Margaret Weir Beattie
Today was the day that mum was cremated.
My brother is doing a charity bike ride from Lands End to John o' Groats in order to raise money for Cotswold Care Hospice who provided great support in her final days. Please support him: through JustGiving
During my childhood, she worked as a bookkeeper. She would work for several small companies, where she would go in once a week to each of them to keep their books. One place of note was Deepcut Garage where she worked for may years as they grew into a successful business.
We were always a musical family. As my memory serves, she earned a scholarship to study the violin at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in Glasgow. Dad played the piano. I went through stages on the trumpet and guitar and my brother Paul played the cornet. At the funeral service, Paul's daughter, Izzy played the piano.
We couldn't have wished for better parents. Hard working, intelligent, conciencous. They gave us the best start in life we could ask for and I believe that both of us have done them proud.
Both mum and dad were only children, which means that we don't have any uncles or aunts, so having lost dad quite a number of years ago, that leaves me as the eldest. A sobering thought when you consider that chronologically, I'm due next.
Kathleen's first introduction to Mum was unplanned. Mum had been off, wandering the world in her camper van and had been staying in a little site just off the Leadhills road near Abingdon on the A74. She decided to go to Stirling, so she was off. At 4am. She mis-judged a corner on the windy road, put a wheel on the grass and hit a hole. It knocked her steering out and bent the chassis and marked the end of her driving. I was flying kite in Sunderland at one of the very first events with Kathleen, so I excused myself and went to rescue mum.
Mum took a liking to Kathleen very quickly and wanted to make it known. One day in Cirencester, she stopped outside the Jewelers, then asked Kathleen inside. She accosted the assistant: "Young man, we would like to look at the rings in the window". He asked: "Which ones, ma'am?" To which mum responded "The one in the middle with the £6,000 price tag, please". We talked mum down a bit but she had made her point. In addition to rings from me, Kathleen wears a ring from mum that says that she is a welcome part of the family.
In her later years, Paul took the lion's share of taking care of mum by dint of the fact that they lived locally but sometimes Kathleen and I would take her away on an adventure, to Scotland or Wales or just out and about in the Cotswolds. in August 2010, Paul arranged for the entire family (including all three grandchildren) to spend a last holiday together in Cornwall. We stayed in a large farmhouse that had a swimming pool. At first we joked about chucking her in but before the week was over she was in the pool of her own will.
Mum's last days reflected her determination and dignity. She spent a 5-week stint in hospital where she was diagnosed with cancer. She took charge of how it was all going to end. She wanted to go home, where she would be better cared for. Eileen, her carer is a gem. She has cared for with mum on a daily basis for four years and has the characteristics of a pussycat - in one moment, she will be a soft, gentle and relaxing influence on everyone around, but in the next, when someone needs to fight mum's corner, the claws will be out and woe betide anyone who crosses her path. A wonderful friend and ally.
When mum came out of hospital, she lost her swallow reflex and Paul called me telling me that the time was close. From my arrival, she didn't eat or drink anything. She didn't speak it but it seemed clear that if she was going to die, she didn't want to drag it out. She refused all food and water. Not only to drink but even a swab on her mouth. She was in control.
Over the days, there were quite a number of nurses that came in and out of the flat at all hours of the day and night, in their assorted blue uniforms, but one day someone turned up in a green uniform. Mum was frail and only speaking a handful of whispered words per day, but the poor guy in green was in for a shock. Mum pointed at him and shouted "No!" The green uniform is what the ambulance crews wear. An ambulance would imply going back to hospital and mum wanted to see out her last days at home.
She eventually passed from us, in her home on the 24th December.
The cremation was quiet and straightforward but the real sendoff was back at her church in Cirencester where she had gone regularly until frailty stopped her recently. A lovely service and tea and snacks with her friends.
In her last days, she dreamed of a meadow. We plan to take her to Scotland to find a suitable place to scatter her ashes.