If she had not died when she was 79, my mother would have been 100 years old today.
Born in 1918 at the end of World War I, her other ‘brush’ with war was meeting and marrying my navigator pilot father in Blackpool England, in 1946, between VE Day and VJ Day. She came out to New Zealand as a war bride, on a troop ship with many other similar women following their husbands who had preceded them across the world. It is reported my grandmother cried so much at her impending departure she was unable to see Mum off at Southampton. It must have been a worry that your youngest daughter was crossing a world so recently torn by war!
Mum also straddled a change of custom for women. She was too young to benefit from greater acceptance of women working outside the home and yet old enough to have been trained in a profession. When years later we four children left home, her empty nest syndrome was worsen by the fact that her contemporaries were then retiring from positions as headmistresses of English and Scottish primary schools. Later, she would be the first woman deacon at Gore Baptist Church, the only female on the Court at the time.
Her war work was writing to young men overseas and recently we found a collection of sepia coloured photos of those young men with a title on the envelope “Men I might have married.” (subtext: ‘and stayed in England’). When she died I stood at her graveside and remembered Rupert Brooke’s lines: If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field. That is for ever England. She had lived in New Zealand for over thirty years before, returning after an overseas trip ‘back Home’ she said: “Our plumbing is better than theirs!” I thought “Welcome to NZ, Mum, you’ve finally arrived!”
Immigrants leave well-loved places and people behind. That requires courage and involves risk. I’m glad my mother made the journey – otherwise I wouldn’t exist, nor three other children and four grandchildren and half a great grandchild. Perhaps too, some of her ‘bible class girls’ have had a better life as a result of her teaching and interest in them. Certainly, missionaries got more funding because she organised our young group into growing potatoes and picking up pine cones. Like many people in St Andrew’s here, her major contribution to the church was her volunteer time, given willingly though with inevitable grumbles at home! Today, in her memory, thank you to those who took the risk and went to another place and thank you to you who give your volunteer time to church and community. It makes a difference.
See you on Sunday when we start a series of four reflections on Compassion for June. It’s community brunch day too so remember that delicious food you always bring! See you then.
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