At Gloria’s funeral, my sisters and I each gave small eulogies.
As a child, like probably every other child in the universe, I took my mum for granted. I had no idea she was extraordinary.
I did know she wasn’t like other mums. She wasn’t a there-there-kissy-better kind of mum. Or a here-I’ve-baked-your-favourite-cake-for-your-birthday kind of mum. Or even a once-upon-a-time-bedtime-story-reading kind of mum. Far from it. She was working all the hours god sent, every day of the week. If she had a spare moment she was out visiting a Parkhurst inmate, or checking in on an older family member, or listening to the troubles of someone who’d come by the cafe to seek her advice. She was loving, but she was busy. And she was just mum.
Until one day she surprised me, here in this very church. We were at midnight mass and the church was packed. A family in another pew had a baby that was crying and crying and crying. Loud and increasingly persistent.The parents could do nothing to comfort this baby and it was getting embarrassing. Mum left our pew and went over to the family, holding her arms out. The mother handed mum her baby and after a minute in my mum’s arms, the baby was calm, quiet and soothed. I can still see my mum’s serene face as she held that baby. Beautiful. I knew then that mum was not only extraordinary but she had magic powers. And by the way, she continued to surprise me for the rest of her life.
How do you talk about such an amazing woman and do her any kind of justice? Impossible. Instead, I’ve decided to talk about three things about mum that I hope will in some way rub off on me. I’ve come up with three words: Love, Life, Laugh.
Mum loved her family fiercely and she loved dad with enormous depth and strength for over 63 years. But she also care deeply about other people. She was interested in everyone, listened, paid attention and, above all, acted. No-one could say about mum, I didn’t know you cared. They did know. We did know. Because she showed it by phoning or emailing, or turning up, or dropping a note with a few bob in the post. She welcomed people in, with a cup of tea or dad’s special cappuccino, and always something to eat. She never turned anyone away, ever. And she showed love and compassion to everyone, from people in prison, to film stars, to neighbours. Even when she was very poorly, she worried about other people and whether they were getting enough support. She had this huge, enviable capacity to love.
There’s a wonderful jazz standard called “I’m gonna live til I die” and it always makes me think of her. Mum lived her life to the full. She always had a busier social life than I have ever had. She loved going out, parties, dancing and all kinds of music from Mantovani to Puccini to Ella Fitzgerald to the Beatles. She loved good food and a good glass of wine. She enjoyed travelling – the thrill of New York City, the warmth of Majorca, the joy of Rome, and, especially, the wonderful cruises she went on with dad. She loved her iPad and the world it opened up to her. She had a zest and energy for life right up until she became exhausted by treatment. As the song goes, Gonna Dance, Gonna Fly – and she did, she did.
If you never heard mum laugh, you missed a treat. You’ve heard the phrase, cried like a baby. Mum laughed like a baby. She had many different kinds of laugh but my favourite was her hysterical giggle. Telling one of her many stories (she was a fabulous story teller) she would start to laugh before the funniest bit, her face would crumple, and suddenly she couldn’t speak for giggling. And we’d all be giggling with her. I will miss that giggle more than anything.
There’s a phrase you often hear: Live well, laugh often, love much. That was my surprising, extraordinary, magical mum.