Archive for the ‘Remembering Mother’ Category

The first star of the evening

through a misty window pane

Prompted me to whisper

that old childhood rhyme again

I didn’t wish for beauty

for all beauty has to end

I didn’t wish for friendship

for she was my truest friend

I didn’t wish for money

for I knew a Mother’s worth

Not even for security

for this I’d had from birth

I didn’t wish for guidance

for she taught me wrong from right

I didn’t wish for love

for I had known it all my life

The wish I made was for the thing

I thought I’d never ask

For what I knew must happen

I hoped would happen fast

Through a misty window

in a room of sterile white

My crying eyes looked out

upon the first star of the night

The saddest star in heaven

that I made my wish upon

The star that made my wish come true

that last long night with Mom

copyright Catherine Turner 2001

Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight

I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight

Alfred Bester

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Hello Lord. It’s me. Do you remember me at all?

I’m sorry that it’s been so long since I last gave you a call

It was late one Christmas evening; I was only six or seven

I prayed for you to send a teddy bear to me from Heaven


I haven’t asked for anything since that Christmas eve

I thought that I was too mature, too grown up to believe

But Lord, I’ve lost the angel who overheard that prayer

She left her children far behind to live with you up there


You must be very happy with the new friend that you’ve got

But Lord, I’m feeling lonely, and I cry an awful lot.

I wonder can you spare the time to help me out somehow

I didn’t need you in the past but, Lord, I need you now


I know you’ve lots of souls to save and spirits to set free

I know there must be millions who need you more than me

But could you find a moment in your hectic life up there

And send a speedy answer to my selfish little prayer


There’s one more favour I must ask before I say goodbye

If you see my angel as you’re travelling round the sky

Please don’t mention anything about this conversation

I wouldn’t want to worry her or cause her aggravation


Don’t let her know how weak I am, or that my tears still fall

Keep our little secret………just tell her Cathy called

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The world of remembrance
A world set apart
A world we first visit with tears
The cost of admission is one broken heart
How painful that world first appears
The world of remembrance
A world of recall
A world full of people who care
With portals of love that are open to all
Built on the memories we share
The world of remembrance
A world full of love
A world with no room for regret
As endless and bright as the sky up above
As long as we never forget
When the wonder and beauty of this world has passed
And life’s tribulations are gone
As long as our love and our memories last
The world of remembrance lives on


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Today as I went off to work on the bus

I started to think about Mother and us

Of the way that she’d died and her funeral when

We all went together and stood in the Crem

Then, as I remembered that horrible day

I started imagining what she would say

If she rose from her coffin and hovered above

To look down on the family she’d blessed with her love


“Just look at our Cath, she’s standing down there

Bursting forth all the hymns like she hadn’t a care

With her head held up high and looking so proud

Belting The Old Rugged Cross out so loud

While not even needing to glance at the page

Just look at our Cath, she should be on the stage.”


“Just look at our Chris, just along from Cath

with her tears splashing down onto Job’s photograph

We started together when she took her first breath

And it ended the same on the night of my death

I wish I could stop her from feeling so sad

Just look at our Chris, just like her Dad.”


“Just look at our Roy, my baby, my son,

No Mother could have a more wonderful one

Of all of my memories he brings me the best

Who’ll fetch his chocolate now I’m laid to rest?

Who’ll bake the bread puddings and fresh apple pies?

Just look at our Roy with tears in his eyes.”


“Just look at you three crying out for your Mother

But time will bring smiles if you cling to each other

Forget all the bad times, remember the good

Count your blessings like I always told you you should

Make your happiness as strong as the pain it replaces

Just look at you three; I love the sight of your faces.”


“Just look at them leaving, and I’m left alone

Goodbye my two lovely daughters and son

Now two loving arms I feel slipped round my waist

As two tender lips kiss the tears from my face

With those eyes of blue I recall from the past

Just look at us Job…… together… at last.”

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I have written poetry from as far back as I can remember. Not the highbrow type that takes a lot of understanding, just simple words forming simple rhymes. Some poets feel that the rhyming word is unimportant and too often contrived but my poetry always rhymes. I enjoy the challenge of trying to get the sentiment across and the rhyme just right. Until the time that I set about writing this collection of verse my poetry had mostly been the humorous kind. Little verses written for family and friends or maybe about something funny that had happened at work. I would write a few verses and usually add my own wicked twist to the tale. Everyone seemed to enjoy them, probably because they were about people or events that they knew personally.

The poetry is this work is not humorous, quite the opposite in fact. It may require some explanation so I shall attempt to give a little background information to enable the reader to understand why I wrote it. To appreciate the content of the poetry the reader will need to know a little about me, and about my family but I shall be as brief as possible as the main thrust of this work is the poetry and not a family history.

 The head of our family was our father, Job Alfred Rock, an outstanding name for an outstanding man. How can I best describe my Dad? When I asked myself this question the first word that came to mind was ‘strong’. He was a typical father of the Fifties, working hard in a factory for a low wage whilst Mom was left to care for the home and family. That was how he wanted it. That was her place as he said many times, particularly when she asked if she could join the neighbouring wives to do a little part time work. He had charisma, a strong character and presence. It always felt good to be in his company. He wasn’t just any old Dad. Dad wasn’t the ‘touchy feely’ type and I can’t remember one single hug or loving kiss. He was someone to be worshipped from afar, like Elvis or The Beatles, we hero-worshipped him. Praise from Dad was like a blessing from the Pope. It didn’t come very often but when it did it was something wonderful, never to be forgotten. Dad showed his love by his actions, not his words. We knew that he cared for us and we loved him. He was truly a father to be proud of.

 Our Mother, Elsie Maria Rock, married Dad when she was twenty-one and immediately set about her mission in life, which was to make a home and raise a family. The word that best describes Mom, I think, is ‘homemaker’. She did everything. Decorating, gardening, sewing, she did it all and she could produce the most mouth-watering meals out of nothing. Mother was the exact opposite of Dad in that she was a very quiet inoffensive lady. If she found a pound in the street she would feel guilty for a week. There was never any spare money in our house and Mom could have won a gold medal in the ‘make do and mend’ Olympics.

My elder sister Chris was born is 1945. She is a mixture of personalities. On the one hand she is a ‘soft touch’. She was always bringing home any old stray that she found, and not always the animal variety. I remember that she once brought home a grass snake that she had found in the street which eventually became our pet. Chris will still help anyone out. It doesn’t matter who they are. If someone needs help she will go out of her way to provide it. At other times she is a lot like Dad, with a great inner strength and determination. Chris always thinks that her way is the right way and that no-one can do a job as well as she can. As children we were very close. She was a proper ‘our wench’ as we say in the Black Country. Wherever Chris was, that is where I would be. She carried me around and included me in all her plans. Of course as we grew older and our lives took different paths we drifted apart. Don’t get me wrong, whenever I needed her she never let me down but our lives seemed to get in the way of our relationship. Although we only seemed to get together on ‘occasions’, Christmas and birthdays and so on,  we always kept in touch through Mother. Chris works full time and so usually visited at weekends but my job allowed me to visit during the week. Consequently there were always lots of messages passed back and forth.

I am the second child, Cath, born in 1950. Chris always says that I am a ‘tough nut’ but I don’t think I am really. It’s just the face that I like to show the World. Like my Dad I find it difficult to show my feelings and yet I have always been an extrovert, never afraid to do a ‘bit of a turn’. Mother always said that I should have gone onto the stage. Perhaps my poetry will be my stage. The rest of the world sees a gregarious happy-go-lucky  woman but the real me is content to sit in the garden with a cup of coffee in one hand and my pen in the other. I am really a bit of a loner, preferring my own company and that of my husband to anything else in the world.

Our brother Roy is the youngest, born in 1957. There is a lot of Mother in Roy. I have always found him to be a quiet gentle man but maybe his wife has a different opinion. Mom worried about us all but especially about Roy. In her later years she was always struggling up to the shops to buy him chocolate and biscuits as she constantly thought that he didn’t eat enough. Every Sunday morning she would be up early baking cakes, bread pudding and apple pies to feed him up when he came to visit. Roy, and his partner Janice, now his wife, lived at home with Mom and Dad and didn’t leave until he was well into his thirties so there was a very special bond between him and Mom and Dad. All in all we were an ordinary working class family living happily in a two bed-roomed post war prefab. Nothing special.

Dad died in 1991. He had suffered heart problems for some years and on March 29th, Roy’s birthday and Good Friday, following a happy day spent shopping in Birmingham’s Rag Market with Mom and watching horse racing on TV with Roy he went out to potter in the garden, his other passion discovered after retirement. He was pruning the roses when he had a massive heart attack and died where he fell, catching his head against a rose thorn and sending a trickle of blood down his temple. When we arrived he was lying on the settee in the living room and Mom was devastated. It took a while for Mom to get over losing Dad but in time she made a nice, quiet life for herself.

In October 1999 Mom found out that she had Cancer. The tumour was in her tongue. The surgery to remove it left her frail and vulnerable though she never asked for help she needed looking after. The three of us fell neatly into our respective roles. I did the housework and some shopping, Roy and Jan dealt with decorating, gardening and financial things, Chris did gardening and looked after Mom’s hair, she always liked it nice, and anything medical, hospital visits, prescriptions and so on. This went on for some months but it was obvious that Mom wasn’t getting any better. Sadly, she found another lump in her neck and a visit to the consultant confirmed our worst fears. The Cancer was back. Mom endured more horrific surgery but this time it was not successful. She was advised to try a course of radio therapy but she refused, accepting her fate. She was tired. She was weak. She just wanted to be left alone in her own home and accept whatever happened. She’d had enough.

September 2000 was a month of decisions. Chris and I knew that Mom wanted to die at home so we put our lives  on hold and moved in with her to help her through it. I am not going to write down what happened to Mother during those five weeks that it took her to die. Those memories are for me and my family alone. Suffice it to say that the last two days of her life were spent in hospital. Although this wasn’t what any of us wanted, events took their own course and the decision was taken out of our hands. She was such a quiet, gentle woman but she fought like a tiger to stay alive, just for one more look at our faces, as she would have said. I wasn’t there at the end. It happened to be our thirty-third wedding anniversary. Graham, my husband, picked me up from the hospital at nine and we went for a quiet drink together. We had hardly seen each other for five weeks so we thought we should try to mark the occasion.I climbed into bed at midnight and Chris rang at 12.40 to tell me it was all over. My Mom was dead.

Graham dropped me off at the hospital so that I could look at her lovely face one last time. It was the saddest sight I have ever seen and for the first time in my life I knew what a broken heart felt like. She had been such a good woman and such a caring Mom. She didn’t deserve to die like that. Those five weeks that the three of us spent together changed my life completely. I feel such a close bond now with my sister having shared such a moving experience. There were so many horrible times but also so many tender moments. Pictures that will be forever in my mind;  the way that Mother would rub her brow across my forearm as I helped her to sit up in bed;  the three of us holding hands on that hospital bed; the way that she always struggled to sit up and look tidy whenever the doctor called round to the house; her friend calling round to ask if she could do anything and Mom answering simply “pray for me”; the time that she pointed to us three children in turn and said “I love the sight of your faces”; lying by her side through those long sleepless nights listening to her breathing. When we told her we were taking her home from hospital and she refused, saying that now she knew how bad it would be, she would stay as it would be too much for us. Even at the end her first concern was us. Seeing a star through the hospital window and repeating that old childhood rhyme…..‘Starlight, star bright, first star I see tonightI wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight’…and wishing that she could die quickly.

I made a promise to myself that I would not cry at Mom’s funeral but would sing at the top of my voice. I was sad, but more than that I was proud. Proud that Elsie Maria Rock had been my mother and so proud that I had been able to pay back just a tiny part of all the love and care that she had heaped on me throughout my life. Throughout Mother’s illness I did no writing at all. There was nothing inside me.

A couple of days after the funeral Chris rang to say that she had written a poem for me but it was about two weeks later that I allowed her to read it to me over the phone. I cried so much when I heard it. That poem is the first one in the collection and the only one of Chris’s that is included. It is called ‘I Choose You’. Chris’s birthday was coming up and so I decided to repay the compliment. Everything that had happened to us had been too painful to talk about. It seemed to be our secret, and so I wrote ‘Grief Is A Secret’. The floodgates were open and after this the words seemed to fly across the page. I hope that the reader will not find this poetry morbid for that was not my intention, and neither do I profess to be a great literary genius. This work is just my way of coming to terms with what has happened.  The poems have been written with some sadness, yes, but also with love and pride. If you have known the joy of having a loving mother and if you have lost that mother then perhaps at some quiet time you will thumb through these pages and find a little comfort as you sit thoughtfully ‘Remembering Mother’.    

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We were born sisters just us two

You didn’t choose me and I didn’t choose you

I dragged you along wherever I went

I carried you till my knees were bent

Later on in our teens we grew apart

looking for boys to steal our heart

When we found them and married it changed my life

It’s a shock to the system becoming a wife

Next we were mothers, both at the same time

Every ante-natal clinic up that hill we’d climb

We had lots of babies you first then me

You had two and I had three

As young working moms we saw less of each other

The years flew by fast while we were playing mother

Then fate threw us back together again

To help our mom through all that pain

The time that we had is precious to me

Time spent together just us three

Now we are daughters all alone

No Mom to turn to or pick up the phone

So at last when our hearts are breaking in two

You choose me – and I choose you

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 three hands

No-one really knows it all

Only me and you

And that’s the way it has to stay

A secret shared by two

Too precious to be tossed around

For all the world to hear

Too beautiful to let them see

One solitary tear

But when the secret’s hard to bear

There’s comfort in your call

It’s strange that something so obscene

Feels so good to recall

I hope she was as proud of us

As we both were of her

I hope she understood

It was an honour to be there

Five weeks for a lifetime

Is not much of a trade

But I wonder if she realised

The secret that she made


The secret of the three hands held

In caring love unspoken

The secret of that one sad bed

That left our two hearts broken

She gave her all for all of us

So lets remember Mother

By treasuring her final gift

The gift of one another

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poppySo many things we found inside

The home vacated when she died

Piles of papers, bills and rent

Receipts for every pound she spent

Paper clippings, creased and torn

of uncles dead and babies born

Supplements from magazines

Proclaiming God would save the Queen

A soap star in a daring dress

The wistful smile of dead princess

Little gifts that children gave

Bought with pennies proudly saved

And scrawlings of a tiny hand

That only Grannies understand

Memories she held in trust

Displayed on shelves to gather dust

Sorting, sifting, throwing out

Everything she kept about

Dismissing what she prized to be

Old lady’s eccentricity

Then hidden back inside a draw

A box we’d never seen before

That held a myriad poppies red

In memory of soldiers dead

So typical that she should keep

Those paper flowers of crimson deep

And couldn’t bear to throw aside

Each poppy she had worn with pride

Remembrance that she held in trust

Inside a draw to gather dust

Within that box at last I see

The woman who gave birth to me

A teenager with golden hair

Who tapped her heels on cobbles bare

Air raid shelters, curtains black

Good friends who just did not come back

Caught up in the winds of war

That chilled the life she led before

Scarlet poppies spelling out

A life I hadn’t known about

Of all the many things we found

In cupboards, draws and boxes brown

Those flowers revealed the secret of

The kind of person Mother was

For though I’d laugh and shake my head

At silly things she did or said

As I look now inside my grief

And see the woman underneath

I recognise my treasure lost

And weep for poppies in a box

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