I gave this speech two weeks ago, in summer sunlight. I thought I’d share.
Let me tell you about my mother.
She was brilliant, and she was beautiful, and she was brave … and when it was called for she was a complete Bastard too, and the capital B is intentional as any fule kno.
My parents showed me two photographs once, one of each of them, from their youth – I find it almost impossible to believe that my parents were young once, but there is indeed photographic evidence – and they both looked beautiful. Now admittedly with the possible exception of my father’s nose, they were both blessed with pretty decent looks, but that’s not what I’m talking about. They were both shining, shining with the light of love.
They were together for over forty years. I wish it had been sixty, I wish I wasn’t able to measure the end of it yet, but they were together for over forty years and that’s an amazing run.
She lost her father when she was young – on the order of half my age now – she didn’t talk about it much so neither will I, but it thrust her into a role in the family of organising and helping and making sure the things that had to be done got done, and I am proud to be her child. I am proud to be the child of somebody who stood up to that challenge and made things happen.
In a way, I think that was what underlay everything she did – standing up to challenges, making things happen – and she could be incredibly patient while doing so too. My father can attest to this, since she told me more than once that it took her twenty years to train him to tidy up after himself.
She was the sort of person who was utterly incapable of watching a group of people milling around being disorganised without wanting to fix them, and through a dynamic mixture of diplomacy, tact, common sense and a command voice that could cut through steel plate, she usually succeeded at doing so.
Her colleagues spoke highly of her, her friends spoke highly of her – and so for that matter do my friends, and a lot of them consider themselves to have been hers as well – and I remember a few conversations with people who’d recently been on the receiving end of her displeasure, and no matter how angry or upset with her they were they still spoke of her with the deepest respect.
My family have all spoken well of her too; she kept in touch with people and in doing so kept people in touch with each other, she brokered reconciliations when people were at odds, and she was unafraid to use any weapon that would work to do so – including the cuteness factor of a small child, which I suspect lasted up until the exact moment I learned to talk.
She cared, deeply, about everybody around her; I had a T-shirt made for her that said “grounded social worker” on it, because that was what she was, in every moment of her life – but that doesn’t mean she didn’t know how to relax. Some of my fondest memories of her are of late night conversations over whiskey, my father outclassed on alcohol tolerance and sound asleep upstairs, smoking too many cigarettes and talking about life, the universe and everything.
Of course, the whiskey and the cigarettes were probably a causative factor for the end of her life – but they were also a firm part of a life that was lived, to the full, being her as best and as hard as she could, making people happy and being made happy by those people.
She was brilliant, and she was beautiful, and she was bold, and she was brave. In my mind she still is, because a part of her legacy to me is a desire to change the world for the better, in her name as well as in mine.
She was … she was amazing. I’m so sorry that she’s gone, but in all the people she helped, all the people she taught, all the people she loved her memory will live on in our hearts, and her work will live on in our thoughts and in our actions.
I don’t think she’d ever have settled for anything less.
Goodbye, Sandra Trout. I love you.
— mst, out.