so here we all are together at grandmas. Mum and gran were inside having a cuppa and this garden was where we spent so much time learning about all sorts of things and simply being kids. Thankyou for that gran and mum

Mum, now that you are no longer here I truly miss you. I won’t ever be able to ask you little things about our past, about what Grandma and Grandad used to do. Our history just died with you and we can’t sit down over a cup of tea and talk about any of it any more. I am still coming to terms with the fact that I won’t get any more comments of praise for this blog, for our Diplomas and for simply being your children. You loved each and every waif and stray that we brought home and called “partner” and no matter how long they stayed with us, you gave them your loyalty and they became family for that period of time. Some of them you kept in touch with like my brothers ex partner Keren and her new family. You touched so many people with your kindness and you will be remembered by them all. I am a bit shell shocked today. I have to go over to Western Australia sometime next week and say goodbye to my mum for the last time. I can still feel your hard hug when we left and the kiss that you gave me and I can see the look in your eyes, smiling with happiness as you headed off down the driveway with Steve to head back home. You were sitting out on the stonehenge table writing in your diary the morning that you left and we shared a hurried last cuppa and I made you some sandwiches with the home made bread that we made together and some of that lovely roast beef that we had the night before to take on the plane with you.

This photo was taken to send to Steve. I hadn’t even met him yet and we had taken mum out for mothers day. I had the worse tooth abssys in this photo and I remember “rinse your mouth out with salt water”.

I guess no-one is ready to say goodbye to their mum. The person that gave you half of what you are. That gave birth to you and touched you with her spirit and love and gave you the time to grow up and the lessons that you had to learn to become who you are today. Thats why I am writing this post for mum. I wanted to give her that 15 minutes of fame and wanted to put here here for posterity. I wanted people all over the world to be able to see that she meant something to us and that she will always be remembered as our mum and the champion of everything that we did. We could always count on mum being there in our corner no matter what. Now we have to pick our fights ourselves and I know that she will still be in that little corner of our hearts fighting with us. I am truly sorry that I wasn’t a better daughter mum. I didn’t really understand how to be but I know that you loved me and that you were proud of me and in the end, that is worth more to me than anything else. I am proud that I inherited your stubborn refusal to give up. I am proud that you were my mum and I will never ever forget you.

Bezial really loved mum and she thought he was a great dog.

I went to the pantry in shock yesterday. I spent the early evening straightening pillows, making beds, tidying up and not knowing why. I went into the bedroom that you spent that short time sleeping in and smelled and hugged your pillow. I was in the process of automatically making tea and as I collected the remaining ingredients my eyes fell on 4 little bottles and jars of home made preserves that you had pressed into my hand such a short time ago. I picked up the bottle of plum sauce. Here was a prime example of mum’s desire to do what she wanted to do. I couldn’t stand plum sauce and had told her for the best part of 20 years but I kept getting these little bottles of plum sauce turn up on a regular basis “it goes with anything you know…” I picked up the jar of cumquats preserved in brandy. Mum was most proud of these. She came from a time and a place where luxuries were scarce and to be appreciated for what they were. These home grown cumquats preserved in her “medicinal brew” reflected mum sticking it to the world and making her own. “Why buy it when you can make it yourself?”… a small jar of loganberry jam with “Dec.” on the label. She only made it less than a month ago from fruit grown on a vine that she carefully took from the larger vine at the house that she moved from 4 years ago where her beautiful garden had gotten too much and she was only able to take what she was able to grow leaving behind her magnificent deciduous trees that meant so much to her. Lastly a tiny jar of strawberry jam. I picked it up and that is what did me in. I couldn’t help it mum, you grew those strawberries, you shared them growing, pictures of the garden bed that you made and layered and filled. You had so little money but you didn’t let that stop you. Every pension you bought another bag of potting soil, another pine sleeper and slowly but surely your new garden came together. You put me to shame mum. Your tireless ability to tend and grow and always sharing it all with me. That tiny little jar of strawberry jam made with your own hoarded re-used jars and your frugal wartime need to put things up for the future and grown from those strawberries that I had shared with you, albeit long distance, all through the process that it took from plant to jam brought home to me in the most poignant way that my mum was gone. They went from being a few little jars and bottles hastily shoved into the cupboard to being a precious little jars of the essence of my mothers love.

Thankyou all for allowing my mum to get into this post and for sharing a little bit about someone that you may not have even known. I hope that by sharing this little bit about her, that she can be given this special moment with you all. She embraced technology like she embraced everyone that she loved and sometimes with the same results. Here you are mum, this ones for you and though you won’t leave me a comment today, I know that you would have been chuffed to have been woven into this blog and so here you are mum, I love you, I miss you and you will be forever a part of life here on Serendipity Farm.

I won a silver frame a while ago in a readers competition in Better Homes and Gardens. Mum gave me an annual subscription to this magazine and Steve and I both decided to use this photo that we took at Christmas time to get the girls to put some holly leaves in the corners (using photoshop) and send it in the silver frame to mum because we just knew that she would love it. You never got your silver wedgewood frame with us all in it together mum. I sent you all of the other Christmas photos, but not this one. I was saving this one for special and now you won’t ever see it.

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21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. microgardener
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 11:45:01

    Fran

    I can only say how deeply sad and shocked I was reading this today. I’ve had tears streaming down my face thinking about how you must all be feeling and the regret that I never got the chance to meet or talk to your mum. I still feel I got to know her if only for a short time through your blog and the emails she sent me with such beautiful pictures of her amazing garden. I could see the love in everything she grew just from them and feel her passion from the advice she shared with you so often. Her snippets of wisdom and humour. I feel privileged to have shared your family’s journey together over the last few months and I can see your mum has shared so much of herself with you in the seeds she sowed and nurtured. They will continue to grow for a long time. I am reminded of the quote by Wayne Winterrowd that says: “It often happens to children – and sometimes to gardeners – that they are given gifts of value of which they do not perceive until much later.”

    I wanted to tell you my thoughts and prayers are with you. I’d been meaning to call your mum to talk about sharing her story on Green Journey, to hear her anecdotes, how she’d managed to grow such a beautiful productive garden in such a tiny space – to inspire others like she inspired me. Maybe another time, if you’d like to share her story with me, I’d like to honour her by adding her to our Inspiring Stories so others can read about what’s possible with determination, love, a pair of secateurs, a bag of potting mix and little patience. I’d like to remember her like that if you feel it’s something you want to do when the time is right.

    My mum lives long distance too – I’m in QLD and she lives in Sydney so we don’t get to see each other often either and reading your words today put things in perspective for me. We never know what’s around the corner. She’s here visiting with me now, for two precious weeks and soon to go home – cooking roasts and cauliflower cheese just the way I like it, tidying, washing, making my bed that little bit neater than I ever do, cuddling my dogs, ironing things I never bother to, harvesting from my garden and making meals to put away in the freezer for when I’m too busy or tired to cook from scratch and … just doing what mums do best – loving us … despite our own flaws … in all the little things they do.

    You’ve made me stop today – to reflect deeply on the important things in life – and embrace the essence of my own mum … to hug her more, tell her more often how much I love her and make HER a cup of tea just the way she likes it. Thank you for sharing This One is For You Mum at the most difficult time. It’s brave and gutsy, and truly honours not only YOUR mum, but all mums and what they mean to us.

    Finally, a thought from Helen Keller: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.” I’m sure your mum would have done the same.

    Love
    Anne

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 07, 2012 @ 13:40:10

      Thankyou so much Annie for those beautiful words. Mum would have been so touched by them. I am honoured to have shared her with you all. She was a deeply private person who only opened up to people that she trusted and she really liked you. She sensed a kindred spirit, someone who gardened with passion and gusto and who used good old fashioned frugality to get what they wanted. You gave her a lot of pleasure reading your backposts on your blog and I would be most honoured to give you mums story for Green Journey. She was a true gardener who was always able to take any tiny piece of soil and make it productive and grow something. She put Steve and I to shame and we are going to be making a vegetable garden in her honour (just like she wanted us to do while she was here) tomorrow. No longer will I procrastinate about waiting till I have the money. I am going to do it NOW because like I have just learned the hard way, you just never know. Share some precious time with your mum and give her a hug from me please Annie. Life is too short for bad wine and blunt secateurs.

      Reply

      • microgardener
        Jan 08, 2012 @ 07:30:06

        Hi Fran

        I DID deliver your hug to my mum … a few in fact, and she told me she wanted to send one back to you but it comes with specific instructions! You have to collect it from Steve and it’s not just ANY hug … it’s an all embracing mother’s hug that she knows you need right now. My mum’s a remedial therapist (she’s been massaging others for more years than I can remember) and that means when she gives anyone a hug, her hands don’t just go around you briefly, they nurture you, by rubbing your back and soothingly stroking in circles until you just relax into her arms – it just somehow makes you feel better. Give it a try.

    • narf77
      Jan 08, 2012 @ 08:18:33

      Thankyou so much Annie. I find it incredible that someone that I don’t even “know” can give me more solace at the moment than most of my grieving family. Thank your mum for being “Gods hands” to me. I guess we never really know when someone is going to make a difference to our lives and your mum just gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it through your words. We will need lots of “mothers hugs” to get us through the next week. I am off to W.A. for a week on tuesday. I am typing posts out so that the blog won’t miss out. Mum loved this blog and I will be buggered if it goes a day without something for someone out there. Who knows what people get out of our humble musings. Your blog is magnificent. I was scared of how professional and how eloquent your are but you have show me that you are a truly lovely person. Thankyou for sharing your heart with me Annie. I won’t ever forget what you have said. I will post pictures that I take in W.A. and I will write my mothers story proudly and with the love and care that she gave both her garden and her children. Her life may have been very humble. She was a very shy person and didn’t deal well with others and assumed a very talkative manner to cover up this shyness and awkwardness with others. Her garden was her solace from the world and where she could be totally in control of the madness that surrounded her. She gave us so very much and we are only just starting to realise her true worth and the huge hole that she is going to leave in our lives. Again, thankyou and your mum. Life is too short for bad wine…blunt secateurs and a dearth of “mums hugs” :o)

      Reply

  2. Pinky
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 12:16:03

    Hi Fronkii,
    Truly beautiful words in honour of Mum. Love you even more for that and the joy she got from everything you wrote. I’ll retrieve the photo and frame and if you let me, i’ll keep it here as we dont have a recent photo of you and Steve and the girls. We truly had a free and exciting childhood that, when I look back on it, was a good one made better by coming home from school to a freshly made hot iced cake and cup of tea.

    Reply

  3. narf77
    Jan 07, 2012 @ 13:43:01

    So many times as an adult I found out things that mum did for us where she put herself out on a limb for us without our knowledge. She would have done anything for any one of us. We just had a beer out on the deck for her, looking out over the Tamar River and sitting on the stonehenge bench that Steve made just before Christmas. Cheers mum, we all love you more than you will ever know.

    Reply

  4. Annette
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 18:24:09

    Oh Fran, Eric and I are so sorry to hear the sad news, our thoughts are with you all. I met your mother many years ago when she lived in denmark and we did keep in touch if only once a year via xmas cards. such sad news Fran, we will be thinking of you all. love to you . Eric and Annette.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 08, 2012 @ 18:29:18

      Thankyou Annette and Eric. I am heading back to W.A. for her funeral next week. She had a bad heart and I guess it just gave out after all of the excitement of her lightning Christmas visit over here and subsequent return to 40C temperatures. We will all miss her so much more than we would ever have thought and we are so very lucky to have had that little bit of time with her before she died. Thank you again for your words and she really liked you both :o)

      Reply

  5. narf77
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 10:31:13

    Reblogged this on theroadtoserendipity and commented:

    Its a year to the day that mum died. It is hotter here than it was last year and the shellshock that accompanied me for most of January is a faded memory. They say that time heals all wounds and they are right. I can think of mum with fond memories now and at Christmas I put a little posy of her favourite flowers on her memory tree that we planted in her honour (thanks Nat 🙂 ). I think about mum much more now than I did when she was alive. I hope that doesn’t sound bad but when she was alive she was always sharing little emails and messaging and was always in our lives…now she is ethereal and floats in and out of my conciousness at will…usually she tells me how to garden…she reminds me to put the compost bin out and to water the garden and to give Bezial an extra doggy treat while Earl isn’t looking. She has moved from “mum” to something more fundamental. She was once physical and now she is base instinct in my soul. We all have to go through this and learn our life lessons from death and losing someone more than close and come out the other side scared and surviving. It’s our human rite of passage and its important to show us our own mortality and to allow us to deal with it. If mum could get 1 day to look down from wherever it is that she is and I could tell her what she meant to me, I would have to say “you gave me courage and you gave me a chance to be “me”…you always supported me whether I deserved that support or not and I know the meaning of a mothers love…it was always there and always ready to flare up at a moments notice. I am sorry that I wan’t the best daughter but I tried to let you be “you”…you didn’t have an easy life but you had a most determined one and an ending that gave you grace. Thank you for being my mum…for giving me what you did and for everything that you did for me. Its only when you have children of your own that you learn to forgive your parents their idiosycrisities…by the way…Bezial is on a diet and I am NOT going to give him that extra treat and whenever you feel like a bit of a look-see out on the deck overlooking the river feel free…the spot under the kitchen window is all yours :)…

    Reply

  6. jmgoyder
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 11:52:07

    I am so sorry – this is a wonderrul tribute.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 06, 2013 @ 12:11:59

      I wrote this tribute last year…mum had just died and I was in shock and pain and when you have the depths of anguish you usually find beauty. Its the juxtaposition of life and its all about balance…mum might not be here any more but she is floating around more “present” than she was when she was alive…I think about her more because I have that knowledge in the back of my head that she isn’t there any more… I wish I had asked her for her recipe for marzipan…for fruitcake…all SORTS of things but I can’t now. I guess it really is a rite of passage that we all have to go through…our children will have to do so as well and how we learn our life lessons will give us the grace to go into the next world wherever and whatever it is.

      Reply

  7. christiok
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 12:38:01

    I loved reading this, Fran. Your mum looks so vital, right up to the end. She knew how to live well and die well. I am full of feelings reading about the rite of passage you’ve taken this year, knowing that you and I became friends well after her death, and thinking all along that you might even be older than me. In fact you are my younger sister’s age, 7 years younger than me, but I’ve yet to lose my mother. I love how you describe her presence in your life now, too. Thank you for this wise reflection. 🙂

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 06, 2013 @ 14:40:17

      Thank you for sharing our parallel life journeys with me Christi and for being a wonderful and understanding friend 🙂 “Age” is all in the mind, nothing to do with your body. Glad next door is a shining example that age isn’t an issue unless you let it be 🙂

      Reply

  8. Kaye Wheeler
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 14:07:30

    Such a lovely tribute to your mum, Fran. I love the photos – they take me back to my childhood and remind me of life in Denmark in the 1950’s and ’60’s. And, my goodness, how like your Nana Blackwood you are – inherited her musical talents, too. The family likenesses are so strong – thinking about how much Dale and Paul as children were like their dad as a child, and your girls also look like younger versions of you and Cathy. Precious memories.

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 06, 2013 @ 14:51:15

      I can’t believe that you were born before me Kaye! You look so young 🙂 We all have that very VERY strong chin 😉 and the underbite to prove it! Your boys look a lot like you as well :). Are you feeling better after your surgery now? I hope so 🙂 It would be hot wherever you are at the moment…It’s hot here too but we have a delightful breeze blowing. Might be a nice night for a big salad (nice and easy 🙂 ). Have a great week and by the end of it you should be up and trotting about like normal 🙂

      Reply

  9. rabidlittlehippy
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 14:40:06

    I have tears in my eyes and can barely see to type this but what a wonderful tribute. Your mum sounds like the wonderful product of her generation – resilient, frugal, generous, open-hearted and wonderfully stubborn too. Actually, from everything I’ve learned about you, reading your blog and our emails, you are an awful lot like her! If you want something, you don’t let the lack of money stand in your way and although I know you only via the virtual world and I was never given the opportunity to meet your mum, I know she would be extremely proud of you and she would have loved your gardens, rampant tomatoes, verdant spinach and all the rest. She would have been there with advice on how to store it for the tomorrows of the year.
    The generation that lived through the depression (precious few of them remaining) and through the war years who have that wonderful attitude of mend and make do, keep calm and carry on and all those other wonderful slogans from their generation are amazing inspirations. I may have never met her, I will not have that opportunity, but she, like my grandmother and many of those other wonderful ladies of their generation have inspired me and continue to do so. Reading this post has given me someone to aspire to be like, someone else who’s wonderful footsteps are once again being followed too. The older wisdom returns to us and I am so glad you reposted this blog for us to read.
    Hugs to you today being a year on. I hope your mum continues to speak to you in your mind and continues to live on through you, her daughter who is also a huge inspiration. 🙂

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 06, 2013 @ 14:57:19

      Mum, and my grandmother before her were amazing gardeners. My brother inherited the gardening streak and I have to work hard for it, it doesn’t come naturally to me. My grandmother came from a long line of herbalists and when she moved to Australia (10 pound pom 😉 ) she brought her resilience and her stubborn refusal to give in with her. I can only hope to be as industrious a gardener as mum. She lived in a housing commision home for most of her life but every move she turned her garden into something beautiful. She had to start all over again 4 years before she died but took so much of her old garden to her new unit. Green Journey were writing a story about her when she died. If you would like to read it, you can see where my love of gardening has come from and how it is completely entrenched in my soul…I couldn’t get away from it if I wanted to! She puts me to shame with frugality though and she is the reason that we made our veggie gardens this year…they are in her honour 🙂 and she would, indeed, have been proud of them because I learned everything from her 🙂
      http://www.greenjourney.com.au/inspiration/112-general-body-copy/341-margaret-micro-garden-in-the-city

      Reply

  10. thinkingcowgirl
    Jan 08, 2013 @ 08:44:51

    A lovely post and follow up, brought a tear to my eye. I can feel the love 🙂 I’m just processing stuff about my dad so it’s interesting to get your perspective.

    Reply

  11. The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 13:11:45

    What a beautiful homage to your very lovely mother. A very very special wonderful write up. I’m deeply sorry for your loss but happy you had such a wonderful mother. Paulette

    Reply

    • narf77
      Jan 22, 2013 @ 14:12:36

      Thank you Paulette. Sometimes you really don’t know what you have till it is gone and I think that parents are just one of the things that we take for granted until they are no longer there. I don’t really feel like mum is gone. I know that she isn’t physically here any more but I get the feeling that she sometimes wanders about the garden early in the morning (yelling up at our bedroom window for me to get out and water 😉 ) and that she was incredibly happy here so I only have happy memories of seeing her last so that helps enormously. Thank you for your lovely comment 🙂

      Reply

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