Lessons from my 96 year old mum..

Whatever else is happening in the world today let us all remember that tomorrow is Mothering Sunday, a day when we honour and thank our mums for everything they have done and continue to do for us.

Of course, the current crisis means that for most of us it’s not going to be the usual Sunday lunch family gathering.  This year was going to be a little different for our family as my mum and dad are both in a Care Home.  By the end of last week there was talk of an understandable no visitor policy at their home.  By Monday the door was looked to all except staff.

For months I’ve been meaning to get my parents ‘tech’d up’ with a tablet for them to be able to see and talk to family around the country. They kept on saying there was no need, I kept on forgetting. This no visitor rule finally made it happen.  I managed to get hold of a tablet which I delivered to the home with a bag full of instructions.  I handed the parcel through a half open door at reception and drove home.

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I needn’t have worried.  Almost as soon as I had got home my phone started ringing with that special Facetime ring tone. One of the care assistants had got my mum online through their WIFI and sat with her until we had made contact. It really was like magic.  There she was in her little room and I was in the lounge, laughing and chatting as if we were next to each other.

I should say the start of the conversation focused on the cost of each call.  It took some time for my mum to believe me that once we had a tablet and an internet connection, the call, no matter how long, was completely free.  We caught up with news of the rest of the family and we tried hanging up and reconnecting a couple of times to make sure we both understood how the process would work.

A little while later I got another call from my mum.  I answered expecting to see her in her little room.  Instead I got a double whammy of a blessing as I could see and chat to both my mum and dad.  One of the carers had helped set up the tablet in the day room and they had got my dad looking smart and my mum in her best dress so that they could both join in.

After a while you do run out of things to talk about.  Mum and dad have a fairly consistent routine of getting up, breakfast, lunch followed by some activities like the knitting circle. As for me, I’ve been social distancing for the last week and a half so I haven’t done that much. I don’t even have first hand stories to share about my little granddaughter because I haven’t seen her for a week or so because of social distancing.

I then casually asked my 96 year old mother what she had planned for the rest of the day.  When she told me, she was going to read her Bible I wasn’t surprised at all.  Being brought up in a Gospel Hall family every morning started with my dad reading a passage from the Bible before he prayed and sent us on our way.  But I nearly feel off my chair when she added the words…In French!

My mum always loved studying and always loved French. Before the war she had a pen pal named Lucienne from St Etienne.  Their pen pal friendship survived the war and lasted their whole lives with my mum writing to her in French and Lucienne in English.  Every year we would have a French Christmas present together with a family photograph that grew in numbers as time passed and the ladies grew more mature.  Sadly, Lucienne passed away a couple of years ago and mum had a lovely letter from her family saying how much their friendship had meant to their ‘Maman’.

I knew all this, but I still found myself asking my mother what I thought was the obvious question, ’Why are you reading the Bible in French?’

My mum told me all of the things I knew, she loved French, she loved reading the Bible.  Then she said ‘…it’s good to keep my mind working’.

These next few weeks are going to be difficult for all of us. It still seems hard to believe that what we’ve seen happen in other parts of the world will soon happen here.  I expect most of us are still in denial but if the scientists are correct some of us will get the virus, some will be very ill and sadly some of us will lose friends and loved ones.  We will soon live very different lives and a lot of that time might be spent on our own or with a small group of family or friends.

All of that, together with the obvious ‘fear mongering’ being spread on social media means that there will also be incredible strain on our minds.

Drawing on what my mum told me and on a lifetime of working on my own most days I might have experiences that could help you get through some of these dark days.

Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun?  The same is true when you’re busy, but it drags with boredom.  The trouble many of us will have over the coming weeks is long stretches of time and nothing in particular that you have to do.

Ask any person who has retired and they will tell you that after the first few weeks of staying up late to watch a film followed by a lie in, then a lazy breakfast watching homes under the hammer and flog it you start to get sad and possibly feel the symptoms associated with being depressed.  For many musicians or freelancers this is a constant issue we have to deal with.  It’s all too easy to slip into drifting.

I remember the first time that happened to me and it took me by complete surprise.  I had finished the first musical tour and then nothing…literally nothing.  No calls, emails or letters.  It was couple of weeks before I realised I needed to do something; I needed the discipline of an organised day. That’s when I decided I would get up early, shower, dress, have breakfast and then start working on something…anything.

It happened again to me last summer when I completed a major theatre project. That was why I went into the studio to write a new album. There was no one nagging me to complete it but in my head I had a deadline.  Ok that’s easy for me as I have the tools to be able to do that, but I would suggest the principle could be good for you too.

This is the type of concert I won’t be doing ‘Live’ for sometime because of the pandemic

For a musician like me this never ends.  The virus has cancelled my tour and I won’t be able to play gigs for another few months.  I know for my mental health I have to start again with a new project even thought at the moment I’m not sure exactly what to do…

This virus wants to rob us of our future, and it would be easy to give in to hopelessness.  In the Bible my mother is now reading you will find this verse from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 verse 13

Maintenant donc ces trois choses demeurent: la foi, l’espérance, la charité; mais la plus grande de ces choses, c’est la charité.

Translated that means

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Yes, love is the greatest, but faith and hope are right up there too. So, keep the faith let’s hope for the future but try to get busy everyday because like my mum says its good to keep your mind working.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from my 96 year old mum..”

  1. Verena Walder

    Thanks SO much Mal!This is great and it is lovely to see the photos of your dear Mum and Dad.  They look so super, and no different to when we last  saw them.Your Mum is amazing and a real inspiration. Thanks for sharing week by week and encouraging us all during these somewhat different and difficult days.With love and blessings,Verena X X X Sent from Samsung tablet.

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