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  • One Last Act of Love...

    Yesterday I formally said goodbye to the woman who gave birth to me more than 55 years ago. It was, inevitably, a strange day, but it felt to me that it was as good as it could be, all things considered.

    The sun shone in the afternoon - of course, she always claimed my Dad is employed as 'the clerk of the weathers', so he had little choice but to oblige!

    Around forty people, including representatives of all four generations of her family, were present.

    An eloquent, witty and moving tribute written by my sister was beautifully delivered by one of my nieces, whilst one of my nephews read the Bible passages that informed the 'words of faith and hope' I was privileged to offer.

    There were some very moving moments...

    The entire staff of the care home came out to wave her off (literally), some in tears, and many supporting each other with an arm.  Two of them came to the service.  Above and beyond the call of duty, this was love.

    Half a dozen people from the local Methodist church, in which she had found welcome and acceptance, came, sang lustily and honoured us by coming back for refreshments afterwards rather than slipping away. I enjoyed some cheery conversation with them.

    A minister friend's family had given me hospitality, and he came as my 'back up';a friend from Glasgow made a long day-trip to be there for me. This was humbling, and their presence reassuring.

    It all went as well as it could.  I fulfilled my promise to my Mum, and was able to entrust her to God's safe-keeping in a way that honoured who she was.

    That was the public bit.

    In the morning was the private bit.

    The sky was overcast, the freshening wind suggested a storm was imminent, and I went alone to the Funeral Director's offices to say my own farewells, not as daughter-cum-minister but simply as daughter.

    The small, light room had beautiful modern stained glass, candles burned and there, attired in her new dress, Mum lay in her coffin, looking as if she was asleep and that, if I called her name she would wake up and speak.  Momentarily I was wrong-footed by how peaceful she looked, a half-smile playing on her lips, her eyes closed, her hands gently clasped... gone was the effect of chronic pain, hypertension or any other infirmity.  Now, as the coffin plate stated so simply, she was 'at rest.'

    Reaching in to the coffin, I touched her hand, knowing it would be icy cold and yet taken aback by what icy cold felt like.  I spoke to her, promised her that I would do my very best for her, and assured her that all was well - for her and for we who survived her.

    Sitting down I read to her from the Bible on my phone... Psalm 121, Psalm 23.  I prayed for her and blessed her.

    I took time to fix in my memory her face at rest, the details of her clothes, the watch I had given her as a Christmas present, the gold wedding band she and my Dad had chosen more than half a century ago.

    Finally, I leaned into the coffin and, gently, so gently, planted a kiss on her forehead.

    Having been able to spend time saying my goodbyes, I now felt strengthened to fulfill my promise, to deliver one last act of love - which was to conduct her funeral.

    I know that, yesterday especially, I have been surrounded by love, prayers, blessings, good wishes (and probably a bit of Wicca from one or two friends also).  One of my much-loved church folk speaks of 'enabling grace' - which seemed to be granted by the bucket-load bucket-load yesterday, and which, along with my inherent tenacity (stubbornness and single-mindedness) got me through with just the odd slightly longer than average pause.

    Now I am home.  I have a massive mug of tea.  I have my jeans on.  I have my kitties for company.

    Perhaps I will cry, perhaps I won't, but either way, I rest easy and at peace, knowing that I fulfilled to the best of my ability the wishes of my Mum, justifying her trust that I would not let her down.  For me, that is a huge source of comfort.

  • Old Haunts, New Memories

    Yesterday afternoon, I went to Kelvingrove Museum to listen to the organ recital with the intent of remembering my Mum as well as listening to some music.  I'm not sure what I hoped to feel, but whatever it was, I didn't expect it to be as benignly pleasant as it was.  I recalled the visit my family made there, which was a happy memory.  I recalled visiting with other friends.  I imagined my Mum as teenager standing on the upper level looking down at the huge area where, now there's a coffee shop and a melee of visitors.

    Today, I opted for the walking nostalgia route, which includes a lot of my own favourite places.  Mum always reckoned that Glasgow Green had a 'bad' feel due to the executions - I still don't sense that, but I had a nice wander.  Back along Sauchiehaul Street, past Sandiford place where her parents rented a flat when they  moved to Glasgow, past La Belle Allee where they were church officers for the Christian Science Church.  Through Kelvingrove Park, past what was once Woodside Senior Secondary School, and then via the Kelvin Walkway into the Botanic Gardens.  All places she knew, that were important in her life.  As a young woman she roved freely throughout this great city, the mileage I covered today reflecting what she might well have done herself (albeit she probably used trams rather than feet!).  I imagined myself telling her about what I'd seen - not the catching myself forgetting that I can't, kind of thing, but a deliberate, pretend conversation.

    And I read the funeral service out loud 'to' her... or her as she looks in the photo we're using; her as I remember her watching my every move at the funeral I conducted for my cousin (after which she told me I had done a good job); her as a warm, living person who wouldn't pull her punches if she didn't like what I said! And I think she was OK with it. Which means I'm OK with it.

    Just about everything that can be done has been done. Tomorrow morning I head south, and enter 'radio silence' until Thursday.  I have received oodles of well wishes, cards, hugs, promises of prayers and 'vibes' and know that many, many people 'have got my back', so all will be well, whatever 'well' looks like on the day.

    Savour your lives, gentle readers, and enjoy recalling old, and making new, memories.  Life is fleeting and frail, but the memories we make and the love we share, these are a legacy beyond price.

  • Baking Memories

    Memories of baking... and baking new memories...

    When I was a child, my Mum always spent most of Saturday afternoon baking.

    When we were very small, we loved to "help" and I can recall standing on a chair with plastic blue-and-white gingham style seat covers, at a drop leaf table stirring whatever it was with gusto, whilst my siblings did the same.  Licking spoons (I never quite understood why I was meant to like raw cake mixture!) and squabbling over got to do what were all part of a deliciously untidy pattern of life.

    By the time we were teens, helping wasn't fun any more, but, along with whichever friends happened to be round, we soon polished off each week's offerings.  Butterfly cakes, fairy cakes, fruit buns, plain buns... these were staples, along side 'slicing' cakes such as coffee walnut, coconut, rich fruit, cherry (with properly distributed fruit) and Victoria sponge. Plain or cheese scones, the former often with homemade jam, the latter an excuse for butter rather than marge!

    So, knowing I have folk round for 'tea and cake' later today, I decided to bake in her honour.  Butterfly cakes are probably the only 'authentic' throw back but the others have the 'essence' of what she used to make.

    Our school friends always said my Mum made the best cakes - alas, for us who had them every week, it was the tantalising bought cakes at their homes we craved!  So, I also bought the one thing that my Mum craved whenever she thought of Scotland (which were available in Northampton, just beyond her budget at the time) - Tunnock Caramel Wafers.

    It's been fun to bake (even if my kitchen now looks like my mum's did forty years ago!) and good to recall happy, uncomplicated family times.