I remember a moment in time in May 1997 when I was here (Norwood Crematorium, Canberra) at the funeral service for my Nanna – Poppy’s mother – and listening to the Eulogy given by Uncle Joe – Poppy’s brother. It’s the only speech I can remember well because it was very honest, and because of that, it rang true and, as a consequence of this, made the service more meaningful for me, and respectful.
The great thing about my decision to follow the same approach with Poppy is that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about or offended – which makes this something easy to do—but I have to approach it this way because I want to be respectful. The love for her is a given, as we all are here because we loved Poppy, or are close to people who loved and cared for Poppy.
With the exception of the past 4 or 5 years living in Melbourne, and times in my younger years when I went to universities in different cities, I’ve lived close to Poppy and have seen in that period big changes—milestones—in her life.
As young sons, Dominic and I grew up for a number of years in a happy family unit, especially when the times were good, and we travelled interstate several times to find the good jobs for Dad, and to satisfy his wanderlust. Poppy was a good, loving mother and took care of us well, and Dad was a funny, happy, loving father.
It was only at the cusp of being a teenager did I realise that things weren’t right between my father and mother, and with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, there were some things that were self-destructive. To start with I knew they weren’t really suited to each other. In my late teens, like many young people, I tried living away from home (returning in most instances only after a few months or half a year), and Poppy was always there to support me, and to demonstrate her huge reserves of love. I think as she grew away from Dad, she needed her sons, and it was just the luck of the draw that I was, in most cases, the one nearby.
Eventually Poppy and Dad split up and it wasn’t a smooth process—and the damage was done. Whether people said it at the time or not, most of us who were close to her knew that she had a breakdown, had mental health problems, and under the circumstances it was entirely understandable. And so was the long recovery process.
I can only be eternally grateful that Steve came into Poppy’s life at about that time, and stuck with her—became her husband in so many ways, but also her carer, especially in her later years. This significantly healed a fragile Poppy, and it was great to see her happy again for most of the last quarter of a century—nearly half of my life.
What Steve has done in the past several months, if not years, is self-sacrifice of the highest order, and has proven beyond doubt to all, his sincerity and deep affection for Poppy.
Poppy had a long life but it should have been longer. It had great ups, and also serious downs, but for the majority of her time on this planet she was surrounded by family and friends who loved her for who she was, which was a genuine, caring person. I think that is something we would all strive for.
I am so relieved that if she had to pass at the time she did, she was surrounded by caring family members and was able to say goodbye, while still compos mentis, to the vast majority of those who were close to her.
I am so glad that I was able to visit a few weeks ago while she was still alive, and see her recover at the time from a bad health crash, and later to speak to her on the phone a few days before she died, telling her I loved her. And she to me. These little things are symbolic, but very, very personal to me, and I will take them with me to the grave.
Goodbye, I love you Mum.