My visitors today

Wednesday 16 July 2008

The Second Funeral

The Wedding 31.05.2008

The funeral 24.06.1008

My lovely Mum.

Another return to the green and pleasant land. This time not with the excitement of a wedding to look forward to, this time in anticipation of probably a longer stay in England than I had planned.

My mother’s health was deteriorating very fast. We were all still hoping that it was the side-effects of the radiotherapy and the steroid treatment that she had been given were making her so weak and that she would soon be on the road to recovery. My lovely Mum had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in June 2006, she had lived symptom- and pain-fee for almost two years, working away for hours on end in her garden as usual and taking her wares to the car-boot sales every week.

Last spring the doctors decided they must take some action to make the one and only tumour on her neck smaller, to prevent her having problems with swallowing and breathing. Mum didn’t really want this treatment, she guessed what might happen and we had discussed it over the phone. She and I believed that the therapy would be too much for her as she had never taken any medicine in her whole life, apart from an Aspirin now and then. We also knew of the possibilities of a rapid movement of the illness to all parts of her body if this one tumour were dispersed.

It became apparent just about the time that I arrived in the UK, on May 27th, that our fears could be founded. After I had returned home after the first funeral, a scan scheduled for Tuesday 10th June actually confirmed these fears and Mum’s doctors could not believe their eyes when they saw how quickly Mum’s condition had deteriorated.

The whole family were together and we quickly had to come to terms with the fact that Mum would not be returning home with us and it would be days and not weeks or months before she died. We coped with the problem in different ways. My sister cared for us all by taking over the cooking of our meals, her husband gave us hugs and drove the car, I made phone calls to friends and relations and sat beside my Mum for as many hours as I could, my Dad kept us all calm, and the grown-up grandchildren made grandma shriek with laughter as always.

While at the hospital I mentioned to one of the nursing staff how perfectly they do their jobs. We were in the specialist unit for cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. It has a wonderful caring environment where they care not only for the patient but for the whole family. Tea, hugs and good advice were always on the menu. Like in Conductive Education they were always considering the whole. Not only the whole personality of the patient but the whole life of the patient, including the family unit. Every sentence uttered included words such as love, dignity, care, respect, comfort, and every movement echoed peace, calm and harmony. We felt like they had wrapped us in a cocoon, preparing us for the unavoidable letting-go of our loved one.

Mum loved the doctors and nurses there. She had been telling me about them on the phone for a long time, describing their kindness and caring manner, which I witnessed first-hand just five days before she died. Her young doctor took Mum’s hand in both of his and told her what was happening in her body full with cancer. He did it perfectly, she remained calm and asked her questions, to which she received long explanatory answers, just as I did later. This was her first experience of a hospital since she was a child and much had changed, especially here in this amazing clinic.

As I sat beside my mum we shared many hours of closeness the likes of which we had missed over the past five years. We talked, we laughed, we struggled to consume food and drink. We talked about the change of roles, how now it I was trying to persuade her to eat and drink the smallest amounts. I think my mum’s struggle with me in the past, encouraging me to do the same, had been a much harder one. It appears that I have learnt a lot over the years about helping people to eat their food, most of which I learnt from a colleague in the mid-eighties, a speech therapist who sat with me for hours as I organised the eating programmes with my very severely disabled class. She advised me as she observed me with each of the children and here was my Mum now, benefiting from these wonderful lunchtimes at school when my room would be crowded with volunteers who loved to be a part of the calm, happy and caring atmosphere.

Mum had at sometime managed to tell her caring nurses about my work, they told me how proud she was of me, something she could never have told me herself.

I stayed with mum all night on 14th June so I was with her when she died very early on the 15th. I got cared for by the male nurse, Tommy, with as much love and understanding as he had given my Mum. He answered all my questions, he told me what was happening to Mum’s body as functions began closing down, he brought cups of tea when he saw I was awake and he tip-toed about when he saw me sleeping at last. He explained why her hands had swollen so much that I had to remove her wedding ring. He told me why at a certain time it was no longer possible for me to warm my cold hands on hers.

He left me alone when Mum died, waiting until I called him.

Throughout the days leading up to Mum’s death, and the following ones spent organising the funeral and then preparing to return to Germany, I reflected on how I was dealing with certain situations through the eyes of a conductor, how I was facilitating, observing and reacting. I was all the time aware that I was dealing with this personal experience as well as I was only because I had had to deal with similar situations with the clients in my groups.

Mum, brave Mum, had sent me away to attend my lovely friend’s funeral in Germany. Just days before, I had written and read a tribute for him. Now my family and I made the decision that having done that for Boss I would now read the tribute that we wrote for my number one fan, my Mum. The funeral was held on the shared birthday of my sister and myself. What better day could we have chosen?

My sister and I sat writing together and we came up with the eulogy below for the Mum who was the inspiration and guide for my wonderful life, she encouraged me, exerted no pressure and was never disappointed in me.

Eulogy for Ann Mallett 24th June 2008

Mum was born on July 3rd 1925 and lived at 21 Southwell Rd., Norwich with her parents Earll and Kathleen Perry.

In 1931 Mum moved with her family to the Pineapple Hotel, Trowse and at 6 years of age she began her schooling at the Notre Dame. She had many friends and spent the long hot summers cycling, sailing and messing about on the river.

In 1941, when Mum was 16, she left school and went to work at Kidners Farm in Poringland. Mum couldn’t wait until she was old enough to join up and at exactly 17 ¾ this is what she did. She chose the WAAF and after receiving advice from the barrage-balloon boys stationed on the fields beside the Pineapple, she enlisted as a flight mechanic, working on Spitfires which she learnt to love. We would all have to rush outside, even in the middle of Sunday dinner, if she heard a Spitfire flying over our house. Mum talked a lot about her days in the WAAF and we are all very proud of her.

In 1947, after being demobbed and returning to work at the Pineapple, Mum met Ken. They married at Trowse church in 1952. Perhaps some of you remember how they hurried out of the church to avoid the confetti.

Mum and Ken set up home in Hellesdon and both Jenny and I had arrived before we all moved, in 1958.

Jen and I were both born on the 24th June, in 1956 and 1957. We both agree that today, the day of our births, is the most appropriate day to be celebrating our Mum’s life.

Mum stayed at home caring for her family, taking us to the seaside or for picnics at the drop of a hat! When we were older she found herself a part-time job, first at Boots the Chemist and later at a Post Office. She just loved having contact with people.

Mum was always so busy, not only looking after us, but also her parents and her elderly aunt. She still found time for others including running the Brownies for a while.

In 1969 came the big move. This is when we moved next door and Mum started her gardening career in earnest - with half an acre to get lost in - she loved it.

Despite keeping an immaculate garden, with a bit of help from husband Ken of course, she still had time to plan wonderful camping holidays for us. These always included our three-legged dog Tim, who would sit in anticipation on his special seat in our dormobile. Tim watched Mum’s every move as she filled every nook and cranny with our gear.

In the early 1980s, hoping to dispose of some of the household items accumulated from Grandma’s and Auntie Winnie’s homes, Mum started selling at car-boot sales. She was in her element. Many of you will know Mum as the Jigsaw Lady, the Moss Lady, the Bean Lady, the Western Lady or the Flower Lady. She enjoyed her car-boots and all her friends there.

In 1983 Adam and Helen were born. Grandma loved them and was often present at feeding times to lend a hand, often taking her neighbour, Auntie Annie, with her, giving Jenny a chance to rest.

Today we are wearing Mum’s flowers on our clothes. We have pegged them on because Mum had a million and one uses for pegs and if you stood still too long she would peg you too.

Since Mum died on June 15th we have all been talking to each other and to some of the friends she has made throughout her lifetime.

In this tribute to Ann, Annio, Mum, Grandma, we would like to share with you some of the lovely things that have been said. Helen and Stuart thank Grandma for making them smile, I expect Grandma would thank them for doing the same. This is especially true in the last few days of her life when they, with Adam and Lisa, created wild parties around the hospital bed. Adam and Lisa will remember Grandma in her “Harrods” hat at their wedding just threeweeks ago: Grandma and Grandad, looking like Lord and Lady Mallett, made their special day complete. Adam and Helen have wonderful memories of playing in the garden with Grandma, especially in their antique shop, captured on film behind the greenhouse, selling the many treasures they had unearthed.

Ken told me a lovely story as we sat together reminiscing about his glamorous wife. They were just married and had planned a day out at the Royal Norfolk Show. They were to meet in the city to catch a bus and Ken spotted Mum in her lovely organza hat and gorgeous dress as she walked down King Street past Watneys. All at once Ken heard all the wolf whistles which must have made him incredibly proud.

Jenny and Pete remember one of their early holidays. Mum and Ken delivered them to the Cattle Market to board their holiday coach. Mum being Mum she asked the driver if there were any spare seats. Much to her surprise he answered “Yes” then phoned to check if there was also a spare bed at the other end. Ken was commandeered to drive Mum back home where she fortunately had a packed suitcase, having just returned from a holiday with Ken. By the time Jen and Pete’s coach was loaded and under way Mum was waiting outside home where she hitched a ride and the three of them enjoyed a lovely holiday in Rhineland, leaving Ken waving on the pavement! Mum apparently got the best room in the hotel in Boppard, overlooking the Rhine, while Jen and Pete had a dingy back room. One day after an Asbach Brandy tasting trip and an evening at a winery they all collapsed into bed. Mum awoke the next morning with a migraine, which many of you know she did suffer from. Pete is to this day not convinced that on this particular occasion it really was a migraine and I bet she still managed to eat an ice cream, a chocolate one at that, later in the day. This story describes the spontaneity which was so characteristic of Mum and is something we have all enjoyed.

In September 1976 I left home for art school. Since that day whenever I visited, Mum and I had such lovely chats. I would perch on her stool in the kitchen while she washed up or I would bob down beside her in the garden as she weeded, and we would natter. We did this for 32 years, right up until the day she died. In hospital, while helping Mum with her food, she gave me advice on how to teach my pupils to eat and she was still encouraging me with my future plans.

Mum and I loved trying on hats and regret to this day not having bought one that we loved so much in Garlands. Friends from Barnet would probably tell a story of losing Mum in a department store because she had disguised herself in a long ginger wig. As you see she was always having fun.

Jenny and I read through the many cards our family have received this week. Many similar sentiments appear and I am sure everyone here will recognise the lady they knew – wife, Mum, Grandma, Auntie, cousin, sister-in-law and friend to all. We have been told that Mum had the ability to make friends feel part of the family and so welcome at all family get togethers. Mum will always be remembered as a happy, calm, smiling, and cheerful person, who was always on the go and ready for a chat. Mum was selling her wares at the car-boot for the very last time as recently as the 14th May, busy as usual and meeting all her friends. any have said it was such a privilege to have known Mum. Childhood friends of ours loved to visit our house and they remember happy times because Mum, and of course Ken, were always so kind. We all have such happy and funny memories of Ann, Mum, Auntie Ann, Mrs Mallett, a very special lady.

Another very special lady is Mum’s friend from WAAF days who she met very early on in her training. This is our Auntie Joan, my godmother and she is just as much fun as Mum. I bet they got up to no good together. I will read from the letter she sent us this week…

Dear Ken and family,
I shall miss Ann so much. She has been a good friend throughout the years.

I shall miss our long chats on the phone calling each other “Fatso” and remember all the things that happened in the WAAF.

And the laughs we had when she was my bridesmaid and had to borrow my hat!

I shall never forget her.

Love from Joan

We can imagine Mum and Auntie Joan cycling to the hangers to work on the Spitfires and bombers, singing at the top of their voices. Mum’s favourite song, a hit of the times, was “Don’t Fence Me In”.

Let us now sing-a-long with Bing Crosby just as loud and with as much gusto as Mum would have done with all of her friends in the 1940’s.


Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in

Just turn me loose
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies
On my Cayuse
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge
Where the west commences
And gaze at the moon
Till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hovels
And I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in

(Repeat these verses)

No Poppa, don't you fence me in

This song was followed by the poem below which was read by my Mum’s cousin.

God looked around his garden
And found an empty place
He then looked down upon the earth
And saw your tired face.

He put his arms around you
And lifted you to rest
Gods garden must be beautiful
He always takes the best.

He knew that you were suffering
He knew you were in pain
He knew that you would never
Get well on earth again.

He saw the road was getting rough
And the hills were hard to climb
So he closed your weary eyelids
And whispered 'Peace be Thine'.

It broke our hearts to lose you
But you didn't go alone
For part of us went with you
The day God called you home.

It was our wish to make the funeral a friendly, happy time just as Mum would have enjoyed. On the day before I had picked many flowers from our garden and taken them to the florist who made the most amazing display for the coffin from them. We took single flowers for family and friends to peg onto their clothes. Mum had chosen most of the music for her funeral many years ago, my sister had remembered it and my dad chose the music which played as we walked out of the chapel… "Peg O My Heart", a song he often sang to Mum, now sung by Bing Crosby.

Peg o' my heart, I love you
Don't let us part, I love you
I always knew it would be you
Since I heard your lilting laughter
It's your Irish heart I'm after

Peg o' my heart, your glances
Make my heart say 'How's chances?'
Come be my own
Come make your home in my heart

Peg o' my heart, I love you
Peg o' my heart, I love you
Dear little girl, sweet little girl
Sweeter than the rose of Erin
Are your winning smiles endearing

Peg o' my heart, your glances
With Irish heart entrances
Come be my own
Come make your home in my heart

Peg o' my heart

Come be my own
Come make your home in my heart

Peg o' my heart

I hope that by writing in my blog about the events in the past few weeks of my life I can learn and grow and maybe something will come out of it all, which will make me stronger, maybe wiser and will also show up in my work as a conductor. I do feel different, I feel very vulnerable sometimes. I feel that life is for grabbing and getting on with, whatever the hurdles set before us. I feel very grateful for all of those who have actually or virtually supported me and motivated, facilitated and with a hand on my shoulder guided me back to Germany, into my new flat and back to work.
The third birthday? That was Mum's, on July 3rd, the day before I returned to Germany, which was on American Independence Day. The second move is almost complete and I am sitting in my new flat as I write this.


The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Colney Centre:

"Don't fence me in"

"Peg o my Heart"
American Independence Day

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