My stepmother, Helen, was a warm, compassionate and vibrant woman who always went out of her way to help others – no matter what. She was a proud and dignified woman who had a passion for life. She had a wonderful sense of humour which endeared her to everyone she came in contact with and it is a great testament to her nature that she formed so many long lasting friendships over the years. So many of you here today.
Mum was born in 1939 at a time when Robert Menzies was Prime Minister, songs like Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland were being played over the wireless, and WWII had just been declared.
She grew up in a small house in Sans Souci with her mother, Mary – having lost her father in the war when she was only an infant. It was a difficult time, but they were both strong individuals and managed wonderfully.
Mum was brought up with traditional values and learnt the skills that a woman of her era should – cooking, sewing, knitting and embroidery, as well as a love of history. She became a secondary school teacher and was a favourite at the school she taught – particularly a favourite with my father as this was where they first met.
Our stepmother taught us many things as young kids that hold us in good stead today– good manners, respect and sound moral values. These values have made me who I am and I thank her so very, very much.
Our family grew up with little money, but we were always well fed and well dressed. My mother spent hours in her sewing room making beautiful outfits for us to wear, or knitting jumpers in preparation for winter.
I will always remember our Christmases together – going to the church, all the chaos in the kitchen as Mum prepared for Christmas dinner, and the wonderful feeling of us all being together. Mum also carried on Grandma’s tradition of putting ‘threepence’ in the pudding. It was with much delight that we would scoop into the pudding and eat feverishly, until one of us bit the hidden coin and proudly announced that we were the winner. It was only years later that Mum found out we didn’t really like the pudding and only ate it to find the threepence – which, of course, was worthless by then.
As an adult she became my best friend, advisor and confidante. Her greatest quality was to encourage me to make the best of everything and to face problems head on. She was a proud woman who believed that there was no obstacle that couldn’t be overcome.
Mum had many friends of all ages. Even in retirement, she would have an endless stream of friends dropping in – kids in the neighbourhood would come over to ask Mum questions about their pet, school or to eat one of her home-baked cookies.
Mum has always been my support, strength and comfort when times have been tough. I don’t know how I will cope without her – it leaves a massive hole in my life. But I will draw strength from the things she taught me and live by the words from Desdemona that my mother always quoted, as if her own: “Accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can”.
It is an honour to stand before you and share my precious memories of my mother. She will be missed by all, but her memory will live on in us all forever.
I love you so much, Mum, and will miss you more than words can say.