This week coming my mum should have turned 71. We should be going out somewhere in Pottsville as a family for a quiet dinner then returning home for a couple of glasses of red wine and some reminiscing about life in general. Instead, we'll be reminiscing about mum.
|Mum started school at 4 because her parents could see she was bright. She then went|
to boarding school in Uki aged 7, and one year (Year 7, middle row 3rd from left)
at Mt St Patrick in Murwillumbah before gaining a bursary to St Mary's in Lismore
There's brave, and then there's my mum. She faced death by staring it in the eyes and politely saying what she thought of it, and that she would damn well go when she was ready. Then she threw a gigantic party for her 70th birthday.
|at Mum's 70th birthday party 2013|
I was never ready for her to go. I'm not sure she was ever ready either. To honour her on her special day I'd like to share with you some simple images from her life that are personally important to me, and the words I spoke at her funeral.
|A mystery - this undated and previously unseen image was|
discovered in mum's effects
'When she shall die,
Take her and cut her out in little stars,
And she will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.'
— William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)
My mum was beautiful, educated, intelligent, vivacious, witty, kind, gentle, spunky, vibrant, courageous and so full of life. There are not enough great words in the dictionary to describe her.
I know that my mother spent a lot of time counting her blessings, which she considered she had many of. Mum spent her entire life working in a career she loved as a teacher. In that career she was a positive inspiration to many thousands of young people who remembered her – to the point that you could not take mum anywhere without someone stopping her in the street with a 'hey Mrs Ferrett!' and a tale of how their life has gone. Even a nurse in the chemotherapy ward at John Flynn and in the ER proved to be ex-students.
|Woodenbong Central School Staff 1964 (2nd from right front)|
Mum was blessed to have a beautiful home in Pottsville and to be able to live there almost her whole adult life surrounded by nature and her family. Mum was also blessed to have two children she loved unconditionally who tried not to give her too much trouble and loved her back just as much.
|Sending Simon back to his second home in the US once again, March 2010|
|Mum's favourite spot on the back patio doing schoolwork|
With my dad she gave us a textbook, perfect childhood, surrounding us with love and stability, and I wouldn't change a thing about it. If I know what love is, it is because of my parents.
Mum was blessed to be able to travel the world and see some truly incredible places, from Alaskan glaciers to ruins in Greece and the Grand Canyon in the USA. In fact the only place mum had not been with Stan that she wanted to go was Britain, and they had that trip already booked when mum found out she was ill.
Mum loved the whole process of travelling; the planning and researching, booking trips, getting there, being there and then the photos and photo books to show to all and sundry that were made when they came home. Then the planning for the next trip would start.
|Mum was amazed to find out that snow was actually wet. Road trip|
with Simon, San Diego to Portland, 2001
If mum could give any of you here one piece of advice it would be come out of your own comfort zone and see the world. Learn that people are different and embrace that difference to change yourself. This will teach you more than any classroom can.
Mum was blessed with many quality people she called friends, and she spent a lifetime nurturing these friendships. We set a record while she was in hospital with 16 visitors in one day; and we've had a constant stream of friends to the house bringing everything from comfort and laughter to soup and brownies. You find out who your friends are when you are sick, and I can tell you mum had many.
Mum was blessed to have had the love of two wonderful men in her life, both so different and yet each so perfect for her, and both who loved her so completely. Mum was married to our dad a month short of 35 years before he was taken suddenly in 2000.
|1965 - Mum and Dad with, from left, groomsmen: Dad's mate Keith and brother Jack;|
bridesmaids: Mum's friend Beverly (Queen of Sealand), niece Deb and friend Jan
We were hoping for another long innings with Stan - I'm so sorry Stan that your time with mum had to be short. I know though that you've packed in a lifetime of memories together in 12 years and truly lived – not just existed. I thank you for giving our mum back the 'spark' that she lost when we lost dad, and I thank you for being so much more than a stepfather to us. You will always be my 'other father'.
|2005, at home|
When mum told me she was terminally ill, I said,' you can't die mum because I can't live without you!'. And she answered 'darling, if that's the case then I haven't done a very good job raising you'.
|A previously unseen photo of mum and I that was discovered in a treasure trove|
of unseen family photos in her effects that may have belonged to her mother
|Terrible shot of both of us but almost my all time favourite.|
Taken at my father's extended family's property at Warwick
Its true to say that my mum made me feel like I went into every fight in my life with backup. She was always in my corner waiting for me to come in for a drink between rounds, stitching my gloves or wiping my wounds, or cheering my victories. Sometimes I felt like I couldn't step into the ring unless I knew she was there; ready to call a time-out for me or make me get up before the ref got to the count of 10. Now here she was telling me I'd have to face every fight alone.
I learnt (or tried to learn) so much from mum however I'd be hard pressed to list even a fraction of it. For me there are some things that stand out:
– Know the meaning of unconditional, lifelong friendship and be the friend you want your friend to be to you. Know those people who will be beside you for life and foster those friendships.
– There is nothing more important than keeping good with family; be it blood family or a spouse. Never go to bed on an argument.
– Be the best YOU can be at whatever you do; give it your all.
|Mum with her brother Bill and sister Eileen early 90's|
|My late cousin Dallas 2002|
|Mum and her sister Eileen|
– Close enough is not good enough even if it is finding the right place for a comma or pegging washing on the line. If something is worth doing it is worth doing right.
– It's ok to fail. But only if you keep trying.
– There is no situation that will not benefit from writing a list.
– Never stop learning and seeking out new experiences, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something.
– Almost everyone has some small spark of goodness in them if you look hard enough, and actually want to find it.
– Do the right thing, the just thing, even if it costs you, and it's hard.
– Be true to yourself and who you are, because happiness is more important than money, or success, or education, or fame, or anything else you can find on this earth.
– And you must be the hero you want to find in someone else, because ultimately the only person who can change your situation is you. You eventually have to step into the ring and throw the punch yourself.
I guess the most important thing we learnt from mum (and dad) was simply how to live. Mum taught Simon and I this not by any formal means but simply by living the best life she knew how and giving us the best possible example to model our own lives on; and by packing in as much joie de vivre, literally the joy of living, the exultation of the spirit, as she could into her 70 plus years.
'Everyone must leave something behind when he dies. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.
It doesn't matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.'
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451