I’m not speaking today at mum’s funeral. There will be enough voices. But I know she would want a poem. It was her perpetual request from me every birthday, mothers day and Christmas. I don’t want to let her down. So here it is mum, the poem for your celebration. Forgive me if I do not read it aloud.
Looking for stones for Mum
‘Mum, I’ve found Amber’
I run towards her
feet catching in the shifting pebbles,
my hand outstretched,
Proffering the stone
My mum holds it to the light
Its shiny, fire-glowing, translucent
I wait breathlessly
‘No its a cornelian’ she says .
‘But it’s lovely’
And she hands it back to me.
Amber she would have kept.
She loved Amber but
As I learnt from her.
On the beach it lies dull and scratched
Invisible amongst the flint .
It only reveals its honey heart when polished.
So instead we had to buy her Amber.
So much Amber over the years: necklaces, rings, broaches, pendants, earrings .
Now they lie silent in my jewellery cabinet miles from this sea.
Other days, especially when our house overflowed
With friends and family
We looked for ‘painting stones’
The perfect ones were flat, oval, dove grey and smooth
An easy canvas
But mum liked the imperfect ones too
The bumps and uneven edges seemed to hold
Their picture within in them
A bird stretching its wings wide in flight
A boat, sails full, scudding across the waves
Some the sea had swept and carved itself
Into tiny animal sculptures needing
Only vision to transform
Time with pencil scratching , paint brush dipping and laughter
Bodies crammed around the wooden table
Bringing , boats, beach huts and magical animals
Mine primitive in large brushstrokes of blues reds and yellows
Mum’s precise in pencil and water colour.
But equally Treasured
Displayed In baskets and on mantlepieces
Over the years we spent so much time
Head down scanning the shoreline side by side
Not noticing how far we have left the others behind
Not talking, in quiet untouching companionship
Sometimes we looked for Amber,
Sometimes for painting stones
But always we looked for stones with holes in.
I could not say why
having a gap, a missing piece
made them more valuable
So many discarded when you
Hold the stone to the light
Only to see the hole goes just part way through
Perhaps its that you can peep through them
And frame the sea and sky
Or that you can thread them
Over the years mum made
a long heavy beaded rope of stones
I have one looped through my keyring
But most of all we looked for them because
Mum said holey stones were lucky
My brother who got no grave, nor gravestone
Got a tree and massive holey stone sculpture
Perhaps the magic is in their meaning
In the memories they hold
All I know is that I hate to leave the beach without one
That final Sunday, before she died,
though I could see the hourglass almost empty
And did not want to miss, even one grain of sand
I extended our brief trip to the beach until one was found.
My kids and husband even joined me in the obsessive hunt
Eventually, almost simultaneously, we all find one
We rush the car back home to bring them to mum
Her eyesight almost gone, nearly voiceless, barely moving
She is now more hole than stone
‘Mum’ I say lifting her hand to touch the stone.
‘We brought you holey stones’
I press her finger into the gap
‘Lovely’ she sighs, almost as quiet as the wind.
The next day she was gone.
My dad says he can not feel her in the house
But walking the beach, head down
Under a slate grey sky,
The granite sea glinting with white
the waves slapping rhythmically again the beach
the breeze tasting of salt and ozone
Looking for stones
I feel her presence
and her absence
Bound together like a holely stone