Violets always remind me of my mother. She would pick them and place them in a tiny vase on the table next to my bed when I was coming to visit. It was a simple act of love.
My mother was a kind, gentle and gracious woman. She and my dad raised six children – I was the last and the only girl. She was hard working and spent many hours washing clothes and cooking meals, ironing and darning. When I was young she spent two days every week baking to keep the biscuit tins full for her husband and children.
She spent her last years in a rest home and finally entered the hospital wing of the rest home after strokes and dementia robbed her of her mobility and much of her mind. But in her final years, after she’d been stripped of so much, she was still a kind and gentle woman.
I watched her change – which caused me to change too. She had been the parent and I the child, and then all of a sudden our roles reversed.
My mother was one of the rest home carers’ favourite residents. She never complained, she was quiet and cheerful, compliant and she smiled often, even if she didn’t talk much. She became their friend and they appreciated how easy it was to be with her. Not so for many who came to visit her – as time went by she become quiet and somewhat non-communicative, and as such, her visitors had to make all the conversation themselves. Their numbers dwindled but I don’t think she minded. She just didn’t have anything to say – until she did (which wasn’t often). I used to tell her about what was happening in my world; I’d tell her what different family members were doing, tell her stories about people she’d known, or would discuss what was happening in the world – not much of a discussion, more a soliloquy. I used to sit with her and hold her hand, and if I felt chatty I chatted to her. If I didn’t feel like talking, we simply sat together and stared out the window and watched cars drive by or watch the clouds change, watch planes about to land or those who’d just taken off. Sometimes we just watched a little television.
I became comfortable with her silences because sometimes I was silent too. I was happy just to sit with her. I believe she appreciated my presence, and I like to think that she knew that she didn’t have to speak unless she wanted to. I felt that there was a ‘comfortableness’ in our being together in her later years, and I’ll always be grateful for that.
Towards the end she didn’t recognise me. It wasn’t her fault and I wasn’t offended, just sad. But I visited anyway. I didn’t stay long – she became less comfortable with me – she didn’t know me, so it made sense really.
My mother passed away three years ago last week. The violets in my garden are a tribute to her and remind me of her kindness and her gentleness; a hardworking woman and her simple acts of love.