This morning I’ve been going through my PC, clearing out, clearing up. I found a pile of documents and information sheets from when my mother was so ill and I binned the lot. Why keep all that pain eh? But one document made me pause and I opened it and read the words I had spoken at her funeral. And, I dunno, I had a sudden feeling that I should post it here. So, well…here you go. This is what I said, standing in the aisle of the church in Bampton, Devon, my hands shaking like fury…
“Mum was a thinker, a deep thinker, a seeker and a true mystic. As a very young child she loved nothing better than to stay up, quiet as a mouse, and listen to the conversation at the supper table – of religion, of psychology, of philosophy and mythology. When I, in turn, grew up a similar love of knowledge and a deep yearning for the divine imbued our home. Yet Mum was no saint, no nun, she was a practical mystic and, above all, a grateful one. Mum believed in gratitude above all else – and she practised it assiduously throughout her life.
Like most people, Mum loved nice things (heaven only knows she liked nice clothes) yet she never needed them. She saw the beauty and the bliss in the small things, the quiet asides of life – and she gave thanks for them.
When she died I found a journal. This journal. Not a diary – just a collection of thoughts, of favourite poems and sayings. The words that follow all come from there.
Above all, there are her gratitude notes. Every day she would think of things for which she was grateful. Sometimes she would write them down, like this, written when she lived in Chedzoy.
"Today I am grateful for:
Beautiful warmth and fresh air on my walk to the meadow and beyond.
Minnows (hundreds of them) in the ditch, darting about as my shadow falls on the water.
For my shadow – that shows I exist. For the wonder of my shadow.
For being part of the universe and for loving it.
For the comet seen last night so clearly with its wondrous tail."
Sometimes they were far more prosaic.
"Today I am grateful for
A good night’s sleep
A happy mood
The energy to do my yoga
Finding a parking space easily
Fresh carrot juice made from organic carrots!"
As many of you know, she loved Bampton – and I have to include this short note written when she heard that the offer on her house here had been accepted.
"I have a house
I have 9 Brook Street
I am happy, so happy
I am grateful
I am so lucky.
Even the birds are singing for me
My whole body sings for me
But my hand cries so I must stop."
She never gave herself an easy time. She was a fervent perfectionist and demanded hugely high standards of herself, frequently berating herself for not getting it right – not so much on practical matters, but on spiritual affairs. However, she learnt – and taught – this hugely valuable lesson. Again I quote from her journal….
"I have learnt a great many lessons over the years, as everyone does, but when you reach old age, you realise that you have to accept that there isn’t time to atone for all the wrongs, but there is time – or should I say, it IS time – to drop all the old luggage and find peace without perfection. Maybe a better word is serenity and always gratitude for all I have had – which is the ability to love this world and all it offers. Even Bad makes us appreciate Good."
Looking round this church I can imagine Mum scribbling down another gratitude list. She would love that she has been the cause for so many dear dear friends being together. For her family – far-flung as we are – to all be in the same place at the same time. She would look at every much loved face and add you to her list.
She would probably also take this opportunity to make a few points. She might well want to say the words of Nathaniel Branden from her journal:
"To honour the self is…..
To be in love with our own life, in love with our possibilities for growth and for experiencing joy; in love with the process of discovery and with exploring our distinctively human potentialities."
She would want us to be grateful for all that is good in our lives; to focus on the good and to learn from the bad. She would want to be remembered, not with sorrow but with joy and pleasure, laughter and love.
Then I think she would end with the Irish Blessing that was also tucked into her book.
"May the roads rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand."
God bless, Mum. I am so grateful I knew you.”