We held a memorial service for mum on Sunday. Quiet and informal, just seven of us and the pastor, Marsha, at the church. Marsha lit the advent candles and got me to talk a little bit about mum with the lighting of each one. They were happy memories. Holidays abroad, Christmas. I had good parents. Marsha read some scripture and I left with a feeling of peace.
My sister, Elizabeth, told me today that mum had been receiving some kind of benefit for care. She already knew about the benefit. What she didn’t know before was they only give it to people with six months to live. Apparently mum knew how long she had, more or less. That makes me feel sad. Although immensely proud too. Mum knew. And she didn’t want to burden us. What can I say? She was a fantastic person and a wonderful mother.
Elizabeth also told me that the cards for mum haven’t stopped coming. Dozens of them, every day, addressed to us, in sympathy. Elizabeth is going to put aside a wooden statuette of Don Quixote which we brought back from Spain one year. My parents took us to Spain when everyone else was going to holiday camps. Dad learned to speak fluent Spanish.
Don Quixote reminds me of so much. He reminds me of those happy times, on the beach, drinking Coca Cola, sun, sea, sand. The statue, roughly hand carved, reminds me of the artistic talents and craft skills my parents passed on to me and fostered. The story, Cervante’s classic, reminds me of the love of literature my mum gave me, nurtured by frequent trips to the library.
Then there’s Man of La Mancha, still one of my favourite films, so heartrendingly tragic, which reminds me of the greatest gift my parents gave me: to dream the impossible dream. My everyday striving to achieving something, something more. Finally, there he is, Quixote, fully armoured with the pie tin on his head and that bite mark in it. And I remember the joy of simplicity and laughter.
Peace and joy, fond memories and inspiration to carry me forward on this winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. And yet, it isn’t really dark at all, because sitting over there is my Laura, my light, who mum was so pleased I’d met, so pleased to meet herself and so happy for us both. Mum said, “She’s like the girl next door when you get lucky with the neighbours.” No matter how dark the sky, the women in my life make me smile.