On Wednesday 8 February my beloved mother died in York after a fatal brain haemorrhage. I was glad to be able to spend the last hour of her life with her, and to have the support of two of my brothers, Peter and Tom.
My mother was brave, kind and unfailingly generous. She loved a long walk, an afternoon outdoors with her children and grandchildren, and a good game of Scrabble. In a quiet, unassuming way, she was also a deeply spiritual person. She was born in New Zealand and her extended family live in the part of the South Island that is best known nowadays as Cloudy Bay. This poem is a tribute to her and to all our mothers.
I praise you, my mother, my grandmothers.
I praise your feet, your hips, your hearts, your hands
Packing cases, following your lovers
On the dark sea passage to unknown lands.
I praise your eyes, wide, leaf-bright with passion,
Learning to read new seasons and new skies,
Learning to see new places, constellations,
Learning to look, let go and hold goodbye.
I wonder what your mothers wished for you
And what in you became a part of me;
Which of your many high-branched hopes came true.
Bertha, Joy, Emmeline, Ange, Pearlie,
I speak your names aloud and sense you near;
Each of you broken open, living, here.
Tessa Strickland © 2009
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