August 23rd is my Mum’s birthday.
I always take some time on this day to reflect on the ways she inspired me through her life and stories. Here is a transcript of the Eulogy I gave at her funeral. Says it all for me:
Early Life before the War.
Our Mother was born in 1930, a difficult enough time to enter the world, but her father had died just months earlier from lasting effects of his service in the First World War. She was the youngest of four sisters and my Grandmother had to support the family by taking in laundry.
She went to St Mark’s school in Tipton and was there, at the age of 9 years, when War broke out. By the end of the War she had already been working for 1 year as a welder, at a factory making parts for Spitfires. During air raids she would hide under the stairs with her Granny, who could not get through the entrance to the Anderson Shelter they had built in the Garden.
An uncertain start to Married Life
She had known my Father since childhood but they married on the last day of the 1940’s, in a registry office in Wednesbury, catching the bus there and with only my Aunty Mary and Uncle Jack in attendance. Many people did not expect the Marriage to last but I was proud to Celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary with them in 1999.
Their Married life was marked by 5 Traumatic times but also 5 Golden Ages.
The first golden age was immediately after the birth of Alan in November of 1950. As a young family, they had many challenges, not least coping with finding a home in the middle of the post-war housing shortage, but Mom always remembered those early days with fondness.
A Life-changing accident
The first trauma was a Motorcycle accident at the end of 1952. A collision with a Removal van left mom in hospital for many months with two broken legs requiring pins and calipers. The bones never set correctly and she suffered pain and mobility problems for the rest of her life. One good thing about the accident was that whilst in hospital she got to watch the Queen’s Coronation on a Television which had been bought into the ward.
On leaving hospital they finally managed to rent a house. 5 House 5 Court Bridge Road Tipton, a typical victorian back-to-back property. There was no electricity, no gas, a Hearth built into the bank behind the house for heating and cooking, and a Water tap, wash house and toilet which had to be shared with 5 other neighbours. Wash days would see mom struggliing with her crutches and 2 buckets of water from tap to wash house. Apparently nobody had the idea to use a hose pipe!
Despite this it was a happy house and the birth of Denise in 1957 made their time at bridge road and onwards to their next house, 162 Highfield Road, the second Golden Age.
My own first experience of business at age 3!
My own birth in 1965 came as somewhat a surprise, but in 1967, a large football pools win heralded not another golden age but trauma number 2.
My father had built up a reputation as a creative and intelligent works engineer. Mom said that he could make anything but money, but the football pools win gave Dad the idea that he should give it all up and open a corner shop in Wolverhampton. The shop was a mistake, coming at a time when the first supermarkets were beginning to appear. They couldn’t make it work and within six months my father suffered a nervous breakdown and spent time in hospital.
Mum not only had to keep the shop and the family together but also managed to visit my Dad every day during his illness.
Post Business relief to Seventies Depression
My dad never fully recovered from his treatment and remained quite unstable for some time. However in 1968, they managed to buy a house and, in 1970 along came Joanne. The early Seventies at 8 Andrew Road were my Golden age, number 3, and also saw the birth of mom’s first Grandson, Jason and Granddaughter, Michelle.
Trauma number 3 happened in 1976 when mum was diagnosed with Melignant Melanoma, Skin Cancer. She spend the whole of the long hot summer in Wordsley hospital, undergoing skin grafts and also suffering with Kidney problems.
A Move and a Family Tragedy
Trauma number 4, probably the largest of all of the traumas to affect Mom’s life, was the loss of Alan in 1979. You are not supposed to outlive your children and mum never really got over his Death.
The Late Seventies and Eighties saw the family establish themselves in Telford. 3 more Grandchildren Hannah, Paul and Sam meant that this was Golden Age number 4 and in the 90’s the final 3 grandchildren, Rozalyn, Jack and Aiden bought mom more even more joy and happiness.
My Dad’s illness returned in 1998 and his erratic behaviour, combined with Mom’s failing health was trauma number 5. At the end of Dad’s life mom’s devotion meant that she visited him every day. He passed away in 2001 after 51 years of marriage.
Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren
I mentioned 5 Traumas and 5 Golden ages, but, actually, there is a sixth golden age.
The last ten years have seen the birth of Mom’s 2 great grandchildren, Ronan and Riley. Nothing could have given her more joy and peace to know that her beautiful family loved her as much as I know we all do and I for one am especially proud to be a part of it.
Mum was a huge influence on my life, the quiet dignity with which she lived her life will always inspire me. I’ll never be able to comprehend the pain and suffering she experienced in her life but I’d like to hope that I was maybe responsible for a little bit of it that made her happy.
Her ability to bring the stories to life, of my Dad and the rest of the wider family made the above Eulogy easy for me. I’d love to tell more of her stories about our family in future Blogs.