As 2013 rapidly reaches its end, now is a good time to reflect on the major events that have shaped your life this year. For me, it is a chance to recall memories of my mother Lily, who passed away in January aged 87 years. I’d like to share some of Lily’s story with you today.
The Importance of Family & Community
Family and community were always important to my mother, which is not surprising considering her childhood.
Lily was born in the 1920s in a small village called Harlosh on the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. Skye is a windswept, rugged island where the conditions are harsh but beautiful. In the 1920s Harlosh consisted of a couple of hundred people – mostly crofters. Each family lived on a handful of acres growing the vegetables they needed on a daily basis and caring for sheep and chickens. There was a very strong sense of community in Harlosh, and everyone knew their neighbours. When there was a major task to be completed (think harvesting the crops or putting up a barn) all the villagers happily pitched in to assist each other. Life was sincerely traditional on Skye – so much so that Lily went to school to learn English, with Gaelic being her mother tongue.
Lily (on the left) with her sisters Margaret and Dolly in Skye
Times must have been so different then, with my Mother supported and nourished in an extended family surrounded by a strong community. It is in sharp contrast to the more lonely existence of the modern nuclear family, where we don’t really know our neighbours. Looking at Lily’s life and our contemporary life, it makes me question what progress really is.
Too Much of a Good Thing
My daughters Victoria and Eliza remember Lily for her enthusiastic cooking. In an era of salads and health-conscious meals, Lily bucked the trend. Her favourite dishes were rich creamy quiches, cauliflower in cheese sauce, thick vegetable soups and cumquat marmalades. When Lily was in the mood, she made her delicious foods in bulk. We were likely to receive half a dozen quiches all at once or a two dozen jars of marmalade. Sometimes we had too much of a good thing!!
After dementia began to impact Lily, she lived a more simple life. Her great pleasures were food, animals and children. My last strong memory of Lily was just before Christmas last year when I took her to the Convent Bakery in Abbotsford. As always, I handed her our dog Toto to cuddle while I wheeled her to the bakery. She held on tight and only released him when we arrived.
Lily cuddling Toto
She had her regular a pot of English breakfast tea with a scone. While I was speaking to my sister, I realised that Lily was fascinated watching a small toddler splash himself by happily stamping in a puddle. His sheer joy was only matched by the pleasure that Lily took in watching him. In the end it is the simple pleasures that hold value.