This is the face of a remarkable, deeply hearted, thoroughly generous woman. This is the face of our mum, Peggy, the kindest and most welcoming person I have ever had the great privilege to know. Peggy was my mother-in-law, and I won one of life’s best prizes when I married into her family 21 years ago.
Yesterday, I officiated her funeral. After 5 years in this vocation as a Celebrant, after witnessing hundreds of grieving families who were left broken by a loved one’s death, I found myself uniquely in the most arduous position of writing about Peggy, and sharing a glimpse of her fabulous life story to our little corner of the world. Leading her funeral was beyond one of the greatest honours of my life.
Peggy’s life was a beautiful illustration, a sort of tapestry, made from hundreds of thousands of tiny little threads and pieces, woven together, each one representing a time when she touched someone’s life. And that’s something many of us don’t realise; we have no way of understanding just how many lives we touch as we walk through our ordinary, everyday lifetime.
In recent years, arthritis took much of the life out of Peggy’s hands, but to me, her hands were beautiful because they told the story of who she was. Her hands were the part of her body that she used the most - for sewing, needlework, gardening, knitting, cooking, writing, planting, baking … and especially for holding, hugging. Her hands and her heart were profoundly connected and she embroidered the essence of who she was into everything her hands touched, especially everyone she loved dearly.
The sting of mum’s death lingers in our minds, our memories and certainly in our hearts – and tucked away in our hearts is where she lives now. I feel a poignant good fortune for us because I know this means she’ll never really leave us. But even having reached the age of 86, we feel cheated by her departure, though she’s now impossible to forget because memories of her are already beginning to mend the spaces where we were broken by the news that she had moved beyond the adventure of this life.
As a grieving family, we had the bittersweet honour of having loved Peggy completely, and her departure from this life has now left us with some pieces that we need to put back together, in a different way. Even so, we all feel such immeasurable gratitude for having walked with her by our side through so many life experiences. That’s both the beauty and the risk of loving someone so thoroughly; it doesn’t come without the certainty of grief, but it most definitely comes with the gift of our memories already beginning to mend the spaces where we shattered at the news of her death. And faintly, on the horizon, we begin to feel the early days of healing.
It’s Peggy’s ‘heart’ that we’ll remember, and how her eyes, her smile and her hands were painted with the extraordinarily beautiful light that permanently emanated from her soul.
RIP Mum. Fly now in that place where your spirit is as wide as the world is tall.