My mum, Margaret Rose Beasley, was one of this world’s little rays of sunshine. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. ‘If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it at all,’ she would reprimand when Julie and I were slagging off some poor hapless soul. We’d give each other a guilty sideways look and stop being bitchy straight away. Mum had that effect on you.
She wasn’t old by today’s standards – only in her early 70s – and she was my best friend.
She’d make excuses for people who were moaners, or were discontented with their lot in life and make allowances for their behaviour. ‘It doesn’t pay to be nasty, girls,’ she’d say to us. ‘There’s always someone worse off than you. Be thankful for what you’ve got.’
Just before we all went to Ibiza on a family holiday at the end of July 2006 I was in my office, looking across the Council Offices car park towards the Art Gallery and Library. I just caught a back view of my mum, marching across the car park, Burberry shopping bag in hand. She was going to the library to change her library books ready to take on holiday on the following Monday.
Her house was about 35 minutes walk away from the town centre. She used to walk to town, go to the library and then walk home again. Fit as the proverbial fiddle she was. I kept one eye on the window, waiting for her to walk back across the car park.
About half an hour later I spotted her coming back and stood up, waving with both arms. She looked up at my office window and waved, a huge smile splitting her face and I swear I could see her cheerful eyes twinkling as she lifted up her sunglasses to make sure it was me who was waving at her. I ran down the stairs and she was already sitting on a seat in the foyer of the Council Offices, waiting for me.
We had a conversation. I told her to catch the bus back home, because it was such a hot day. (She didn’t!) She joked with one of my colleagues, Jean, about our forthcoming holiday and said she was hoping to meet a millionaire.
A couple of days later, just before we were all due to leave for the airport, mum was watering her lovely garden. She stood up with two watering cans full of water and felt something ‘go’ in her back.
That was the start. Fifteen weeks later the monstrous ‘C’ word had deftly side-stepped chemotherapy and claimed another victim: my lovely, gentle mum who was incredibly funny but didn’t know it; who’d never said a bad thing about anyone in all of her life; who loved us all unconditionally and hadn’t an enemy in the world.
I miss her so much and always will, and the memory of her walking across the car park, waving to me on that glorious summer’s day in July 2006 might be ordinary, but it is the one I treasure most of all. It shines like a precious diamond in a garden crammed full of beautiful memories of her.
One afternoon just before she died I said simply, ‘I love you, Mum’. I was expecting her to tell me she loved me too but she didn’t.
‘I know,’ she whispered. Although the words were small and light they were heavy with meaning. At that moment I knew she was content and at peace with the world and people she was leaving behind.