Anniversary: Remembering my Parents


Day 225 of 366: Blog Challenge 2012

Hello all

As I sat down to write my blog today I became aware that it was on this day – the 12th August 1989 – that my brother Eddie arrived at our house to tell us our father had passed away suddenly. Twenty-three years ago now.

My mother was staying with us at the time, recovering from an operation two weeks earlier in which cancer of the pancreas had been diagnosed. She had been given three/six  months to live.

Mum and Dad in June 1989 celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and looking feeble

My father had turned 80 in March of that year and had recovered after a battle with cancer of the throat (some years earlier) but he was still fragile. He had relied heavily on my mother for support so we had put him into respite while Mum recovered from her exploratory surgery.

We tried to get Dad to understand that Mum had advanced cancer and there was nothing more the doctors could do for her but he refused to believe it.  The stubborn old Cockney – that was my father – down right refused to believe it! He was in denial. He was not dying nor did we expect him to die at the time.

All we can piece together is that he told the nurse he did not feel well and asked her to come and sit with him for a while. She told us she was not aware that he needed anything more than a little TLC. After she had sat with him a short while, he closed his eyes and passed away. Quietly and with no fanfare, Dad was gone without a chance for us to say goodbye.

I had just just spent a lovely week with my mother while she recuperated. We had sat in the sun together. I made copious pots of leaf tea served with nice cake on special china. I played her favourite music for her. We laughed about old times. It was a precious time.

My mother, who struggled to show her emotions normally, let down her guard and told me how lucky she was to have a wonderful daughter like me. She hugged me and thanked me for my care. I could hardly believe that this was my reserved mother telling me all the things I had once longed to hear but never had.

And then my father died and it all ended. Mum was inconsolable and insisted on returning home immediately with my elder sister who was visiting from the country. Margaret would stay with her until Dad’s funeral the following Tuesday.

All of us were in shock at losing our father so unexpectedly. We had hardly come to terms with Mum’s illness and now Dad had upstaged her and gone before her.

If we thought things were bad that Saturday with the news of my father’s death, things were about to get a whole lot worse.

Mum, still weak from her operation was now pushing herself far more than she should. Family visited, friends came to console her and there was a lot of activity around her. When she stayed with me, I made sure she rested on her bed after lunch each day, but there was no rest now.

On the Monday night, Dad’s body was open for a private viewing at the Funeral Home and the family gathered for our last goodbyes. We tried to say the Rosary together but it was difficult and a lot of tears were falling as we prayed.

Afterwards, Mum went up to the open coffin and cried out to Dad: “Ted, I want to be with you! Take me with you!” We were so distressed by this that all of us children pounced on Mum telling her not to say this … but Mum would not be silenced and continued to call out.

As I said goodbye to Mum that night I said to her: “Mum, you look exhausted. You cannot keep up this pace. You need to have the strength for Dad’s funeral tomorrow. Mum, make sure you rest tomorrow morning.” She promised and I kissed her goodbye.

The next day was Tuesday 15th August 1989. A date that will be imprinted on my mind forever. That morning, the priest who had kept being detained, finally came to visit and talk to Mum about the funeral. He had asked Mum: “How did you and Ted meet?” when Mum said suddenly that she felt strange and with that, her head dropped and she was still …  she had passed away sitting in her chair. A heart attack from the strain, they said.

The events of the next hours passed by in a blur although I do remember my neighbour coming over and hugging me while I cried “I’m not ready to lose my mother” for Geoff had gone off to locate 14-year-old Daniel at the skate board arena nearby.

We cancelled Dad’s funeral and held a double funeral two days later. The Church was packed to overflowing. There in the front of the altar were two coffins side by side. We believe that Dad had heard Mum’s plea that awful night when she cried out to him and now here they were together. It was a beautiful funeral.

Friends, I would prefer that no one lose their parents in such a way as this. I felt I had been left orphaned and yet I was 43 years of age. I found out that day that we are never ready to lose our parents, no matter what our age. But life does go on.

However, this much is true, that the more the years pass by, the more I become aware that their passing together was a great love story, one which none of us could ever have planned.

Dad was not left alone without his wife of 50 years. And we did not have to watch as Mum went through a painful death from pancreatic cancer either. Their story had a fairytale ending in a  way we never dreamed possible.

I felt our prayers for their healing had been heard but not in the way we all expected and not in the way the world expected either.

Often too, I look back at the last words I spoke to my mother: “Mum, make sure you rest.” Those words had come true in a way I never thought possible. Finally, Mum was at rest … and Dad with her.


Thank you for all you gave us

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About Tess

Welcome ... In my blog 'Life with Tess' I share all of the ups and downs concerning marriage, children/ grandchildren, work and life generally, with humour and some measure of wisdom ... hopefully. As 2014 begins, I wonder what the year will bring. I have set some goals because I am now retired after a career with the Australian Federal Government, and I think you have to keep giving yourself new challenges every year to keep you active and learning new things. I am married to Geoffrey who shares many of my interests and keeps me on my toes with his colourful personality. We have two wonderful children - grown up, married and gone. Maria and Steve: two gorgeous granddaughters Alice (11) and Violet (7); also my son Daniel and Belinda, parents to 4 year old Isaac and Madeleine (1). What a good life it is! I completed my Diploma of Publishing and Editing in 2013. Also, I completed my first job as a editor and what's more, I got well paid for it ... I can hardly believe my dream is coming true. This year I hope to earn a little more money from writing and editing! Come along with me on the journey dear friend, as I write about my life in ... Life with Tess. I'd love the company ...

8 responses »

  1. That was a beautifully written piece about your parents. It moved me and made me feel that time with loved ones is truly precious. Thank you for sharing your loss but also a love story. Xo

  2. I almost dreaded reading this, as I knew the outcome & the tears it would bring. I lost my parents, both in their sleep, years apart, nevertheless, a shock to us all. Plus, my brother passed away unexpectedly 2 years after Daddy passed. So, now, just half of my family remains – my big brother, my sister, and me. It’s been 17 years since my Dad left this world, & when I think about it, it still brings tears to my eyes. Some losses are so deep, even time doesn’t ease the loss. A beautiful written part of you life – your parents would be proud of you!!!

    • Wow Jeanne, you have had some ‘unexpected’ losses with no chance to say goodbye really. I ended up writing a letter to my parents when I never got to say goodbye (not posted obviously) and it helped me enormously. I don’t think one ever totally gets over losing parents and siblings though. I have found having my brothers and sisters has helped somewhat; have not lost any of them as yet thank God.

      That is so lovely of you to say my parents would be proud of me! It brings tears to MY eyes now!! We all have things to face in life, haven’t we? Love Tess xx

  3. Thanks Theresa for a beautiful reminder of 2 people whom i think about every day. As my grandparents, i smile when i remember the jovial antics that my grandfather was known for and the stitches of laughter that my grandmother would be in at the dinner table. These were 2 incredible people that i was fortunate enough to have as family for 20 years. This sad but wonderful story still brings tears to my eyes today. May they rest in peace. Your godson, Matt George.

    • Great to hear from you Matt! I’m glad you enjoyed the story – we all remember it well don’t we? I think it is wonderful that you have such memories Matt, my kids were younger but still remember them well. Grandfather was a ‘one off’ that’s for sure. We sure do miss them! Love Theresa x x

  4. Hi All
    I am not a Facebook person only logging in occasionally, usually out of morbid curiosity (OLD FART syndrome)!

    For some reason I logged into Theresa’s blog this morning and read her inspiring article on our parents. I would like to add to her recollections because I think it would help to perhaps provide a little embellishment for our family in general.

    Perhaps also our other brothers and sisters may want to supplement Theresa’s story because it would help us to remember two wonderful people even though their passing was many many years ago.

    Theresa spoke about Ted being in respite while Mum was recovering from her operation. The respite facility was at the PA hospital. On 5th August 1989, I arranged to pick up Ted and bring him back to my home for the day to spend some time with myself, my wife Jeanette and our two kids who idolized “Grandfather Ted”.

    Unfortunately, it was a harrowing experience – Ted couldn’t speak, he was depressingly inconsolable, he didn’t want me to talk to him, he wanted nothing to do with the kids, he sat all day doing nothing: he didn’t want to eat. – the antithesis of the things that he would normally do with some energy.

    After I took Dad back to the PA, I commented to Jeanette that this had been the saddest day in my experience as I felt Dad had already left us and we would never know him as he used to be again. He passed away quietly the next weekend. I attended the PA to see him for a last time – it was a surreal experience to see him lying there so peacefully.

    Mum returned back to her home at Mansfield as Theresa has said. Jeanette and I and our kids spent the afternoon/night before Ted’s funeral at Mansfield helping her prepare for the wake the following day. Despite her outpourings over Ted as Theresa described, that night she was bright with lots of reminiscing. We left her as good as we may have hoped and said “see you tomorrow”. That never came.

    Theresa has said all that needs to be said about the funeral,

    The only thing that I would add was that Jeanette and I were extremely proud of the fact our then 16 year old son Michael asked if he could sing a requiem piece for his grandparents. The comments we received afterwards indicated those attending had been moved by the confidence in his performance, particularly the feeling in his delivery. It was a sad day but I look upon that day as the day Michael came of age despite the 18ths and 21sts that came later.

    John Strachan
    Hi Theresa – I do know how to use a computer!

    • Hi John alias Old Fart.

      Good to hear from you on my blog! Thanks for your recollections too about Dad especially. I had forgotten some of the details but it was good to be reminded of them.

      And yes, I do remember Michael singing too. When I was writing the blog I try to give an overview as I do not want to make the piece much longer than one A4 page so I have to leave out a lot of detail.

      Thanks again for lending your voice to the story of Mum and Dad. Matt George sent me a reply also and that was nice too.

      Don’t think Jeanette or Margaret read my blog! That’s fine as not everyone wants to be bothered. You know me, I’ve always loved writing so this is my opportunity to do what I love. I have taken up the challenge to write every day of 2012.

      Love Theresa x x

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