My mother, Marie Clare came into this world on the 25th August 1941. She was the second child of William and Agnes Brown and a little sister for her brother Tony. I didn’t know much about my mother’s childhood, though I believe it was very happy. She often spoke of family, holidays by the beach with her cousins and always of the abundance of love to share around.
It was 1960 when my mother became the wife and soul mate of my father William. She entered into his family like a new lamb to the fold, another daughter for my father’s mother to love. My mother and father would go on to have five children as a result of the love they shared for each other – Peter, Kevin, myself, Leon and Therese. Over the years our family grew to include Fay, Dean, Donna and Jane and my mother loving each in turn as though they were her own and her grandchildren, Kathryn, Michelle, Melissa, Jordan and Emily gave her such joy.
I must say, mum’s greatest pleasure was in giving to others. She shared her love and friendship freely with everyone and showered many lives with happiness and laughter. There were not too many people who could remain stony faced once she started laughing and when she continued, everyone was compelled to join. Those rich tones were so infectious and contagious and I still believe I inherited that laugh.
At the age of four, to the surprise of many, my mother was singing by ear.
Singing would go on to permeate every aspect of her life and she willingly shared her beautiful voice with everyone. There were eisteddfods, choirs and many parties and I guess most of you are not aware that more often than not she sang impromptu, like the night at the local hotel when she was called up on stage to sing with someone famous, Cole Joy and Sandi Scott I think it was and Little Patty was there also. I may have only been 12 at the time, but I can still hear the room erupting.
Our house was always full of music and every chance mum got she would be seated at her piano, playing away and singing – teaching herself the tune and the words of some new song. She loved to sing at weddings most of all and I will always get goose bumps remembering mum singing Ava Maria when Dean and I were married.
I believe one of the most important jobs a parent has is that of teacher and mum did a terrific job teaching me the most important things in life.
She taught me lessons like – Life is too short to be miserable – Don’t play favourites – You never know unless you try – Always write a thank you note and Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Common lessons most children learn from their mothers.
But my mum also taught me other lessons:
She taught me that even though money doesn’t buy you happiness, you can have an absolutely wonderful time spending it and always, always pay a little extra. Buying something of better quality will always save you money in the long run.
She taught me there is good in everyone, all I had to do to find it was to look beyond their actions and reactions, beyond their façade – that tough exterior people build as their own form of self-protection. She taught me to concentrate and look closer because there is beauty inside everyone’s heart.
But beyond these lessons, I believe the most important thing my mother taught me was to never stop learning.
At the age of 50 mum learnt to ride a horse. She was not a little woman and in general she was frightened of animals, yet in the act of leaving the city behind in retirement and moving to a farm, ‘out to pasture’ as she put it, she came to the decision that she needed to be able to ride a horse.
It took some time for her to gain her confidence, to feel safe in the saddle and short walks around the farm house took quite some time to become longer walks down to the front gate. Ever so slowly though her confidence built up bit by bit and those short walks became longer and longer.
An ability that you or I may have mastered in a few short weeks actually took her years to achieve. I know you can appreciate how much of an accomplishment this was for her, she had worked real hard and had learnt to ride a horse and was really looking forward to riding in the inaugural Mt Fox 20k ride.
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This leads me to Australia Day 1996, this day 20 years ago, when a few family and friends of my parents met at their property to set out on a 20k ride through the Mt Fox terrain on horseback.
Although mum had been looking forward to the ride that day, she decided not to go because she didn’t feel well. She chose instead to stay home and made a hearty home cooked meal for everyone when they returned at the end of the day.
She spent the day making meat pies with real steak – home-grown actually – nothing like it for a something uniquely Australian and to make a real meal of it – plenty of mashed potatoes, mushy peas and gravy. Her favourite ‘Aussie’ meal, after all it was Australia Day and what else do you eat on Australia Day? Mum loved to cooked a meat pie for Australia Day.
As everyone sat around at the end of the day discussing the ride, mum was a little sad that she had missed all the fun and excitement and spoke of making sure she went on the ride the following year. Little did we know then, that would be her last day, her last meal, and her last wish.
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The following year, the Mt Fox riding club renamed the event The Marie Nugent Memorial Ride and almost everyone in the local community took part with each year more and more people joining in – new members of the community who never had the chance to meet her, yet I know felt a connection to her through the lives she touched during those years she was ‘out to pasture’.
Today I ask that you don’t remember her with a heavy heart, for we all know that is not what she would’ve wanted from any of us.
We all know that she would’ve wanted was for all of us to rejoice in her life, remember the voice she shared so willingly with everyone and sing a song as you enjoy your day. Maybe the song you sing will be the catalyst that makes you laugh. Maybe your singing voice will be the catalyst, that makes the next person laugh.
Please, don’t stop there – keep singing, keep laughing and recall that most infectious, contagious laughter my mother possessed.
Today, let us remember her fondly for the beautiful person she was and enjoy mum’s favourite meal for Australia Day.
(Home made) Meat pie!
With mashed potato, mushy peas and gravy.