My Mum died at the end of January this year, quite suddenly, with pneumonia after a period in hospital for a broken hip operation.

Nothing to do with cookery, I know, but I wanted to pay my respects to my Mum by writing down the speech that I made during her requiem mass on Monday of this week.

Thank you for coming today – to start with, and to get a flavour of what my Mum was about, I would simply like to list the things that she liked and disliked.

Her Dislikes :

  • not being able to smoke in the café whilst meeting her friends
  • being on her own
  • being dependent on people or being told what to do
  • anyone who said anything bad about her family or close friends – life and loyalties were, for Mum, very “black and white” sometimes
  • Match of the Day – a football programme on BBC television
  • being in a wheelchair – though she grew to accept it
  • flying
  • not being able to talk – even in France, where she could not speak a word of French, she would make herself understood
  • disagreements in the family
  • Her Likes :

  • smoking and talking / chatting
  • people and company
  • crumpets and butter and even more butter
  • playing cards – whist, bridge and black jack
  • simply being with her grand children – not necessarily talking, just being present
  • reading – though, after Granny’s death she found reading difficult since she could no longer concentrate
  • old films after midnight
  • my Dad reading to her in bed
  • being tickled
  • buying clothes from JulesB and Partners, and then hiding them in her wardrobe
  • cold coffee
  • Beryl Cook cards from Sheila
  • When my Mum died 2 weeks ago I was in Paris, as I have been for the last 6 years or so. I got the phone call from my brother Nick, a pretty brief call, him sounding exhausted emotionally and me not knowing quite what I felt. I think that we wanted to be alone with our thoughts.

    I was suddenly confronted with the reality of the distance that I’d created between my Mum and I – telephone communication with Mum had been, for a number of years, frustrating and unsatisfactory, lacking in any real contact / content. Instead of getting upset about the lack of real contact with my Mum, I took the option of creating an emotional distance between us. My trips to Newcastle to see my parents were always double-edged – delighted to be home and with my Mum and Dad again, but also very concerned about how my Mum would be and never really at ease.

    My first question for my Dad whenever ringing my parents would always be “How’s Mum ?”.

    So, when my Mum died, there were a whole mix of emotions – deep sadness with a certain amount of relief. But I certainly didn’t want to leave it at that – despite creating a distance between Mum and I, I knew that she deserved to be remembered in a much more positive way.

    As a result, these last 2 weeks I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Mum with my Dad, mainly, and with my brothers Nick and Adam, Sonia (Nick’s wife) and my wife – trying to create a contact with my Mum again, to rebuild the positive images of this incredible woman. I have also read the many deeply felt wishes of sympathy from the numerous people who were touched by Mum during her relatively short life.

    Out of all of these exchanges, are a multitude of stories and anecdotes, but more importantly, a number of characteristics that shine through time and again.

  • She enjoyed people : and loved company, especially that of those people that many of us would simply let pass by without engaging in conversation. How many times did I see my Mum chatting away for hours with Joan (previous cleaner), Alice (a carer for my Grandma), Anne (previous cleaner), George (previous gardener) or Jimmy (previous window cleaner) instead of letting them do what they were being paid to do. She had a number of good friends from her mornings in various coffee shops on Gosforth High Street. She developed real relationships with people who worked in the places that Mum would visit whilst on her mornings out and about in Gosforth and Jesmond (the teams from Katherines flower shop, from Penny Farthing tanning shop and then Vicky’s Tanning Shop, from Michael Dominic and then Transcend hairdressers, from Francesca’s italian restaurant [who were present at the funeral, by the way], and from the famous Gosforth and then 5-Star Taxis). Not forgetting “Tex” the road sweeper !
  • Unconditional Love : especially for her “boys”, as she would call us, and her grand-children. She would make a point also of welcoming and accepting any of our girlfriends. My wife told me recently that “from the very beginning she accepted me, fully, without question, despite my doubts abut her. She accepted me even though I did not accept her at first”.
  • Cheerfullness and Warmth : this was summed up nicely by neighbours, Stella and Tom “We will miss Susan. I have always been captivated by her bright spirit, her warmth and her sense of fun, not to say “naughtiness” indulged with inimitable Irish charm”.
  • Loyalty : always defending the family through thick and thin, for example when she looked after Grandma during her final few months even though their relationship had not always been easy.
  • Courage : an unspectacular “daily” courage which meant that she could leave Buncrana for London and drama school when very young, could go to lonely isolation with a 2 week baby when Dad got a job in Jersey, and could accompany Dad to his dull and intimidating work functions where Mum would play the beautiful and charming wife, despite feeling totally out of place (and never complaining).
  • Resourcefullness
  • Instinctive Understanding / Primal awareness of peoples’ emotions
  • Over and above these key characteristics, whenever I think of my Mum, I invariably think of Dad as well. The “couple“. I think that it’s pretty fair to say that over the last 10 years or so, Mum and Dad have been almost a single entity, in “fusion”, inseparable. However, often people can make the mistake of thinking that Dad has been a great chap putting up with and looking after Mum. What a great support he has been and how wearing that must have been on Dad.

    Well, even if recently Dad has been giving most of the physical support, Mum has for many, many years played a pivotal role in this family, giving support to all of us, none more so than to my Dad.

    To close this brief hommage to my Mum, I would like to say to Mum that you live on in us, even if physically you will no longer accompany us in our many adventures over the next 10, 20, 30….years. As far as I am concerned, she has passed on her loyalty and her unconditional love to me, as well as the capacity to “feel” emotions and sense things very quickly – even if I don’t always know how to interpret the feelings straight-away or at all, sometimes.

    So, as my Mum and Dad would say to one another every night before turing to go to sleep, regardless of the events of that day…..

    “Good night, God bless and sleep tight”.

    Je t’aime Maman.

    4 réponses

    1. This is a very moving post. I am really and deeply sorry for you and I can easily understand your sorrow. Courage ! I am sure she is very proud of you and the courageous choices you have made in your life.

    2. Hi Dom,

      Sorry to hear about your Mum – that was a moving post. It also made me reflect on the physical and emotional distance between my Mum and me.

      Love to all,

      Bisous,
      Libby

    3. Dear Dominic,

      That was a very loving and moving tribute to your mother.

      I met your mother and father when Patrick (your mother’s cousin) and I were home in Buncrana in August ’06 – it’s very hard to realise that that is nearly two years ago – and I found your parents to be particularly warm and friendly.

      Patrick has very fond memories of your mother and the craic they enjoyed together growing up in the same town. Over the years he has spoken of her and laughed at the adventures they got up to together.

      Your mother will be sadly missed.

      Take comfort in knowing a mother’s love is unconditional and always there.

      Regards

      Carmel & Patrick Doherty

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