The church was filling up fast. I sat in the front pew, my lovely Mum in my thoughts, as I held tight to my fiancé’s hands beside me. I felt very emotional and struggled to keep out the tears that were welling up inside me. My duty was to be right behind my mother today. But I had sprained my ankle yesterday and John had to help me to church.
She was well-thought of by the people in our small village. Mum had a lovely character. Her face was always radiant like a sunny, summer day. She would stop and talk to people, ask about any sick member of the family, offer encouragement and, very often, help out where necessary.
Now, as the gentle rustle in the pews grew and people shuffled and coughed as they waited patiently for the front door to open, an early memory of my mother flooded into my mind. I was a child of five, and she was accompanying me to my first day at school. I was crying, afraid to leave the safe haven of our house. She had hugged me tightly to her, kissed me softly and encouraged me to take this first important step in my life. “Trust your mother”, she said, “I will always be there for you.”
As the years went by and I grew into a young woman, facing the inevitable problems of the heart, she was always my tower of strength, my confidante, my trusted friend. What would I have done without her? I was the youngest of three sisters. Joan and Janet, following their marriages, had emigrated to Australia and settled there. Dad had died two years ago leaving Mum and all of us shattered and disconsolate.
Following my persistent encouragement, Mum had flown to see my sisters only six months ago. She had made friends there, as Mum can often do very easily wherever she goes. She was satisfied and glad that her elder daughters were happy Down Under. And she was, moreover, ecstatic to see her two Aussie grandchildren for the first time.
I noticed that the choir was now preparing its special hymns for this occasion. The soloist, a young lady in a long white dress, was busy conversing with the small-statured conductor and the old bald-headed organist was leafing impatiently through his scores.
Again, my mind went a-roaming. I remembered once when Mum had baked me a gingerbread man. “Eat it”, she had told me with a smile, “while it’s still warm.” I didn’t eat him. I didn’t have the heart to. He was such a lovely gingerbread man.
I would now miss her terribly. I’d miss her knowing nod, her proud smile when I did something right and I’d miss her stern look when I did something wrong or not to her liking. As I looked in front of me at the tall white flickering candles and the six silver Apostles on the High Altar, I felt myself muttering a silent prayer. I looked backward and, amid the solemn silence, saw anxious faces waiting for the door to open.
My mother, I recalled, was the voice of reason and when my head was in the clouds, she would bring me gently down to earth. But when I was feeling down and losing hope on something I wanted so badly but could not achieve, I remembered vividly her wise words to me – “Hope is what life is all about Mary. If you lose that, what’s left? When you are down, you need to cling to something. Hope is the last thing to save you.” How I shall miss her comforting soothing words.
Suddenly there was a noise at the back of the church and the huge door opened. We all stood up. I straightened my back, the organist began to play and the choir intoned their first notes.
Next moment there were signs of rupture as my Mum, framed in the huge doorway – her silk dress shimmering and the flowers in her hands glowing – walked slowly towards the altar where Jim – the handsome middle-aged man she met in Australia – was waiting in full morning suit to take her hand and start a new life together in the land of Waltzing Matilda.