A hug is always the right size
Posted in thoughtsTags :
Mum passed away on January 17th, 2023 and below is the eulogy I delivered at her funeral, on Wednesday February 8th, 2023 at Penmount, Truro.
Brenda was sometimes known as Bren’ to her friends.
Brenda was Nana, or Nan, to her grandchildren, James, Penny, Mathias and Emma, as she was to James’ little Amelia too.
Brenda was Mum, to my little sister Claire and myself, and it’s about Mum I’d like to say a few words today.
Mum raised us in English in a French speaking country, hence giving us not only a second language, but introducing us to another culture, broadening our minds to differences, and setting the value of tolerance and generosity. I use to speak French with Claire and Dad at home, but we all switched to English the moment Mum entered the room, which ended up by irritating her, as she reminded us that she could also speak French.
Her gift of English to us has played a major part in my life, both professionally and personally, and I’m proud to have been able to hand down some of this gift to my own children.
Another gift was that of time. Claire and I always came first, and Mum always took the time to reach out to us and come into our world to enrich it by supporting and encouraging us.
I have fond memories of Mum reading me Winnie the Pooh bedtime stories. She impersonated all of the characters, with their own voice and tone, and fostered a colourful imaginary world which I relished and looked forward to each night. Mum’s Winnie the Pooh has alway had a special place in both our hearts:
For I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words Bother me.
Mum always use to wave us goodbye. Standing on the edge of the playground or at one of our flat’s front windows, or later in the back yard of her cottage, she use to wait until we disappeared around the corner, like a beacon of love and support, boosting our self-confidence. “Everything will be okay” she use to say.
Part of that was meditation, another great gift of our childhood. She introduced us to transcendental meditation, and practiced it most of her life. I remember Claire picking daisies and sliding them between Maharishi’s toes during one of his visits to Switzerland, she mustn’t haven more than 8 years old.
Claire and I lived a golden childhood right through to our teens and beyond. There was always a cake or biscuits waiting for us when we came home from school. Mum spent countless hours with us at the swimming pool in the summer, despite the heat and the crowds. She prepared the best picnics ever when we went hiking in the mountains or went to the beach, and always made sure there was a little something left for us to eat on our ride back home.
I remember coming home from school on Saturday (yes, we used to go to school on Saturday mornings back then), finding Mum and Dad unpacking the market groceries, a bunch of fresh flowers laying on the kitchen table waiting for a vase. Mum loved food and craft markets. She loved the direct contact with the creators or the producers, she loved the colours, the fresh smells of flowers, fruits and vegetables. “There’s nothing like buying fresh”, she use to tell me.
Mum was often the first up and the last to bed. I remember the breakfasts she use to prepare for us when we were kids, listening to Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2’s breakfast show. She use to call the time out to us periodically to make sure we were awake. “Quarter past seven!” Mum use to shout, before laughing to one of Terry’s jokes. She was truly devoted.
She made home my absolute favourite place to be.
Mum was welcoming, always ready to add an extra plate to the table. Somehow, she always managed to host an unexpected feast with what was available in the fridge. You probably all remember how generous, tasty and comforting her cooking was. Remember her gravy?
I remember a certain world cup when my good friends Ronald and Solt ended up eating at home in front of the telly and almost went through our couch bouncing with excitement. Mum was in fits and we often recalled that happy moment. Around the same time, those same friends loved Mum’s scones so much, that our University indoor football team ended up by being called “The Scones” - something she never really understood, but it made her laugh.
Mum was always active, passionate and committed.
Back in my teens, we sometimes had heated discussions on the balcony, be it on the state of the world, smoking or the legacy of the British empire.
Mum was passionate of her gardens and respectful the surrounding nature. They were alive with wildlife and booming with colours and energy. She nurtured them with love and care. Each flower, rose, daffodil, foxglove, honeysuckle, delphinium or primrose was a character in the story her gardens told.
Lucy, her first pussycat, was another important part of her Cornish life.
Her artistic talents expressed themselves through her drawings and watercolour paintings, many of which I treasure to this day. She love to decorate too. Adding a fresh coat of paint or changing wallpaper, it felt good.
Mum had the most beautiful cursive handwriting I have ever seen. Not only was it neat and legible, it sang and danced. It was a happy writing coming strait from the heart.
Mum was a generous and kind person, socially committed to her community, on the lookout for others, and met some of her best friends in the process. She avoided to judge, and always tried to see and understand the others’ point of view. She was a good listener.
She sure loved her daily newspaper and cross-word. Her morning coffee with 2 spoons of Coffee Mate, and her cups of tea on her front bench.
Mum loved to laugh, to read, to listen to opera, Maria Callas, Beniamino Gigli or the three tenors.
She used to love going to the pictures, or to a show in the West End followed by a meal out. She enjoyed recalling that time she saw Danny Kaye, and missed the last tube home.
She loved taking us on long walks in Jussy woods with our wellies, followed by Tom, our childhood pussycat, or on the Cornish cliffs and along it’s soft riversides.
Mum deeply loved the county of Cornwall, for all its glorious beauty, nature and wilderness.
Despite Mum’s declining health and quality of life these last years, I feel she tried in her way not to impose, but always to greet, care, include and support. She told me numerous time how grateful she was that my little sister Claire was there for her, doing her upmost to take care of her needs and providing assistance and support when Mum needed the most. Thank you so much Claire.
“Don’t get old”, she use to say, sometimes followed by “let’s have a nice cup of tea, shall we?”
And to quote our dear Pooh one final time:
How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
Love you Mum ❤︎