MUMS are rather like newborn babies. No son or daughter ever had a better mum than yours, just as every baby ever born to every mother is absolutely the most beautiful, miraculous gift that God ever bestowed.
My own mother probably thought something like that when giving life to me in Moorlands Maternity Home, back in the winter of 1958, with a back-to-back terrace and outside lavvy in Sackville Street, Ravensthorpe, waiting to be called home.
I haven’t a clue whether I was a gorgeous infant or, more typically, a red and wrinkled ball of screams, but boy, did I test that woman’s saintly nature over the years that followed. A nightmare child and teen, guilty as charged.
I’ve tried to make up with a lorry-load of apologies and an abundance of love in my adult years, but I’ll state without fear of contradiction that there is nothing quite so forgiving, understanding and selfless, as a mother’s love.
She was consistent, was Kathleen Lockwood, right up to her dying breath in Ward 8 at Dewsbury District Hospital, at 5pm on Monday.
We’d known the inevitability of it since spring last year, but still, death seems to sneak up on you at the end. I don’t think you can ever be completely ready, even in those final hours and minutes when, as a loved one, you’re by the bedside praying for peace to come. As close as my sister Julie and I were to mum – and I can’t imagine there being a stronger bond – she hadn’t confided her preferred ‘arrangements’ with us.
She had indeed thought of everything and conveyed it to a close family member, but it was too much to go there with me and our kid. Protecting and preserving, right to the end.
I suppose that at 77, mum had enjoyed a decent innings. Years spent bent double, sorting rags in mills from Stanley Beaumont’s in Dewsbury to Burrows in Batley, left her crippled with arthritis in her spine, but she was an uncomplaining soul. Too much for her own good at times.
The fact is, she was born of what is a rapidly disappearing generation. I hope my kids read this, because young people of today can’t possibly understand a woman’s lot in those hard times.
Not just the physical austerity of living through the war years – her own mother died when she was just six – but even into my mum’s middle years, women were effectively second-class citizens.
Today we have an uncharitably stereotypical idea of a ‘single mum’. However women in the 1950s, 60s and even 70s were often still a single mum, even when they had a husband under the same roof.
And if heaven forbid they went it alone, they didn’t even have the basic rights we routinely confer on illegal immigrants and terrorists today.
When our family split up in 1976, mum couldn’t even get credit in her own name. We were back in a terraced house with an outside toilet and no hot running water – yes, even that recently. What was hard anyway, the system made almost intolerable.
Yet today, slobs who have four kids by five dads, with their mobile phones and Sky TV, who have never worked a day in their bone-idle lives, have the gall to complain about ‘austerity’ and benefit cuts? Don’t get me started.
WHAT my mum had back then – and all her life – was what I suspect has sustained womankind down through the ages, despite their men’s worst excesses: Sisterhood.
Mum was effectively brought up by and amongst her maternal aunts and cousins, women whose mutual strength I remember mostly being exhibited through humour – occasionally outrageous humour and incredible imagination.
Those women didn’t need computer games and iPads when caring for each other’s children, families and, as the years turned, grandchildren.
A clothes horse, blanket and length of string became our Center Parcs as kids, a paper doily and old biscuit tin of broken pencils and crayons our arts workshop.
Writing that, I remember what mum said the first time I brought a ‘proper’ girlfriend home – that she would be there for any such poor soul, first and foremost.
The words ‘you can look after yourself you big lump, because this poor lass doesn’t know what she’s let herself in for,’ weren’t quite voiced. They didn’t have to be.
But of course she was always there for us, through thick and thin. I know she was proud of the people we became and even moreso of the grandchildren and nieces she helped raise. She didn’t have to say it. And she never stopped worrying about us all either, right to the end.
Most recently mum’s group of friends could suitably be described as the ‘golden girls’ (although one or two would qualify for ‘merry widows’!).
Whether enjoying their regular Tuesday and Friday morning coffees, their nights out, or their occasional ‘exotic’ holidays in Southport, they have been there for each other.
And boy, have they raised some roofs with their laughter.
It’s difficult to laugh through the tears at the moment, but I have no doubt there will be plenty of both when we celebrate her magnificent life next week.
Thanks for everything, mum. And I mean absolutely everything.
HOWEVER malign and misused social media might occasionally be, the ubiquitous Facebook has been a boon for our family this week.
Messages of love and support have poured in literally from around the world. You forget how many lives one person can touch – all over the UK, across Europe, America, Australia.
From New Zealand came one such sentiment from a rugby pal who, with two other Kiwis, turned up at mum’s little flat in Westtown one Sunday. Mum did her best with the weekly roast only to see these three wolf down all the meat, leaving mum, me and Julie to a plate of Yorkshires, veg and gravy.
Naturally I replied to his condolences by explaining that she’d never recovered from that mortal shame...
IF EVER I do end up completely Billy No-Mates, I’m just going to hang out at Dewsbury Hospital. It’s like a school reunion when you start going regularly.
The past 18 months have been a somewhat up-and-down NHS experience, but mum’s last days, and our sharing of them, were greatly helped by ward 8 sisters Nicola Lawford and Lorraine Marsden, and another friendly face from my long-ago schooldays, Alison Tomkins (Shelton as was).
Thank you ladies.
I’M NOT sure my dear mum would quite have voted for a donkey with a Labour rosette on it, as some political pundits would have it. Mind you, she might secretly have preferred one to Ed Miliband in the last election.
As ill as she’d been, she somehow managed to resist my offers to ‘help’ with her postal vote. Being a former NUPE shop steward, our frequent political ‘discussions’ were occasionally heated as you can imagine.
As such, to salute mum’s political spirit, I’m going to pay my £3 to join the Labour Party and vote for rabid left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in the forthcoming leadership election. That way, if he comes out on top mum, we’ll both be winners.
You’ll have a fellow socialist leading the workers’ party, and the UK will be safe from a Labour government for the next 10 years!
I WONDER what union members make of steelworkers general secretary Mick Leahy retiring and walking away with a £515,000 package?
This is the same Leahy who regularly spouted fury at fatcat pay for bosses – from the back of his chauffeur-driven car. Presumably the brothers and sisters are happy with it, seeing as they keep funding these champagne socialists who fail miserably at saving any job but their own.
I NEVER voted for any party but Labour (except in 2001 – Independent Labour) until 2005, when Sayeeda Warsi now unthinkably got my ‘X’.
But Lord knows who we have to vote for, in order to stop the flow of public cash into the MPs’ trough. How can any morally righteous system rule on a 1% pay rise for public sector workers, yet 10% for MPs?
And what kind of ‘better’ system fixes the broken expenses regime by allowing someone like Tory backbencher Bill Cash to rent out his London flat for £1,800 a month, then pay him as much again to rent a flat down the road? I reckon me and mum would be marching shoulder to shoulder to bring down that corrupt autocracy.
THERE was nothing wrong per se with David Cameron’s tub-thumping speech on tackling Islamic extremism – except perhaps that it could have been Tony Blair’s hand stuck up his backside, working his mouth. Unfortunately, it completely missed the point.
Let the allies wipe Isil off the map. Sooner the better. But Britain’s bigger problem is not breaking down military strongholds in Iraq and Syria – it’s breaking down medieval strongholds in English towns and cities. Cameron has neither the courage to start, nor a clue where to.