Mums funeral was last Friday (the 26th) at Heart of England Crematorium in Nuneaton (where Mum was born). By 11 a.m. that morning my Dad had a houseful of people; Tara, my aunt Margaret and her daughter in law Trish, and my friends Jon, Tom and James.
Dad and I had gone to say goodbye to Mum in the Chapel of Rest the afternoon before, and I also went again with Tara later that same evening. She looked very peaceful – way more peaceful than she had shortly an hour after her death when we’d seen her in the hospital – and was resplendent in her beloved Scallywags flyball team T-shirt and slippers. Resting on her stomach was a small stuffed dog, a beanie baby toy which she’d loved that I’d bought her as stocking filler for Christmas a few years before.
I kissed her on the forehead before we left. I wasn’t prepared for quite how cold she would be – when we’d seen her shortly after she died, her hands were still warm.
I broke down a little, apologising to her for things. I apologised that she wouldn’t be there at our wedding, and that I’d never given her any grandchildren. Mum would have made a great grandma, and I’m sorry I’ll never see that.
The Funeral Car came to collect us at half eleven. Tara and I sat forward, my Dad and my Aunt at the back. Mr. Hackett from the Funeral Directors solemnly walked the car out of the street and then we began the sombre procession to Heart of England, following the car containing my mums’ coffin at a slow pace.
There was a fair old gathering outside, old friends and relatives. It was drizzling with rain which somehow seemed appropriate. Heart of England crematorium is a lovely building in a lovely setting, in the middle of fields with a lovely view from the main window of the Chapel.
Both Tara and I had prepared a few paragraphs about Mum. I’d felt before the service I’d have difficulty reading my piece out, and after Tara read her piece I was in bits.
“My memories of Irene.
I decided I wanted to read something out about Irene and things I remember about her.
My first meeting with Irene when David and I first started going out was fairly brief. I’d had my hair in bunches, something I’ve still not grown out of. David told me that she liked me, and she even liked my ‘silly hair’. She wasn’t afraid to say what she thought which I think is an admirable quality in a person.
My main memory of her is one time David and I had had a fall out and had split up for a while. One Friday night whilst I was at my mums, the phone went. It was Irene. She’d called to see how I was and how I was getting on. She told me that she didn’t really know what had gone on between David and me, but she hoped we sorted it out and got back together. I took this to mean that she liked me! And it seemed I was right. When Irene had been hospitalised with leukaemia in January last year, due to my working at the hospital, I was able to pop up and down and see her. I always tried to phone before I went onto the wards and whenever they asked who I was, I replied ‘Oh, I’m Mrs Court’s daughter in law’ because that’s how I saw myself. Bernard has since told me that when she found out about it, she loved the fact I referred to her as that.
One of the most upsetting things for me was to see the decline in her health. In all the years I’d known her, herself and Bernard had always gone on walking holidays to Somerset and she was never happier than when she was either out and about walking around or cleaning. Towards the end, she could barely do either and it was saddening to see such a strong willed independent woman stuck in a wheelchair or electronic buggy (that she couldn’t drive too well!).
It’s also sad that she won’t be at David and mine’s wedding in October. I was away having a dress fitting last week and as I tried it on, I had to hold the tears back knowing that she’d never see the dress, she’d never see David and me on the happiest day of our lives. But she’ll be there in spirit and we’ll almost certainly be thinking of her all day. I know I’ll think of her each day and I’ll miss her each day.
From one short strong willed fiery independent woman to another, I’ll miss you Irene. Rest in peace.”
Tara was in tears with the final few paragraphs, and I didn’t know how I’d be able to stand in front of people and read anything out. However, I would never get this opportunity again so I had to try.
“When I was was growing up, Mum and I used to fight like cat and dog. Dad will vouch for the fact that I've inherited her stubborn streak and the two of us were too much alike - a case of immovable object meets immovable object. After I left home though, something very strange happened which we chatted about on a number of occasions - we became the very best of friends.
Years back when I split from my ex-wife and had to move back home and had gotten used to the barage of "I told you so" from both Mum and Dad, I used to go out clubbing on a Friday night. Rolling in at around 3 a.m. trying not to wake anybody I found Mum waiting up in the kitchen drinking a cup of tea. "You don't have to wait up for me, mum. I'm old enough to look after myself now.".
"It's what Mums do", she replied.
It's what Mums do.
And that's Mum in a nutshell. She did everything a mum was supposed to do and more.
I'll miss her Sunday dinners. I'll miss her strength and resolve which she showed through years of pain and illness. I'll miss her enthusiasm and love for all animals. I'll miss the way she spoke to Dad which many would misinterpret as nagging but in fact showed a great, enduring and lasting love. She'll be sadly missed at my wedding later in the year. Most of all though, Dad and I will miss one of the best friends we'll ever have.”
Afterwards we had a wake in my dads local, and the majority of people who had attended the service came back for drinks and food. It was lovely seeing some of my best friends, but strange and sad that it had to be for such unfortunate circumstances. Still, we gave Mum a decent send off. Later in the year Dad, Tara and I will be travelling to her favourite holiday destination in Somerset to scatter her ashes in her favourite spot.