As some of you may know, my mum, Janice, sadly died on November 13th. This is one of the last pictures of us together (along with my dad!), from Christmas Day 2007, which my parents spent with Julie and me here in Dublin.
Mum had been battling cancer since 2003, and although we knew it wasn't curable, her regular chemotherapy cycles (at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, who were fantastic) seemed to be keeping things more or less in check. So to lose her just a couple of hours after being admitted to hospital suffering from what seemed to be non-critical abdominal pain came as quite a shock to us all. At the same time, we're all relieved that she slipped away quickly and relatively painlessly—one of her only fears in life was that her health might decline to the point where she could do little more but lie around in agony, a fate that osteoporosis had inflicted upon her own mother some years earlier. (Her other fear was somewhat less morbid—a lifelong phobia of birds!)
Although she had been comparatively poorly for the past few weeks, Mum's consultant expected her next cycle of chemo to clear up the main cause of her discomfort, and she remained pretty active right up to the end. Just after I last visited her and Dad back home in Scotland last month, they were off to Gran Canaria for a holiday (ironically, her 96-year-old aunt died equally-suddenly while they were away, and the first thing they had to do when they came home was arrange her funeral). And when I last spoke to Mum the weekend before she died, she had me looking up some hotel in Edinburgh on the internet for a wedding she thought she might be invited to next year!
Positive though she was, though, Mum was nothing if not ultra-organised, and she was well-prepared for the inevitable. She left us copies of directions to the cemetery to send to people who might want to come, and sheet music for the hymns she wanted sung at her funeral in case we didn't have the right books... but best of all—and this was Mum in a nutshell—she left Dad a notebook listing all the household chores that he ought to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual, bi-annual and occasional basis after she was gone, right down to specifying the correct washing machine cycles for the bedclothes, and the appropriate shades of paint to use on the outside of the house!
On Thursday, we laid Mum to rest in Dunblane cemetery, near her parents and several other generations of her family, and on Saturday we had a thanksgiving service at Hillhouse Parish Church in Hamilton, where she'd been a member for the past 40 years. The turnout at both was pretty humbling.
Of course we'll all miss Mum very much, none more so than my dad, to whom she would have been married for 47 years last Tuesday. But I certainly don't feel sad when I think about her, so don't feel sad for me either. Just keep your fingers crossed that she hasn't hidden one of those household chore books away for me somewhere as well :)