Goodbye to our matriarch

We’ve all had a strange Christmas, at the end of a strange year – but losing a beloved 100-year-old mother on 25th December was perhaps the strangest and saddest event of this festive season.

My mother Torla, who had been living independently, carrying on a busy social life in spite of COVID and even walking to and from the shops until recently, announced on 16th December that she would be leaving us. She did so on Christmas night, peacefully, in her own bed. It was my privilege to be there, with her other three children close by.

Late 1920s
1943
2015, at her 95th birthday party. Photo by her granddaughter Helen.

Of many tributes to my mother, this one by Helen is my favourite, capturing the essence of a remarkable woman.

My incredible Granny passed away peacefully yesterday after warning us all it was her time little more than a week ago, in her characteristically matter-of-fact way. Although it felt a bit like 2020 (and its already fairly rubbish Christmas) was kicking us while we were down, it was also beautifully apt that the most special person I’ve ever met chose such a special day to depart. Anyone who ever encountered her, even briefly, will understand when I say she truly was a one-off. Sharp, witty, inquisitive, independent and no-nonsense to the end, she cared about others in a way I’ve rarely seen. Her brain, computer-like in its speed and efficiency, retained small, significant details about people she loved, people she liked, people she used to know, people she knew in passing, people she’d met just once or twice and people she’d never met but knew of, as they were important to others in her life. She’d piece these details together at the speed of light and delight in making connections, finding common ground, drawing comparisons and sparking conversations. I’ve never known anything like it, especially in someone of her years.

I, too, wrote a piece about Mum, not knowing that it would serve as an epitaph. Another bit of strangeness: it was published in New Zealand-based Love in the Time of Covid on Christmas night, just after she died. Read ‘Take This Century’ here.

That was one of three works of mine published in December 2020. The flash-fiction story ‘Roots’ was part of Arachne Press’ anthology Tymes Goe By Turnes and performed at their Solstice Shorts event on 21st December, while ‘Purple’ (imagining the disgraceful 60th birthday party I ‘d have liked to have) was published by Potato Soup Journal on 26th December.

All my published stories are available to read on a sister blogsite, Fiction Writing by Patience Mackarness. If you’d like to keep up to date with my writing, and have email alerts sent direct to your inbox, you’ll need to follow that blog separately. Click on the link, then click ‘follow’.

A very happy 2021 to all!