Seconds after our mother’s final breath the song Cavatina’s opening lyrics “She was beautiful. Beautiful to my eyes….” played out on my sister Helen’s Chill Music playlist. Although not planned, this coincidence providing a fitting commentary to not only how our newly deceased mother comported herself throughout her life, but also how Maggie conducted her final moments.
The octogenarian matriarch’s life concluding with her face never looking as beautiful. Her visage taking on an almost porcelain smoothness as her three offspring bode her a tearful farewell. Mum’s passing taking on celestial proportions as Helen, brother Ian and my tears flowed like an eddying brook.
Mags had fought like a trojan over the previous three days as her aggressive, recently discovered, brain tumours proved medic’s forecasts she’d a mere two weeks to live to be a prediction of unerring accuracy. That maternal stoicism leaving her exhausted, however not stopping her affording my siblings and me a goodbye kiss as she bid us adieu.
Mother’s family and friends lives infinitely the worse for her passing. However, this deeply ingrained grief not stopping my brother and me spending a twenty minute telephone conversation with my adult son Jonny (who we look upon as a younger brother) where we laughed heartily while recollecting a plethora of Maggieisms – Sayings and whimsical acts which’d made us chortle for decades.
Amongst them, Jonny revealing his grandma once gave him a shopping list including the arbitrary item of ‘tinned stuff’. This lack of specificity at which canned foodstuffs desired tickling her beloved grandson’s funny bone. My boy resisting the urge to augment the beans, peas and soups he’d purchased with a tin of Pedigree Chum dog food…… Which, as she’d not got a dog, would’ve been a worthy prank by the grandson who idolised her.
Ian, Helen and yours truly have been receiving well wishes from all over the country from scores of people whose lives had been touched by our funny, bright and loving mother. Each with their own special memory of the welcome and humour she afforded everyone whose path she crossed.
This support making the stark familial zeitgeist a tad more bearable. Although, if truth be told, a mere fifty hours since her passing I don’t think the magnitude of our loss has fully hit me. The sleep deprivation over three days prior to her death, along with existing on sandwiches, leaving me (and I’m sure my siblings) both physically and mentally fatigued.
Of her numerous qualities, if I’d to select one, it’ll be her marvellous sense of humour which I’ll miss the most. For nearly six decades, on an almost daily basis, she could be relied upon to provide a comment, observation or mischievous putdown that’d ‘have me in stitches’. Particularly, her responses to me when I foolishly took her on in a misguided ‘putdown contest’.
On one occasion, after I’d name her Hyacinth Fouquet as a play on the title of obsessive social climbing TV character Hyacinth Bucket (who demanded it was pronounced Bouquet), mum observed splendidly that if wit was s*** I’d be constipated!…… Just one of many whimsical comebacks she’d afforded me over the years, which even though was less than complimentary I took in the jocular manner it was meant.
Although our similar personalities meant we could clash at times, that alikeness also meant countless laughs in each others company over the years. On occasion I’ve perhaps taken it for granted, but I was truly blessed to have Margaret Strachan as my mother; who along with my late dad provided a wonderful environment for my siblings and me to flourish as children and in adulthood.
RIP Mum – A truly beautiful person who I’ll miss dreadfully.