This is a condensed version of the Eulogy that I read out at Mum’s funeral yesterday. It completes my series of blogs about my journey with Mum in life and in death. Enjoy! Make sure you’ve read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 first...
Nothing ever prepares us for a moment like this.
Although we could all see that Mum was slowly declining, I never allowed myself to think of “that moment” when she’d leave her body and spread her wings. I wanted to think that she’d be here forever, never changing, always there for us, as she has always been. And I hoped that by not thinking of it, maybe it would never happen.
Yet here we are.
And I have such mixed feelings. I know Mum never wanted to end up in a nursing home. Her wish was to be cared for at home, no matter what it took. And when she took a sudden decline 3 weeks ago, it doesn’t surprise me that 5 days later she was gone.
Mum was like that.
She was inherently practical, just like her Mum. She enjoyed a little bit of fuss being made over her on her birthday or other celebration, but she never wanted to be a burden to anyone.
A close friend once said to me, “When your Mum starts to feel like she’s a burden, that’s when she’ll go.” And she did.
Not that she was a burden to us - her three children, Steven, Susan and myself. We would have happily kept looking after her. But as her memory declined and she struggled to find the right words, she noticed it. Her once brilliantly acute mind was letting her down. And she was aware of this, and could see that it was escalating.
So she chose the kindest exit - one that had so little fuss, that was fast…but not too fast. She made sure that her children and grandchildren all had a chance to visit her first, to tell her that we love her, and to understand in our hearts that she was packing her bags for her next adventure, so that we could say goodbye before she left.
Mum never talked about death, or her beliefs around it.
So I know she’s in a happy place.
And that’s why I’m so happy and so sad. I’m happy for Mum’s freedom. I feel so blessed to have her around me still, and to be able to feel her. Yet I’m so sad that I won’t have the chance to hug her and talk to her again, the way that we used to.
I’ll miss my late night chats to her. Anytime I was driving late at night, I’d ring Mum. It could be 9pm, or 10pm, yet she always picked up the phone, and we’d talk and talk as I drove. She’d wait until I was safely inside my front door before she’d hang up. Sometimes that was well after midnight. But she wanted to know I was ok.
Mum was like that.
Her care for others far outshone her care for herself. She was very functional in her care for herself – she wasn’t into fancy cars or fancy clothes or fancy restaurants. She was always practical and sensible, she treated money with respect, and she had a strong work ethic – all of which she passed on to Steven, Susan and myself.
A lot of that came from her own upbringing. Mum was born in 1940 in Mount Morgan, just as World War II was starting. Her father was a butcher and her mother was a nurse. And once the war was over, they moved to Rockhampton, and then many years later they moved again – this time to the north side of Brisbane, to The Grange. That’s where Mum spent her late teenage years and her early 20’s, completing her schooling and going on to University.
Mum was an avid photographer when she was younger.
It was her love of photography that allowed cupid to enter Mum’s life, in the form of our father, John Marshall. Dad was attending the same amateur photography course as Mum.
They married in 1963, then I came along…then Steven…then Susan. Mum and Dad lived a very long and happy life together, until Dad passed away in 2009.
Initially they built a home in Stafford, only a couple of suburbs away from where Mum’s parents were living at The Grange. That’s where Steven, Susan and I grew up. But Dad had always dreamed of living on acreage. So when I was in my late teens, Mum and Dad bought a 10 acre property at Burpengary, on the northside of Brisbane.
They named their property Booyong, which is a name that had a lot of significance to Mum. Mum was always proud of her heritage. Her ancestors on her Mum’s side had come out to Australia as free settlors from Ireland, and were in fact the first free settlors to be married in QLD after it was made a state. They had befriended an aboriginal woman named Booyong, and she saved their lives by warning them of an impending attack.
We’re here today because of Booyong’s kindness and courage towards my family, and so her name is honoured with this property.
Some people thrive in city life, where others love the natural world and prefer to be on the land. Mum always loved nature, and was an avid gardener and bird watcher. She knew every species of plant in our garden at Stafford, and once she moved to Booyong, she had 10 acres of farmland to play on. She created the most beautiful gardens there, including an orchard with many different types of fruit trees.
Mum loved her property, but after Dad and Grandma passed, I know she was lonely with the long days at home. So she solved that problem by befriending all the local magpies and butcher birds and noisy minors. Every day she’d meticulously chop up tiny pieces of cheese for her host of bird friends.
They’d come around for their afternoon tea and cheese platter with Mum. And it brought her so much joy!
When she went downhill suddenly 3 weeks ago, one of her biggest concerns was for her birds.
Who would feed them their afternoon tea??? They’d become as connected to her as she was to them, and I’m sure it’s been an adjustment for them as it has for us.
Mum was also a natural teacher. Regardless of the topic, she loved to explain things, and she loved to encourage us to be the best that we could be. She’d play with her children and grandchildren for hours on hours. She’d teach us through projects, and have us make things, or learn things….always with the intention to help us become the best that we could be.
I know that she and Dad had very mixed feelings when I went to my very first sex education class with them. I was probably 8 or 9 at the time, and I was the kid in the audience asking, “But how does the sperm get from the man into the woman?” She’d raised me to have an enquiring mind, and a scientific logic….so of course I was going to ask a question like that! And I couldn’t quite understand why everyone was blushing and avoiding answering the question!
I’ve mentioned how Mum was very logical and scientific.
When she was a teenager, very few women went to University. And Mum and her sister didn’t just go to University – they both pursued highly academic careers. Roslyn worked in Genetics, and Mum became a microbiologist and cytogeneticist.
She worked for many years in the cytogenetics department at the Royal Brisbane Hospital. That’s where she’d do amniocentesis and test unborn fetuses for Downs Syndrome and other genetic disorders.
Yet she didn’t just spend her whole life working, tending to properties and raising children. Mum also loved to travel, and got just as much joy from planning a holiday as she got from actually taking one.
I do holidays the way I do food. I don’t do any planning, and I just throw it all together and see how it tastes. And usually it’s amazing! But Mum and I were opposites in that regard. Mum planned every day of our holidays from sunrise to sunset….and that made for some spectacular family holidays – to the Blue Mountains, the Great Barrier Reef, to New Zealand – all of which set her 3 children up to be bitten by the travel bug! I’m now a global traveller, but this is where it all began.
Mum – we miss you….greatly.
And the legacy you’ve left behind is us – your children, grandchildren, relatives and friends in whom you’ve instilled such a strong work ethic. We owe our success not only to our own efforts, but also to you, and all that you’ve given us.
We’ve never taken it for granted, and you’ve shown us the power of love, and of being there for someone in exactly the way they most need it.
It's natural that we don’t realise the gifts someone has given us until they pass. It’s only then that we truly reflect on how great an impact they’ve had on our life, and we see ourselves through different eyes.
Mum was like that. She touched lives with her kindness, and her generosity of Spirit. She cared deeply about those around her, and because of that, her friendships lasted a lifetime, not just a season.
I know she’s here, with us….not in her body, but in her beautiful Spirit. And I know she feels your love, just as we do.
The greatest honour we can ever pay to someone is to allow them to awaken something in us, so that we become better for having known them. That’s how we make the world a better place.
And Mum – you’ve done just that. In your own beautiful way, you’ve touched all of these lives here today, and many more who couldn’t join us.
You’ll never be far from our hearts. This may be goodbye for now, but it’s not farewell. We look forward to seeing you on the other side, and to feeling your love and guidance around us each and every day.
We love you!