End of another era…

As some of you may know, my mum, Janice, sadly died on November 13th. This is one of the last pictures of us together (along with my dad!), from Christmas Day 2007, which they spent with Julie and me here in Dublin.


Mum had been battling cancer since 2003, and although we knew it wasn’t curable, her regular chemotherapy cycles (at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow, who were fantastic) seemed to be keeping things more or less in check. So to lose her just a couple of hours after being admitted to hospital suffering from what seemed to be non-critical abdominal pain came as quite a shock to us all. At the same time, we’re all relieved that she slipped away quickly and relatively painlessly—one of her only fears in life was that her health might decline to the point where she could do little more but lie around in agony, a fate that osteoporosis had inflicted upon her own mother some years earlier. (Her other fear was somewhat less morbid—a lifelong phobia of birds!)

Although she had been comparatively poorly for the past few weeks, Mum’s consultant expected her next cycle of chemo to clear up the main cause of her discomfort, and she remained pretty active right up to the end. Just after I last visited her and Dad back home in Scotland last month, they were off to Gran Canaria for a holiday (ironically, her 96-year-old aunt died equally-suddenly while they were away, and the first thing they had to do when they came home was arrange her funeral). And when I last spoke to Mum the weekend before she died, she had me looking up some hotel in Edinburgh on the internet for a wedding she thought she might be invited to next year!

Positive though she was, though, Mum was nothing if not ultra-organised, and she was well-prepared for the inevitable. She left us copies of directions to the cemetery to send to people who might want to come, and sheet music for the hymns she wanted sung at her funeral in case we didn’t have the right books… but best of all—and this was Mum in a nutshell—she left Dad a notebook listing all the household chores that he ought to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual, bi-annual and occasional basis after she was gone, right down to specifying the correct washing machine cycles for the bedclothes, and the appropriate shades of paint to use on the outside of the house!

On Thursday, we laid Mum to rest in Dunblane cemetery, near her parents and several other generations of her family, and on Saturday we had a thanksgiving service at Hillhouse Parish Church in Hamilton, where she’d been a member for the past 40 years. The turnout at both was pretty humbling.

Of course we’ll all miss Mum very much, none more so than my dad, to whom she would have been married for 47 years last Tuesday. But I certainly don’t feel sad when I think about her, so don’t feel sad for me either. Just keep your fingers crossed that she hasn’t hidden one of those household chore books away for me somewhere as well :)

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9 Responses to “End of another era…”

  1. Jono Bacon says:

    Hi Calum,

    Sorry to hear about your loss. Even though we are just a bunch of Internet friends out here, rest assured, you have friends who have you in our thoughts.

    Jono

  2. My sincere condolences to you and your family Callum.

  3. Guanglin Du says:

    Calum, your mum must have been a kind and elegant lady. Take good care of yourself. You remid me of my own mum, who is in good health. And I DO miss her now.

  4. Hi Calum,

    I was sorry to hear about your mum from Julie you have been in our thoughts since we heard. Thankyou for sharing this story, it really is wonderful how organised she was and how comforted by her efforts
    you’ve felt since she passed away.

    I hope we can get together with you and Julie for a drink sometime before the end of the year. (We’re around after Dec 15th).

    Take care,

    Jaime.

  5. Michael says:

    she left Dad a notebook listing all the household chores that he ought to do on a daily, weekly, monthly, annual, bi-annual and occasional basis after she was gone, right down to specifying the correct washing machine cycles for the bedclothes, and the appropriate shades of paint to use on the outside of the house!

    Your mum sounds fantastic. I hope your dad sticks to that chore chart, or he might start having dreams where she comes to him and tells him to get busy and do it properly this time!

    I’m so sorry for your loss. She really does sound like a terrific lady.

  6. sinanjj says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. She is a good person.

  7. Angie says:

    It’s hard to lose a mother, at any time of life. Your Mom sounds like the kind of woman I really looked up to – THAT’S organization – and so thoughtful. Wish I could have met her… I’ll be thinking of you.

  8. Segedunum says:

    Thankfully, I don’t have a history of cancer in my family (apart from lung cancer, which is smoking related) but I have known people who have been lost through the disease and I never cease to be amazed how quickly someone can be lost. Someone with cancer can be as right as rain, be diagnosed, go downhill, look OK for a while and then just go very quickly. It’s a major shock to your system.

    You had a real, proper mother there. That’s the level of detail they go into!

  9. Wade Olson says:

    This is such a touching blog entry. It should remind us all of what’s most important during this holiday season – friends and family. Thank you for sharing – you family is in my thoughts, and it looks like the same with many others in the OSS community.