Thank you for coming today. I know that some of you have come a long way and not all of you are in the best of health. We very much appreciate your support and you being with us.
First we would like to publicly thank the teams of medical staff from our NHS for caring for Mum. In particular, Dr Macmillan, Dr Fox, Lyn and the teams of the Haematology Department at Nottingham City Hospital. They never gave up hope – they always tried everything. And succeeded for nearly forty years. The gratitude that we owe them can never be adequately expressed. If you would like to make a donation to the ongoing and pioneering work of the Nottinghamshire Leukaemia Appeal there is a box for you to do so, and we will make sure it gets to them. Thank you.
Our mum, Kaye, was born on 28 March 1948 in Leicester, a daughter to our grandparents and a younger sister for her brother. My uncle has told you about Mum’s younger days. She was a terror. Mum went to secretarial college at fourteen and at sixteen was sent out into the working world. She had many jobs as one might expect, but one of her favourites was as a secretary in CID which she left in late 1974 just before my older sister was born. I came along just over a year later and then seven years after that, much to our father’s surprise, but not our mother’s, my younger sister appeared. It was during her pregnancy with my younger sister that my mum was diagnosed with leukaemia aged thirty four.
Sadly my parents divorced some years later. It was hard for Mum to be a single parent. She went back to college to upskill after having been at home for many years. Having learnt to type on an old-fashioned typewriter, it took her some time to learn that there was no need to bash the living daylights out of a computer keyboard. Mum then started a job at college, which was where she worked in various departments until she retired.
After many years Mum met our stepdad, Rob. One evening after they had been seeing each other for a while he told her that he couldn’t see her anymore. He said that he had been diagnosed with leukaemia and that he was going to die. In a response that he was definitely not expecting Mum replied that she had never heard such nonsense, she had had leukaemia for twenty years and she wasn’t going to die. They married at Gretna Green. Their time together was short and as many of you know, Rob did lose his fight against leukaemia. Not as quickly as anyone thought he would, in large part due to the medics at Nottingham and another due to my mum’s love and care for him.
Being widowed did not come easily to Mum- she never enjoyed being single. Nevertheless she continued to go out with friends and have holidays. Mum had some enduring friendships – Sue, Val and Shirley are to name a few who will have many memories. One friend, Yvonne, recalled a trip to the States when they got absolutely soaked on a boat trip. Rather than rush for a towel, Kaye pointed out to Yvonne and everyone else on the boat that she could see the pattern on Yvonne’s underwear. Tactful as ever.
Kaye had a lifelong love of animals. She loved horses and riding when she was younger. She always had a furry heartbeat or two around the house to keep her company. She also loved reading – particularly history books about the Wars of the Roses. Mum had a busy, restless, mind – it never stopped. And until she lost her hearing, Mum also loved music and dancing. The Beatles, Queen – she felt the loss of Freddie Mercury profoundly. She largely failed in her attempts to get us to do the positively ridiculous ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’. And there is a reason me and my sisters know all of the words to Barry Manilow’s songs and it is not because we are fans.
Mum delighted in being a grandparent. She didn’t even mind a honky nappy. She was so pleased to have had the chance to hold little her newborn grandson and bounced with happiness at holding a new little life. She once told me that having grandchildren made her feel like her life had been worth it.
I don’t want to give the impression of our mum as a saintly figure because we all know that would be an enormous porkie – she was often bad-mannered, bad-tempered and badly behaved. She wasn’t always entirely in command of her vehicle. During a power cut when was a my younger sister was a baby the lights came back on for Mum to discover that she had the bottle in the baby’s ear. I was once woken up by a loud bang and found that Mum had come home the worse for wear and bumped her head attempting to negotiate her way into the bathroom. Much to my horror, either forgetting or not caring that she wasn’t a child of the sixties anymore when in her late forties Mum bought some leopard print hotpants. I didn’t even begin to delve into when or where she thought she was going to wear them. I am relieved to say that they never left the house. On another occasion at my older sister’s secondary school a Maths teacher had got the wrong end of the stick about an ongoing debacle with another pupil. My mum was exceedingly keen to appraise her of the full facts. So keen, in fact, that the Headmaster had to stand between her and the teacher concerned. A few days before she died, a junior doctor was trying to take some blood and my mother told her to go and find someone who could do it properly. The doctor looked at me pleadingly to which my response was that I had no sympathy for her as that was just the sort of encouragement I had had for forty five years. When it came to my mother – if you were a goose who had upset her, if “boo” was all that she said to you, then you should have considered yourself very lucky indeed.
Mum was also fearless. And peerless. She faced numerous rounds of chemotherapy over many years. Stem cell transplant, radiotherapy. You name the drug for her condition and she probably had it. I wouldn’t say it didn’t bother her, but she did just get on with it. We never saw her cry about it. The alternative was to give up, and that wasn’t an alternative to her. So she never gave up. It was that simple. “Unique” is a word that has come up a lot in speaking to people since Mum died. As I said, peerless.
Kaye lived her life exactly the way she wanted to. She never let anything or anyone stop her from going where she wanted to go, seeing who she wanted to see, doing what she wanted to do or saying what she wanted to say.
When it became apparent that there was to be no escape from this particular scrape, Mum said that she loved us and was going to miss us all terribly. We don’t doubt that she loved us. But I hope the bit about missing us isn’t true. I don’t want her to miss us. I want to believe that Mum can go wherever she wants, whenever she wants, with whoever she wants. Where Freddie Mercury is borrowing her leopard print hotpants, Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits are on endless repeat and only she can hear them and my Nana and Grandad are waiting to call her home.