My grandmother was a wonderful lady. I tried penning a few words to read at her funeral, but for once in my life was literally speechless. Try as I might, my efforts amounted to little more than a few colourful turns of phrase I picked up from the old girl but probably shouldn’t have1, the opening stanzas of The Ballad of Eskimo Nell2, and a heartfelt lament that her outstanding gingerbread recipe goes to the grave with her3.
As much as I’m sure Granny would have laughed her ass off at the sight of one of her progeny4 delivering some of her best R-rated material from the pulpit at St Pius X Catholic Church, for once in my life good taste prevailed and I kept my trap shut5. My uncle Nick, on the other hand, was truly inspired…
My Mother is not dead.
She is here in this place today.
My Mother is alive and sits in the pews of this church,
in her children,
her grand children,
her great-grand children,
her extended family,
in her community and in her dear friends.
My Mother is not dead.
I see my Mothers life here today
in the love and the friendship
that she gave to everyone.
Generously and unequivocally.
My Mother is alive today and has been all this week
in the sympathy and messages of support
that have flowed to my family since Tuesday.
Messages of love
extended to us all
to help us to get through this sorrowful weekand the days ahead.
But we should not be sad, because our Mother is not dead.
My Mother is alive
in the anecdotes and the memories
told this week by people who knew mum
for a few hours, for a few days, or for a lifetime.
No. My Mother is not dead.
My Mother is alive in London with the Sullivans,
in Tokyo with Joe,
in Sydney with Matthew and Jack,
in Ireland with the O’Sullivans
and in Chicago with Dave.
They could not be here today, but they will mark this day like us with sadness and grief.
They should know that our Mother, their Grand-Mother, their Sister, their Aunty, their loving friend …. Is Not Dead.
Our Mother will continue life in all of our hearts in Titahi Bay, Wellington and the Coast. In Auckland and North Auckland and Wanganui.
All around this country and around the world.
My Mother will be busy
teaching and caring, nursing and mending
She will be building and fixing, learning and researching.
She will be crafting and creating, listening and speaking,
volunteering and fire fighting.
She will be playing, coaching or watching sport.
She will be managing and labouring.
She will be conceiving children of many different backgrounds for many generations to come.
So, my family and friends, let’s not talk of death.
Because my Mother Is Not Dead
In proud memory of Margaret Parker
1st Nov 1922 – 18th May 2010
by Nicholas Parker.
Thank you, Nick. I couldn’t agree with you more.
1 Examples include "hungry enough to eat the nutty bits out of monkey shit", branding all miscreant cats "snotty-nosed apes", and – in reference to wholesome yet visually unappealing food – "it's all shit in the morning".
2 I only ever heard her rattle off the first dozen lines or so, but am reliably informed she knew the entire poem by heart. It's easy to forget sometimes, that most of our grandparents spent the better part of a decade in the military.
3 Seriously, that was some damn fine gingerbread. In her prime, Granny would make a fresh one every morning, ‘in case somebody pops in’. The fact that there was rarely any left in the evening is testament to my grandmother's popularity, as well as her delicious baked goods.
4 11 children, 26 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, and counting!
5 The first time and the last, so help me… *um*… Crom?