Sue and Mum
Well the objects I have are very precious, two rings . . . my Mum’s original engagement ring and the eternity ring that she wore every single day. And the reason I’ve chosen these, and they’re so, so precious to me, is that when she was in bed she gave them to me. So I didn’t sort of inherit them, she gave them to me. There’s my sister and I, and she wanted us to have her rings. My sister’s got a wedding ring and I’ve got these, cos they fitted me and because I’ve got skinny fingers like my Mum had, so they fit me. So I don’t wear this one every day because it catches on things, but I wear that every single day. And in fact, for Christmas my daughter gave me a, what do you call, it’s a happy box. Except I can’t look at the happy box without crying at the moment, cos it’s all loads and loads of photos of my mum. And the very first photo I saw, I just noticed immediately that she had this ring on, so I thought that was lovely.
You can’t put a value on them, they’re so incredibly precious to me. And when I think of her, the very first thing that goes through my mind is how incredibly, incredibly loving she was. And fierce, that’s what I’d call her. And I don’t mean at all that she was a fierce lady, cos she was so soft, but really fierce love. That’s what I mean.
When people die you often think, "Oh I wish I’d said this to them" but I honestly think, cos my sister and I were with her constantly for the last two weeks . . . she had a very short illness really; it was cancer. It was really, really aggressive. Was only fourteen weeks from diagnosis to her death and she elected for no treatment at all because it just prolonged the inevitable. And why have this awful existence with chemotherapy and going to the hospitals and everything when the outcome is going to be the same? So we supported her in this definitely and anyway yeah, I don’t feel that there’s something I would want to say to her if I could, because I think I said it. I was so, I felt so incredibly fortunate, and my sister did as well, because we said everything. The last few days she didn’t speak, although it was only the last couple of days actually, but we were constantly talking to each other and I know she heard. And so that’s lovely that I feel that we said, you know, what we wanted to say. So that was really nice. I suppose there’s always going to be a niggly feeling of guilt coming in for something whenever anybody dies. I know there is always going to be.
I was talking to my son about it, because I was staying with my son at the time of the diagnosis when we knew that she might have only six months to live, in fact it was less than that, and I was obviously absolutely distraught, as everyone was. And I said to him how guilty I felt because I . . . you know when I was a teenager, I was ‘orrible to her. But then, as he said, "Well that’s what happens you know. You are a teenager, you’re horrible". I remember once sitting in the car, sitting in the back of the car . . . this is dreadful, and I told him about it, sitting in the back of the car I just had this feeling of real incredibly intense dislike, and I remember I just pulled her hair. And she said, "What did you do that for?" And I said, "Oh sorry you had something in your hair, my fingers got stuck." or something. Which always, oOOoo its awful. Oh God, horrible, horrible. But yeah, hey I was a teenager and I know without a shadow of a doubt I couldn’t have loved her anymore. So that’s just by-the-by isn’t it?
What’s influenced my, the grieving process is, well maybe it’s not influencing the grieving process, maybe it’s just influencing my outlook on life, which I always had before, but it’s just emphasised it now and that is, you live once and just go for it. Just take every opportunity and just go for it. Do it. Do it. Do it! I’m always telling my children, "Yeah go do it." They think I’m bonkers . . . nah, they don’t. They don’t. So that, you know, it’s just another thing that’s emphasised. As I said, I’ve always felt like that anyway but it’s, you know, when something happens like this, it just emphasises it.
Oh gosh, well, sooo many happy memories. You know when I think of her, and I think this is a happy memory, and this is a generic thing, I just always think of her as smiling . . . and laughing. I mean I could go on, there are lots of specific memories you know. We did this and we did this together but I think what’s wonderful yeah, you just think of her as being really soft and loving and smiling. So that makes me very happy. And it makes me very happy as well that cos I’ve got three kids, my sister’s got four kids and they’re all, we’re a really, really close family even though they’re three hundred miles away from me. And the Grandchildren are so supportive of my Dad who is obviously you know, on his own now. And they go round there and that’s lovely. And in fact, I was talking to him this morning cos my daughter and her partner had gone round and they’d spent a lovely evening just talking about Nana all the time. So that makes me really happy as well.
And she was selfless. She really was selfless. Completely. I mean, she used to irritate the pants off me because we were like chalk and cheese, to quote a cliché, cos I used to turn her hair white, well turn it whiter, it was white, with things that I get up to. Cos I love the outdoors and do lots of canoeing and dangling on the end of ropes in water and things and that’s how we brought up our kids as well, right from when they were little and she used to absolutely despair. In the end she said I don’t want to know anything, I don’t want to know what you do. Cos she’s a real, real home bird. She never liked going out very much. She was totally dependant on my Dad. And you know, if he didn’t do something, she’d sort of . . . for example he used to take his camera and not take pictures and she used to go on something chronic and I said to her, "Why don’t you take pictures?" you know. But I think it’s a generational thing. Because you know, you get married in the fifties and you’re sort of not like that are you? But I think, if I wanna do something, I’ll do it myself you know? But that’s just her. And fortunately, because what I’ve been involved in these past years, I stopped getting irritated and it made me laugh, cos I accept people are totally different. So you know, I’m glad that didn’t. Cos it used to be awful, it used to be a case of when we were going down to see my mum, this was years and years ago again, my husband always used to say to me, "Now you be nice!" Cos we were so different. But . . . doesn’t matter does it? My husband and I are so different in a lot of ways so. But it doesn’t matter if you’ve got that connection there.
But what I will say is that she should be here. Because as I said it’s only fourteen weeks from diagnosis to her death and she should be here. I mean she was eighty one but she looked seventy one, and you know she was really, really young. And yeah, she should be here. She was a Great-Grandmother - one of my sister’s children’s got a child. But none of my children have a child, so I’m not a Grandma yet. You know my daughter was saying she just thought Nana would always be there to see her babies. But that’s what life is.
And it carried over to her Grandchildren as well; she was always so interested, genuinely interested in what they were doing. It’s funny though because I think, not so much my sons, although my younger son maybe more, but my daughter (cos I’ve got a son and daughter, and she really takes after me and does completely wacky things) and my Mum used to absolutely . . . shock horror and ah, I can hear now. My Dad always said, "You’ve got to let them live their lives Joy." She was called Joy. Well it was her middle name; she hated her first name, so everyone knew her as Joy. Yeah so she was absolutely horrified at some of the things they got up to. She used to say, "Ooh she’s your daughter isn’t she? Oh dear." And she used to despair of the clothes I wear. Because they’re not the sort of things that she liked. My sister, who I absolutely adore - I told you we’re a really, really close family - is so different. She’s very conservative with a small ‘c’; very glamorous, wears designer clothes. Well, pseudo-designer very, very, very, very, very, very, very different to me, and that used to make my Mum smile. But she was really funny because sometimes I used to turn up there and must have dressed, oh it’s ridiculous, even now in my ripe old age, I used to sometimes wear things that I knew would shock her. And I used to turn up there and I could see that she was determined not to say anything so she’d open the door and sort of . . . and then I could see her and I thought, oh bless her, that’s really lovely of her cos I know what she was thinking but she was determined not to say anything. My Dad did.
At her funeral we’d got a beautiful, beautiful casket for her, which was lambs wool and had her name embroidered on the plaque. It was beautiful, and it was cream, and I’ve never seen anything like it before. When it came in, it’s so fitting you know? Cos she was so soft. That was lovely. I know it’s stupid I know it shouldn’t matter at all, and I never thought it would. I always thought, "Oh you could use anything" you know? When someone comes around and they do funeral arrangements and you have to choose what you want, I just thought, "Oh doesn’t matter at all". But I was really pleased actually.
But she should be here, you know? But saying that, I’m so glad that it wasn’t drawn out. It was horrible at the end, but when you look back it didn’t last long, thank goodness. And to be honest at the end you’re just thinking please let her go. Cos she said to me, "Sue I’m trying to die and I just can’t." What do you say to that? But do you know her last words to me? We were on our own I think, cos I was there all the time; my sisters got animals so she couldn’t stay there perhaps as long as I could cos I’m not committed to anything, so I just stayed down there all the time which was abs . . . I’m so, so, so grateful for that. And her last words to me was, "Oh Sue you’re a good girl." So that’s nice, isn’t it?