When asked what she wanted for her eightieth birthday, my mum’s reply was “to have all my family around me”. Family is everything to my mum and the importance of loving each other and pulling together as a family, even when it is hard, is something that has been drummed into all of us. My mum is the matriarch of a very large family – six children and three step-children, 29 grandchildren and (I think!) 27 great-grandchildren so far. Like all big families, we have our share of ups and downs and disagreements, but there is so much love that binds us all together, and that love comes from my mum. She is the heart and soul of our family; her door is always open to each and everyone of us (as is clear from how frequently we all drop in on her when she is at home!). She is the glue that binds us all together.
My mum is one of the kindest people I know. If anyone is in need, she is always the first to try and help where she can. She frequently helps out elderly neighbours, checking in on them and picking up shopping for them if they’re struggling to get out. She runs a bingo night and is wonderfully active for her age. It makes me chuckle when she refers to “looking after the elderly people” around her, as if she is much younger, but then in her spirit and her outlook and her zest for life, she really is. She might be eighty years old according to the calendar, but she has most amazingly youthful energy and sparkle. She’s amazing.
My mum has patience in abundance – something I wish I’d inherited! She is always there to listen; to give advice when needed; to empathise, soothe and comfort in the difficult times and to cheer on and celebrate in the happy times. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without her in those first few weeks after Jessica died. She came up to stay with us, helped look after Sophie when we were barely functioning through the thick fog of grief and her quiet strength helped give us strength too. She had a wonderfully instinctive ability to be there when we needed her and to quietly withdraw into the background when we needed space without ever having to be asked to do so. It’s a rare gift to know when to be there and when to draw back; to comfort and care without intruding, but she has it in spades.
My mum is at her happiest when surrounded by her family. She loves big family events; seeing everyone together and seeing the love that we all have for each other. She was in her element at her 80th birthday party with nearly everyone she loved most around her; getting up on the dance floor to dance away with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and being the centre of big family photos. It was lovely too that Dad and Jessica had to be part of it all too, with Dad’s photo there on one of the tables and a photo of Jessica and Nanny on the wall.
And today, on my mum’s 80th birthday itself, I want to say thank you Mum. Thank you for being the wonderful, inspiring woman you are, for the love that you radiate in abundance. Thank you for inspiring me always to be the best version of myself, for the constant love and support that you give me. For always being there when I needed you. For being the most amazing Nanny to my children and for always letting me know that Jessica is still very much a part of us all; that she is not, and will never be, forgotten. Thank you for teaching me the importance of love, kindness, forgiveness and being able to say sorry. You are my biggest inspiration; you have helped make me the person I am and if I can be half as good a mummy to my children as you are to me and my siblings, then I will have done well. You are the best mum that I could ever wish to have and I love you millions and billions, <stretches arms out wide> this much and all the way back around again. Thank you Mum for everything you are. I hope your birthday is every bit as wonderful as you are.