|Posted by racheal_storm on June 26, 2015 at 4:00 AM|
Mary McGonigal – 94years old and a beautiful Mum.
So I thought I needed to write down what has happened over the last few days, so others can see what happened and see the beautiful send off my Mum received.
For the last 3 weeks and more, every morning I have rung Atawhai Retirement Home, to check in on my Mum. She hasn’t been well for some time and her passing was not a surprise. We were waiting for it. On Tuesday 23rd June, I rang and was told she was still same. A good night, no morphine given as no pain. On the morning of Wednesday 24th June I called but this time was different. A silence then ‘Hasn’t your brother contacted you? You need to speak with your brother.’ I pushed and she would say no more. I understood and had already guessed this was how it would happen. I am sure staff had been told not to tell me anything and to leave it to my brother as sole trustee of Mum.
So I called my brother, not expecting him to answer but he did. He asked me what did I care and I told him she was my mother too. He told me she had died at 11am, the day before and then set about giving me a lecture. I shut up knowing if I spoke he would hang up. He told me I wasn’t welcome but if I came I was to walk in, sit down, shut up and not say anything. At the end I was to leave and was not welcome at the after function. I was told my Mum had ‘dismissed’ me the last time I was down, he had a witness to that and he would get an injunction. He had that right. He then told me I was to never return to Hawkes Bay and if I did, he would do me over. He maybe fat but he is 6’ 3”. That nobody there wanted anything to do with me. I told him I would be there and speak if I choose to.
I found the use of the word ‘dismissed’ interesting. Is it a legal word I wondered but it didn’t worry me as I know my Mum loved me dearly. She likely had said it and here is the reason why. To please my brother. You see Mum got angry whenever I went down. Not at me but at the actions of my brother. If I walked in and said ‘hello’ to him, he would immediately get up, ignore me but kiss her good bye and leave. ‘Why can’t he for once be civil? I just want to see the two of you together. He is silly.’ Etc. His actions really hurt her and especially at the end. But he couldn’t do that one thing for her.
While he may blame me for not going to see her as much as he felt I should or I didn’t do as much as he felt I should, the reality is I would have gone more/done more, were it not for his actions. I knew and saw how it hurt Mum so it was better for me not to go. I knew what it meant to Mum when I turned up. The way she held my hand so tight or hugged me. My Mum loved me so much and I know this but I also know she may well have said ‘dismissed’ to make him feel good but it would never have been meant.
Mum mostly called me ‘Andrew’ and with her passing there is no ‘Andrew’ any more. But I know she accepted and loved me as Racheal, her daughter. She oft tried to call me Racheal and at times did. We had some amazing conversations that only a mother and a daughter would. She shocked me once discussing Dad and her ‘sexual relations’. I don’t see a Mum would ever have had those conversations with her son. I don’t think she ever fully understood but we discussed ‘Racheal’ a lot and I know she accepted me.
When I left NZ for Australia around April 2007, Mum had still never met Racheal. She knew I was though. I told her that I would come back for her birthday in September. Around July, I had to book tickets. I was living only as Racheal and ‘Andrew’ was gone. I rang her to tell her I was coming back but that I would be coming back as Racheal. Instantly she told me ‘You have to come back as Racheal for if you come back as Andrew, you come back as a lie.’ So Racheal met her Mum and she was beautiful. We cried for a few minutes but then she was just so amazing.
At other times I would be sitting there with her and someone would enter the room. ‘Oh, this is my daughter Andrew. Sorry, my son Racheal, oh bother’ and I’d tell her they knew. She was a lovely Mum. She accepted and loved me for who I am. At one time when I phoned her from Australia, I called weekly, she told me she had had a fall in her unit and been trapped behind the door until help came. She was spending a few days in the hospital unit before she would go back to her unit. Mum told me she was scared to go back and felt she couldn’t cope.
She said she wanted to move into the main unit but my brother didn’t want her to move out of her unit. So I called Atawhai and they said they would keep her in the hospital room and move her into the care rooms when one came available. Mum said she wanted to stay in the room she was in on the hospital side and so she did until 23rd June, 2015.
I don’t fully know what my brothers problem is but it’s not really Racheal. It’s been there from before Racheal. I suspect it is the 4 year age difference and money stuff as he sees it. Alas there is a lot on the financial side he doesn’t know or chooses not to. It is his problem, not mine. I feel sorry for him with all the pent up hatred and it is a shame as he hurts many with it.
So to move on, of course I was going to Napier even though a little worried. I called and told my best friend, Rachel. 5 minutes later her son, Harley (H) called me and pretty well insisted that he didn’t want me driving all that way on my own and he was coming with me. It was really lovely. He is a fantastic young man of 22. It is easy to judge him by appearance but you would be wrong as you will learn. So H and I drove down to Napier.
I dropped H off to see his grandparents and he was going to catch up with friends. Then I went to the motel and checked in. Now if you are going to stay in Napier or Taradale, the Colonial Motel on Taradale road, beside the RSA is the place to stay. I always stayed there when I went to see Mum and Mark and Sarah are wonderful folk. Even though they were fully booked and needed to clean the room on Thursday they allowed us to stay late.
On the Thursday morning, H and I went into town. First call was the Funeral Directors, Beth Shan. I worked years ago, we worked it out as 19 years ago, with the lovely receptionist Ingrid who handled both my Fathers and Aunts funerals. I meet and spoke with the lovely funeral director and expressed my concerns re my brother. She was great and told me not to worry, she would handle it. She told me that I had every right to be there, to speak if I wished to and was welcome at the after function.
I said I had noticed there had been no obituary in the paper. They told me it was going in that day. The day of the funeral. I had sort of figured that might be the case and see if you can work out the same and only reason why, that I can see. I am very sorry for those who were unable to attend and say good bye to Mum but I had no part of it. I was pleased I had posted on facebook and sure that at least helped a few attend. Then they showed me the notice the paper was printing.
It contained Andrew not Racheal. I told them it was wrong and offended but of course I was told it was what my brother wanted. They offered to place one today from Racheal and it appears they have so I am appreciative of that. Beth Shan were great. So then H and I were off to my usual Café DMP for my Iron Devine (liver and bacon). Absolutely the best! After a cruise around Napier with the young gentleman, H, it was back to the motel to wait.
The funeral was to start at 2.30 so we got to Atawhai at 1.30. H sat and waited patiently as I went into Mum’s wing. Well the hugs and cuddles and tears were aplenty. Mary meant so much to all staff in Atawhai and it was their loss as much as mine. The kapa haka group interrupted their practise for a cuddle as well. We all talked a lot about Mary and I told them to me they were such special people. They treated my Mum with so much love and respect.
I relayed the story which to me was so symbolic. When I was last there, about 3 weeks before, Mum was cast in her bed. Her speech was so hard to understand as she was in a bad way. I was holding her hand and stroking her when 3 caregivers had walked in to change her position. One said in a jovial way ‘Come on Mary, give us some stick.’ As clear as a bell but consider her situation, Mum replied ‘Oh shut up!!’ with a grin and a little chuckle. The banter was wonderful.
The staff gave me a plastic bag with old photos, an old purse, a watch I had given Mum. All basically junk. About 6 months ago, Mum had told me that my brother’s partner had taken her rings and jewellery to be ‘cleaned’. It was never returned. 3 weeks ago I noted a lot more had gone. I am not surprised but not really worried by material things. The opal ring I gave Mum when I returned from Australia in 1973 would have been a nice memory though.
After I spent some time alone in her empty room, bar for the forest painting behind the door we oft discussed, I took the pic’s etc to the car where H was patiently waiting. My brother and partner had just arrived and had to change their direction, oh bother. The Funeral Director had told me she would have Mum in the St Andrews hall by 1:45 so a little after that I went to have a quiet word with Mum. I presume it was decided to hold it there so staff could attend and say their goodbyes.
I had a word with the Funeral Director, who told me she had a word with my brother. She had told him that I had every right to be there, to speak if I wished and that I was welcome to stay afterwards. She assured me there would be no problems. She asked me which side I would like to sit on so I said right and she told me she would sit my brothers side on the other side.
As I had gone in another lady had come in with me. She was one of Mum’s caregivers from before Mum had gone into Atawhai. She was lovely to chat with but as I could see others coming, I decided to nip and have a quick smoke with H before we came in. On the way, I meet 3 coming in. Barbara McKay, a year or so younger than I and we had grown up together. With her were two of the lovely ladies from the good old Patoka community, Mrs Wood and Mrs Crosse, as lovely as ever and it was fantastic to see them. I receieved a lovely greeting from them and they had no issue with me. Mrs Wood had travelled with me on a coach journey and was so compimentary.
While I had a smoke with H, many others arrived, saying hello to Racheal and having a hug, before going in. I noticed a couple, one on crutches coming towards me and asking ‘Racheal’? They were facebook friends who I had never met, but we had conversed for years. Karly and partner had attended to support me and played a lovely part later.
H accompanied me in and we sat up the front, on the right. There were a lot of old Patokians there, people who had obviously heard of me and it was great to see still there. To the left was my brother, his partner and my brothers two daughters, Mums Grand daughters. I was disappointed my children were not there and would feel it worse later on.
Mary loved music. She had taught piano and also played the organ. She loved music shows, hymns, gospel singing and more. So the kapa haka group were there to start it all off and they were wonderful. We had a couple of hymns during the service and the Celebrant did a great job. His eulogy was good and complete.
My brother was invited to speak first and he also did well under a difficult task but it was what followed that made a mess of me. His two daughters, Jo and Chrissy got up together to speak. The words they spoke were beautiful. They read a poem their brother, Robbie, had written before he had sadly taken his life. It was a real tear jerker to me. Mary had loved her grandchildren, mine equally. The poem was about one of the times Granny Mary had taken Robbie to Anderson Park to feed the ducks and had returned home with a live duck in the car. It was beautiful.
Alas it reduced me two a mess of tears and I was thankful for the two hankies I had lifted from my Mum on the last trip down. There was no way I could follow that, thank you so much Jo and Chrissy. But good ole Barbara was good to go and in typical Barbara style she related her and her brother Simon’s experience of Mum. How Mary would call in on their Mum, have a drink or two and several smokes. How Barb and Simon had kept their glasses filled and secretly stolen a few smokes. It was lovely hunn.
Several others spoke relating lovely words of a lovely lady. Then Aleck stood up and spoke. Aleck and I had been child hood friends when he came to stay at our neighbours. He spoke well of Mum and related his sister’s memory of Mum and pushing her into the pool. It was a lovely moment but don’t think Aleck at first recognised who I was. He later came up and we had a good chat that I hope we shall continue on one day.
Then everyone was invited to place petals upon the casket and say their farewells to a wonderful lady. This was hard. To stand there, knowing H was there behind me as everyone walked up and past. But it was hard as so many acknowledged me and heaps more hugs. But Karly must have spotted the moment, stepped up beside and took my hand till I recovered it. What a champion friend.
I had been told I was to take the front, on one side of the casket, my brother would take the other side. So when invited I took my position but my brother took the rear. Oh well, too bad, never mind.
I walked proudly beside my Mum with my nieces opposite and behind me I think. We placed her into the hearse and stood back in case anyone wanted to say more. The kapa haka group singing. The Funeral Director asked my brother and I to step up and close the boot. I thought he was going to baulk but he did hesitantly step up and we said farewell to Mary. Mum.
So now I was supposed to leave while everyone had a cuppa. Yea right. I couldn’t have even if I had wanted to as people stepped up to introduce themselves to Racheal and give me a hug. It was a wonderful feeling for so many reasons. But the best of all had to be the stars of the service, Jo and Chrissy. They, along with their Mum came up and I had a huge cuddle from all. I was a good Uncle to them in the early days but then I had my own family and various things happened and I always felt bad we drifted apart. They are kids to be proud of Merv and alas I was disappointed in my own. While I know their Mum is in poor health, I had let her know the day before.
H and I had planned to leave after about 10 minutes as we had to return to Auckland. We were the last to leave but I never had a cuppa. H was fantastic. Never pushing, always in the back ground but around. He was as patient as anything and I was so grateful for his presence and support. A couple took him for my son and asked me but I told them he was the son of a good friend. A shame my children were not there.
So 10 past 4, H and I set off for Auckland. Mum, Mary had a good send off. I appreciate everything my brother had done for many years. I feel he largely only has himself to blame for my not doing more but then am sure he won’t see that. He doesn’t wish to. If he had allowed himself to see I was well received and loved. I know only a few would not welcome me back to HB. By far the majority had no problem with me.
The Atawhai staff, from caregivers to admins are fantastic and I told several that when my time is right, they will be looking after me. Thank you so much xx.
On the way home, H related a couple of things to me. One of the ladies who had asked me if he was my son, asked him if he was my boyfriend. He explained diplomatically the facts but hey I can’t help but feel proud they thought a 59yo tranny could pull a 22yo gentleman. Sorry H but thank you so much for your caring and kindness of this old girl. You were a wonderful support and company to me on our adventure. Your Mum is proud of you and has good reason to be.
Then he also told me of the two elderly folk and the conversation he over heard.
A/ “It’s a shame Andrew couldn’t have been here”
B/ “He is but she is Racheal now.”
A/ “I know that’s Racheal but it’s still a shame Andrew couldn’t make it.”
I know it’s a bit hard for oldies but he still had no problem talking with me.
And then there was the oldie who had a wink for me. I suspect he remembered that time when I was driving for Montreal’s and dropped the young lady to his door, but that’s another story.
So Mary is now playing scrabble with Jock and Winnie as they often used to. It’s a good thing Jock didn’t take the huge dictionary with him. They will never be forgotten.