|Jeremy assigned me the
task of sorting through Lois’ numerous photo albums and scrap
books and whittle them down to perhaps half a dozen to place on the
table with the commemorative signing book for guests to peruse at
People started arriving. I recognised most of them but there were
inevitably a few that I didn’t know at all and some whom I’d
apparently met at some time and since forgotten about. The most joyous
moment for me was when our friends Warren and Marg Sellers (whom some
P&W readers will remember as living in Melbourne not so long ago)
arrived after a three hour drive down from their new home in Whangarei,
about three hours north of Auckland, in a warmly appreciated gesture
of friendship and support.
Jeremy was providing the music (as Lois had stipulated) and was also
emceeing proceedings and, after it appeared there were to be no more
guests arriving, brought room to order and detailed the program.
I was first up to speak armed with Richard’s three-and-a-bit
page* Farewell Mum about Lois as he knew her. I had planned
to interpolate some observations of my own and make it more a mutual
contribution, but it quickly became clear that I shouldn’t protract
the experience any longer than necessary - not that it didn't have
any of the usual Dick charm and wit, but I probably should've edited
it down a bit.
Other family members got up to speak in descending order of age. The
usually stoic Ann told us wobbily that in losing Lois she’d
lost her best friend and confidante, but the most emotional moment
was when my youngest brother Chris and Wendy's three girls got up
and Gabby tearfully read her very touching thoughts on behalf of the
three of them about their inspiring granny and the important part
she’d played in their lives.
A picture was building of Lois, most of it outside my direct experiemce,
first as a lonely little girl in her early life on the farm (Mendip
Hills in North Canterbury) who later revealed herself as a very intelligent
young woman (she scored 138 in her air force IQ test, putting her
in the top 2% in NZ) and who after she’d successfully reared
five children over two marriages (a testament to her motherly guidance
is that they all still obviously share in her values) became the thoughtful
but inveterately adventurous older woman with an endless curiosity
about the world that we (eventually) all knew in her later life. Like
most grandparents she adored her granddaughters but she never smothered
them and as Gabby said, she inspired them to live their lives to their
At the same time this out-going adventurous woman was a very private
person and at the Summerset retirement home where she spent her last
four years (and that she helpfully chose to move into of her own volition),
she didn’t actively seek to make many friends, rather the reverse
actually,preferring to maintain her existing, although diminishing
circle of friends and acquaintances outside the orbit of the home.
So, when Jeremy inquired as to whether anybody had anything to add
to the family’s reminiscences I was surprised to hear a determined
voice from the chair next to me. With most of Lois’ contemporaries
dead or too far away or ill to attend the commemoration at such short
notice, it was left to one of her few friends at the Summerset to
add an outsider’s view of Lois Templer the woman she'd briefly
come to know at the retirement home.
Peggy fiercely declared that Lois was an inspiration to her as well
as a revelation – like many women of her generation Peggy hadn’t
had the opportunity to travel the world and she’d certainly
never skippered her own yacht for goodness sake! Amongst other things
Lois was a fine photographer and started her own all-female wine appreciation
group (the Stem Club) and I was always proud to say she wasn’t
afraid of modern technology either, embracing communication by email
and digitizing her mass of photos.
After Peggy’s stirring words, Jeremy called an end to the speaking
and people started to relax and chat and replenish their glasses -
which was when Maria reminded me that Lois had specifically requested
me to sing ‘the song’ at her commemoration.
I glared at her. I was hoping that that particular stipulation would
be forgotten as I’d done no preparation (unless you count the
forty-seven years since IBG was released of course!) but I stumbled
out to the bedroom and grumpily unearthed the harmonica I’d
brought for just this eventuality and returned to the lounge room
to sing my song – for Lois.
People were looking at me apprehensively – surely the formal
part of the proceedings couldn’t go on indefinitely. I launched
into the song, thankfully in a lower key than on the record and found
my voice to be mostly intact. Of course, Kiwis don’t know the
song like we do in Australia, but I think the simplicity of it made
I then asked Jeremy if he could play the recording of the song that
I’d written especially for our Mum to the assembled rel’s
and friends. Jeremy looked flustered as Lois had insisted there was
to be no music apart from my singing I’ll Be Gone and
the neutral selection of background music she trusted Jeremy to choose.
In the event the recording couldn’t really be heard on the laptop’s
speakers, which was slightly disappointing but entirely my own fault
for not anticipating the situation.
A song? For my Mum? Yes, well I started writing You’re In
My Heart+ a couple of years ago but when the first trip to Auckland
to see Mum became a reality, Maria insisted that I finish it for Lois’
sake, and what Maria insists upon is a done deal.
Actually it was timely to make use of my tiny new studio, despite
the fact it’s the last unfinished room in our new home, with
piled-up plastic buckets of CDs, tapes and memorabilia lining the
walls and pictures waiting to be hung.
But at least it's functional and functioning and putting the song
down onto my Cubase set-up wasn’t too much of a problem, despite
the intervening years of neglect.
Disconcertingly when I first played it to Lois, she got up half-way
through and started making a pot of tea. ‘It seems awfully long
dear.’ (It’s not).
I played it to her again later but she was still having trouble concentrating.
Thankfully, the third time I played it to her she looked me in the
eyes after it had finished and said ‘it’s lovely’.
Still, you can never be sure. It was Peggy who, unprompted, told me
that Lois had loved the song and that she’d especially loved
the fact that I’d written a song just for her. A songwriter
can’t get better than praise from his Mum, although it hardly
compares to the sacrifices she made and the pain she endured just
to get me into the world.
Thanks for being my Mum, Lois. I’ll never forget you.
* Have a read
of Dick's Farewell
Mum (There could be more than 30 secs loading time).
+ Have a listen to You're
In My Heart and let me know what you think