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THE VIEW FROM HERE: Here’s to you, my lovely mum, taken by cancer far too soon

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While facing the trials and frustrations of day-to-day life, Mary-Jane Duncan remembers her own lovely mum.

I am bereft. Our tumble-drier croaked. During July in any other country this wouldn’t be an issue, but this is “post-lockdown” Scotland.

While we all merrily hung out our smalls during the Covid heatwave, lockdown has lifted so the washing goes out in glorious sunshine only to come back in thanks to a downpour 20 minutes later. Tumble-drier cycle complete and the sun splits the sky.

Growing up, our family home was always clean. The washing never piled up, except on my bedroom floor, and mum even ironed! Having three kids of my own, I wonder how DID she do it all while remaining calm and sane?

Granted there wasn’t any internet to distract her.

Our internet has been infuriatingly slow the past few days and I’m suddenly like “Oh! NOW I get it”. But even that isn’t technically true. My mum, the lovely Mary, had my brother and me as her main focus. Until she got a dog and we plummeted down the ranks. BUT still.

Mary-Jane Duncan as a young lass, with her mum Mary.

Laundry service at ours is suspended for the following reasons. Socks are never turned out or pockets emptied.

A misconception exists we run a Hilton; towels used once are left on beds for mythical housekeeping to attend to.

Clothes that have been tried on for five seconds and “filed” on the floor no longer meet wash-basket entry qualifications.

Until they prove they’re newly employed in a coal mining facility, jeans WILL be worn more than once.

Self-service is encouraged. If they’re capable of operating an iPhone, they’re capable of using a washing machine.

Nobody will ever argue that I “parent” very differently to my mum, but I try to channel my inner Mary often.

I never heard my mother swear or argue. Fail for me.

She was certainly never drunk in charge (erm…) and the very rare raised voice came only when I pushed her unlimited patience “that” far. BIG FAT FAIL.

Her never ending kindness is legendary, always putting others before herself. Her capacity for infinite patience is so utterly beyond me I don’t even pretend to try.

She had a few faults. But forgivable ones. NOBODY could hill start in a Ford Escort XR3i in fourth gear like Mary, and she never quite “got into” my teenage goth phase love of Pearl Jam.

No birthday went forgotten, ever. Cousins, aunts, nieces, cousins twice-removed, even those living abroad. All cards written and posted in time included letters to nurture the extended family network. We all still keep in touch and it’s thanks to her unfailing efforts. Family meant everything to this lovely soul, especially her grandchildren.

Mary-Jane’s mum, Mary, with a young Ella and Jamie.

Her kindness reaches even those who never got to meet her. The two youngest grandkids know her only through many recounted stories and photographs. My youngest executes my mother’s eye roll to perfection.

As I write, it is the 12th anniversary of her leaving us all. At 44 years old I’m still bitter that we no longer have her. Taken by cancer far too soon. She never complained. Never moaned. She just got on with it until she couldn’t.

With more dignity and grace than I could ever hope to muster, she conducted herself throughout treatment in a manner that shames me going through mine. Not one to cause a fuss, her brave, dignified silence is something I’m ashamed to say meant I believed she was actually fine, and left me ignorant of what she went through.

So here’s to you Mary. Thank you for all the rainbows you send the kids and for placing slow moving cars in front of me when I’m in a hurry. You are missed every single day and your grandkids all despair of me for the same reasons you used to.

I’m away to put on another load of washing and not complain about the state of their bedroom floors.

Mary Isabella Taylor

23.11.39 – 23.07.08