If I had the chance again, I maybe would have said one more thing.
Five years ago, I had mere days to write a eulogy, to summarise a life, memories about my mum. And it was good. It did say a lot about her. People heard it and recognised her. But even as I wrote it I knew I was missing something and grasped at different strands of her life to give everyone an impression of who she was.
Afterwards, it came to me.
Why didn’t I mention tea?
She loved a cup of tea, and when I say loved, I mean really, she took an almost disproportionate pleasure in it. She had a uniquely characteristic way of responding to the offer of tea with an ‘Ooh yes please!’ I must have heard it hundreds, possibly even thousands, of times in my lifetime. There was a certain quality to the enthusiasm. A nuanced implication of “What a treat!”
So it’s fitting that it was one of the last things I heard her say. When the ICU nurse asked her if she’d like a cup of tea, I remember her replying with that same eager and distinctive “Ooh yes please!” It was so her. Possibly more her than any of the other things I talked about. Or maybe just differently so.
My grandfather used to tell a story about a time he needed boiling water for a DIY job he was doing. He flipped the kettle on and went to fetch something from outside. By the time he’d got back, Mum had, on autopilot, set a tea tray with cups and saucers and used all his hot water to fill the teapot. It was like a knee jerk reaction with her – a boiling kettle meant tea.
And it was over those cups of tea that she built relationships, listened to and counselled others, welcomed people into our home. Oh the sorrows and conundrums that were softened or solved! The God-given moments of connection! They always began with a cup of tea. That familiar click as she flipped the switch on the kettle; the shush of water slowly warming to a bubbling boil.
So today, this is simply a shout out to the good old cuppa. And to my mum, who both loved it...and shared it with love.