I don’t really want to be here today, Mum. I don’t want to have to mourn. But I do want to celebrate your life, with your family and your friends. Wouldn’t she have loved this, everyone together.
Mum has been an extraordinary mother to me. She’d do anything for you, give you anything, whether it was advice, material help or simply a hug. She’s also been my best friend. I had the privilege of also knowing her as a person who over years I have had endless beautiful, interesting and rich conversations with, read to, joked and laughed with, argued and debated with (nature versus nurture kept us going for years!) but also grown with intellectually.
Back at 83 Quinton Drive, we’d talk for hours and hours, me, her, Humayun, Wendy, my family, her students and friends. I’d pretentiously give her my considered weltanschuuang (world view) and she, she’d tell me what the world was really like.
I never really understood Milan Kundera’s phrase ‘The unbearable lightness of being’ until today, it’s something like ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on’. Saw her in a sunset the other day, the first one I’d really noticed this year, seeing her in everything actually.
She loved to talk, she was interested in you, in the world. If it wasn’t face to face over a cup of tea, then it was on the phone. I could have ended this oration by saying ‘Don’t think of her as gone, just engaged’
She had a rock hard intellectuality and curiosity that ran throughout her life, from the time, as a young woman, when she worked in the local library, and spent more time reading than working, to her years of battling away to her achieve her Open University degree in geology, which, with four kids in between, took 17 years, but that’s determination for you. She always wanted to talk about the big questions without forgetting that you need to look after and communicate with your loved ones.
I learnt from her that love, kindness and tolerance are the most important things. The only thing she couldn’t tolerate was intolerance and as paradoxical as Humayun and I argued that that was, we knew the point really, and she was right. Not something I used to say to her very often. But more often than not she was.
She was beautiful inside like a geode with its crystals. As hot and passionate in love and anger as flowing lava, and as complex and multi-layered as a desert rose. She was my rock [‘too Karen’ hearing Karen say this before my oration really got to me]: Igneous, Metamorphic, sedimentary any of them and all of them
The way she imposed herself into your life could be infuriating, she was certainly a great matriarch. Even if she got on your bloody nerves she only did what she did out of love.
She never lost the love of her own father [‘This is his football thing’ I said patting the football medal.] and still felt his presence. He was a kind, sweet man who wished harm on no-one, hated injustice and war and all the awful and stupid things people do to each other and felt life should be lived to the full and with love. She was most definitely her father’s daughter.
In the year 2000, mum had a health scare and I thought she was going to die, So I went to live in Spain with her for a year. Best year of my life. Best thing I ever did. She was a wonderful person to travel with, always up early and ready to seize the day. Mum believed in Carpe Diem, seize the day, seize the year, seize life because life is once, and that’s it, there is no God or afterlife but it’s a wonderful once, if you’re brave, lucky and make it so.
I thought I’d end this oration, with a quote from my Spanish journal: ‘Had a long conversation with Mum again, about many things but mostly about who we are, my feelings of negativity, her feelings of being attacked by everyone and the need to change old patterns, but with a deeper feeling, because we’re here. Being here has allowed or created an ability in us or no… it’s just we talk about things and have done a surprising thing, we’ve opened up little areas of knowledge about ourselves that we’ve never covered. It’s surprising because we do know each other so well already of course, yet this situation has allowed, subtly, a slight shift of the balance or in the tone or pitch. Slight and not very present or big, but something I think. Wish I could recreate the conversation or capture it, but it was born free, I guess and I have to let it go.
She’s always been there, like the earth beneath my feet, but the tectonic plates have shifted, and a new continent has appeared, my Zealandia, life without mum.
So I have to let you go now mum. We’re all here your family and your friends, and you will live on in our memories and in our hearts, and in the sunset
I’ll love you until the day I die.