Friday, June 08, 2007

love and go on

Vicky Florence
born August 1930

Born Vera Florence,
but her school friends decided Vicky was much better, and the nickname stuck.

Offered a place at the grammar school, but the technical college would
give better job prospects for a working class East end london girl.

After london and school in the blitz, she left home at 16 to work in the city.

She was briefly evacuated but the family couldn't bear to be apart and she came home again after 2 weeks)

Met my father at a dance.
Married, September 1951

We used to wear her wedding dress for dressing up when we were kids.

It was gorgeous. A halterneck dress and jacket with lots of little fabric buttons which i always loved.

My dad turned out all our dressing up clothes - when we moved i think. :o(

but i still have a little bit of the fabric.

And her wax orange blossom, which i wore for my own wedding.

3 children within 3 years. (I'm the little one)

When we were all very small, she went back to college to do A levels, then a teaching qualification.
This is a school photo. She taught infants and juniors for nearly 15 years and was a very much loved teacher. She also did some adult literacy work.

In the 1970's and 1980's mum and dad organised and led long distance walking holidays for young people in the lake district, yorkshire, west country....

making friends (some of whom are still good friends)

and offered hospitality at home to international students and their families ...

more friends

After "retirement" they had a guest house in Devon, where lots of guests came back - and again - and became good friends.

Mum had a gift for hospitality, welcome, caring and wonderfully good food.

In "proper" retirement in Sussex, she went to french and english literature classes, regularly did creche in their local church, got involved in hospital visiting.....

wrote lots and lots of letters, cards, began emailing.... would have loved blogging if she'd not discovered it too late.

This last picture was Christmas 2006, a wonderful family christmas which we had thought we'd have to face and get through without her.

She said on that boxing day morning that she woke up "brimful of joy".

Wasn't she beautiful?
and so much more beautiful on the inside.

May 2007 we said goodbye to mum at a small family funeral which was carefully planned by mum and dad months earlier. Having thought she had much less time with us than the year she actually had, mum had been very interested in sorting out all the details of her funeral and thanksgiving service.

She was brought home in the morning.

We decorated her casket with flowers from all our gardens.

That wasn't in the original plan - the undertakers suggested it - and it was wonderful. She would have loved it so.

Dad asked us to take some photos so that we could share them with others who loved mum - and though it felt a bit odd, I'm so glad to have these. It was a heart-wrenching and very beautiful ritual to share.

Roses, clematis, ivy, wisteria, dog daisies, cow parsley (from the hedgerows down the lane), london pride, philadelphus, lilacs, cornflowers, wallflowers.

The service was at home.

19 of us, intimate and comfortable around mum and dads lounge.

We listened to some favourite music they had chosen.

Listened to some readings, poems and prayers.

Then we buried mum in a little country cemetary - just a little field really, with a tumbled down shed in one corner, and with these bluebell woods just over the road.

This is one of the poems which was read, and its so very much my mum, she had such a gift for being positive and outgoing, for almost unfailing patience and kindness.

I sometimes get quite annoyed with myself, with the instinct I inherited from her, and the habit I learned from her, of being positive - seeing the good in situations, looking on the bright side, glass half full, blah blah blah. Don't you just sometimes want to be miserable?

But i do know that its one of the most precious legacies i have from her.

This poem (by David Harkins) so much expresses what she was like, and so absolutely what she'd want for us:

You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
or you can be full of love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her and only that she's gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she'd want; smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

This Saturday other family and friends from over the years, and around the country - and some from overseas - will be coming to give thanks for mum's life - for her, everything she was. And to say goodbye. She carefully planned it all with dad, chose the songs and hymns and readings; invited friends from her life to share memories of her.

At the moment I am absolutely dreading it.

I think it will be overwhelming, so many people. And painfully final. Another goodbye and letting go. And recognising that she belonged to other people, that so many people loved her makes it worse as well as better.

She was very concerned that the catering would be good.

We will have to keep an eye on the sandwiches - that they are arranged just the way she would have wanted. She cared about the little things.


Donna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna said...

Oh Letty, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I sit here with tears streaming (thinking I must go and get a hanky). What a beautiful woman your mother was (you are so like her). I have never seen such a beautiful casket and you can see that it was decorated with such love and tenderness. It was a fitting tribute to a lovely lady and tomorrow will be just fine. Stay strong sweetie, I'm thinking of you xxx

10:29 PM

call me betty said...

O, how beautiful, and how brave. (It's hereditary!)
Hugs and much love to you

Cream said...

What a gentle and beautiful tribute to an amazing mother, L.
Your heart must be full with warmth to have had such a wonderful being in your life.
Great, great memories. They make life worth living.
May I say that I have never seen a casket as beautifully decorated as that...

tut-tut said...

I started to cry, seeing all the pictures of your mother and remembering my own. What a beautiful tribute. Sometimes I wonder why it has to be so hard.

Even with your hand over your face, you look just like her.

Gary said...

This post actually made my eyes well up with tears that never quite fell because as I read I began to smile at the love and positive energy emanating from your words; "Brimful of Joy" and the beautiful poem. I think I should have very much liked your mum. I wish you the best tomorrow - a difficult and wonderful time for sure.

Shelly Lowenkopf said...

She left us with a remarkable gift.

ramblingwoman said...

That poem is wonderful Letty. IT's so like your mum. She was lovely, and her wondfulness lives on in you, you are SO like her you know.

I hope today goes well, I'll be thinking of you.

lots of love

Pod said...

"she cared about the little things"
like little you
and like you do (e.g the tadpoles)

oh letty. just from gazing at her face, without the words, you can tell what sort of person she was. i love all the photos, especially the look on her face in the wedding photo, and in the 70s cardy, and the final photo. what a bright soul. a great teacher. how lucky to have had her for so long.

this is such a wonderful tribute. i can't say enough, so i won't try. suffice to say she is so very proud of her littlest. we can sense her beauty, and we haven't even met her, so i can only imagine the immensity of it for you all.

with you today, holding your little hand whilst nobody is looking, and when you think you're all alone


Akelamalu said...

Lettie my heart and eyes are full of tears for the wonderful tribute you have paid to your dear Mum. I didn't have the pleasure of knowing your Mum but I believe she will be watching and smiling that her plans are all being put into place just as she wanted. Her casket is so beautiful I just called MWM to have a look because that is what we have planned for ourselves. I haven't read that poem before, it's so lovely and says just what I feel, I have printed it off to keep.
You are dreading today, but you know what, I bet it turns out to be a wonderful day, a celebration of your Mum's life by people who loved her. Thank you so much for sharing this, it can't have been easy.
I'll be thinking of you. xxxx

Reya Mellicker said...

Your mother was mighty, beautiful, stylish and bright of mind and heart. These pictures, all of them, are beautiful. What a perfect, human tribute by a wonderful person for a wonderful person. Lettuce, I salute you.

The casket, too, is absolutely gorgeous. I'm so glad you took pics and that you're generous enough to share them with us. What a way to go! It's truly fabulous.

What is a life well lived? For me it includes the smiling and the sorrow, fullness, emptiness, all the qualities named in the poem. Sometimes I'm able to make a choice about what emotion I'm experiencing. At times like that, choosing the positive side of things enhances everything. But sometimes I'm just sad. Can't help it.

Thank you so much for this beautiful post, for making me cry and filling me with beautiful images and provocative thoughts. I'm so glad to "know" you!

Dizzy said...

That was so beautiful, and very touching. You are so like you mum in so many ways and you have inherited all her beauty.

Her casket looked so beautiful, I am so glad for you all that you decorated it with your own flowers. What a beautiful funeral for a very special and gentle lady.

Bless you Letty.

Calamity Tat said...

Yes you are so like her Letty... I am thinking of you always xx

tlc illustration said...

What a lovely overview and tribute to your beautiful mother's life. I especially appreciated the loving touches - the flowers on the coffin, your mother's concern that the sandwiches be arranged 'just so'...

Thanks for sharing an inspiring life.

Ex-Shammickite said...

A fitting tribute to a beautiful lady who was well loved.

Thank you Letty for sharing this with us all.... after all, most of us bloggers are complete strangers to you, if we met in the street we wouldn't recognise each other, and yet you have chosen to share these special words and feelings with us.
Thank you.

Annelisa said...

I'm a bit speechless... that was beautiful. Really beautiful. What a wonderful tribute to your mum.

I hope it all went well yesterday, and the sandwiches were just as she would have wanted them (but, I bet if she was there, actually she'd be more thinking about the folks present :-) )


la bellina mammina said...

That was really a touching tribute to your mom - a beautiful lady from these photos...

Hope you & fammily are coping well. My thoughts are with you.

Trac said...

Yes, you are so like her.

That was so beautiful. All of it.
Oh...I need tissues.

grumpy old woman said...

Thank you for sharing this tribute to your beautiful mother.
I hope it went well yesterday?
Thinking of you and sending you much love ............

Antipodeesse said...

She would be proud you have written such a lovely and moving tribute!

natural attrill said...

You are making me cry again! but thats ok. What a beautiful casket and bluebell woods, and what a beautiful Mum, especially in the photograph of her wearing the little black hat.

Akelamalu said...

Lettie I have awarded you The Thinking Blogger Award, please check my blog. x

Mike M said...

A touching story for the ages.

Beautifully written!!


Steve said...


What a great post. Incredibly moving, and such terrific photos. I didn't realize the significance of the photos of the bluebells when I saw them on Flickr - they're already beautiful, but now so much more poignant too. Your mom seems to have been a remarkable woman.

You all did a splendid job in paying tribute to her life. Thanks for sharing! :)

Joyce said...

Much to say, but words are cheap.

Dumdad said...

A wonderful tribute.

(I love black and white pictures, they often seem to express more feeling than colour).

PG said...

What a wonderful casket. What a fitting tribute to her you have just written. Somewhat choked up now.

Annelisa said...

I don't know if you saw it, but at the end of my Dona Nobis Pacem peace post was a message to my childhood friend, who has recently gone into a hospice to control her cancer pain. I told her husband about your lovely funeral (as they are making plans for hers, so it's done how she wants it) and he said she would love it like that. I'm going to borrow your poem, if I may, to give to him and the two children... I think it might be a small help to them.

Thanks again for sharing this.

Queenie said...

Thank you for sharing your mums life with us. Its a wonderful tribute,to a beautiful lady. My warmest thoughts to you and your family. I do hope the sandwhiches are up to your mums high standards, I know you wouldn't let them be any other way.

lettuce said...

thankyou everyone for all your lovely words. It helped me to write about it and it helped to read your sweet responses. I did feel comforted by the knowledge that some of you were thinking of me, there was warmth and laughter too on Saturday but it was very hard. I find myself reluctant to put up a new post - I've got accustomed to seeing mum here when I sign in... but hey ho, love and go on.

Bird said...

oh. what a lovely woman your mum was - in so many different ways. - inside and out. so glad you had her.

this was a treat to read. thank you for posting.

thinking of you and yours.

Pod said...

just look at her little toes in that top pic

muddy red shoes said...

What a beauty your Mum was, what a beautiful, sad, honest, lovely tribute to her. I am weeping now and thinking what a lucky woman to have such a daughter as you and what a lucky woman to have such a mother as she obviously was. Thinking of you, xxx

Michelle said...

I feel like I've come across something very private. I was searching for the words of the peom Goodbye (to read at my Grandmothers service) and this site came up. I think everything you have done in honour of your mother is beautiful. You have shown great courage in providing this to the site and I'm sure your mother is watching and smiling.

Vintage to Victorian at Dairy House Antiques said...

I'm so sorry I missed this post at the time Letty. What a beautiful tribute to your lovely Mum. I'm sure the day went well for you all being surrounded by the love of so many people.
Sue x