Pauline Williams was loved by all who knew her, because she so easily and so deeply loved others. She was a dedicated mother to myself and my four siblings and a mother figure to countless others. She was a hero who gave everything to everyone and took nothing for herself. My mother was a perfect, and rare, example of a person whose love was strengthened, and never diminished, by being shared with every person she met. Weeks after she moved down to Worthing, she told us she already had over 60 friends. She wasn’t sure of any of their names yet, but that she considered them all friends so quickly was testament to how quick she was to hold people dear.
She knew, cared for and was loved by more people than I think we could ever count, yet she was too humble to ask for anything for herself. She never set out to find fame, fortune or popularity, she merely set out to share and care, and live life fully, and through that simple principle she found genuine and lasting fortune in love. Every person that knew her could not help but feel how special she was, and would never forget her. It is telling that at the time of her death so many people have sent their condolences not as a measure of general sadness, but as notes of personal loss, without fail citing how she had made a lasting impression – even with those she met for the briefest of times. And in every impression the same qualities shone through; of love, of caring and of her spritely, lively nature.
As a mother, she dedicated her life to us, spending decades painstakingly cooking and cleaning and caring for us. She never forgot a birthday, for our entire extended family, and could always be counted on to send care packages to anyone who was not in direct touch. Not just for us, her actual children, but for anyone she had encountered that she felt needed a little extra love. She opened the doors of our home and her heart to any and all; our childhood home was a social hub, and as we reached adulthood, and I was frequently away, I found that whenever I returned someone new was living there. With all the attention that one of her actual children would enjoy. When other children grew frustrated with their families and ran away, for however small or large a slight they perceived in their own homes, in Pauline they found an unquestioningly caring surrogate mother. Like the perfect matriarch of a Dickensian miracle or a Disney fairy tale, she was always there, if anyone should need her.
The examples and details of the way she touched others’ lives are no doubt wider and deeper than I could present here and I myself know only a fraction of what she did in her roles as a devoted wife, an attentive aunt, sister and daughter, a devout Christian, a teacher, a nurse, an active member of various communities and a friend to all. None of us can ever know the full extent of the good she did. They may have often been little things, like an unsolicited letter in the post, but her actions had the greatest power to warm hearts and provide genuine comfort.
Her capacity for compassion and care was only part of what made her so special, though. She was full of life, with a wicked sense of humour and an uncontainable fun side. She disrupted serious classes with her cheeky antics. She turned a family barbecue into a carnival of colour and activity. She was creative for creativity’s sake, writing without readers and working tirelessly on her beautifully conceived garden. She made every holiday an experience, transforming our house into a glittering masterpiece at Christmas and striking terror into our hearts with her cackling witch character at Halloween.
My mother lived every day of her life to the full. She was one of the most active people I know, who found multitudes of ways to keep so busy. From tai chi to tap dance, from choir singing and church activities to reiki and orchid societies, from volunteer work and hosting coffee mornings with friends to calling and writing to everyone she knew. Behind all of which she was running a household, cooking meals, maintaining a glorious garden and looking after herds of pets. A day in her life was so full of variety and so productive that it shames those of us who can happily spend a day in front of a computer.
When she became ill, she did not want to cause a fuss for herself, and struggled with cancer long before any of us realised how serious it was. After her chemo and operation, she was up and about, getting on with her life. Even in her last days, in the hospice, we turned up to find her cheekily wandering around the halls when by all rights she should have been bedridden. She fought long and hard against the illness, so hard that we had time to gather our whole family to be with her at the end. Even in her final week she found the strength to wait for the right moment to pass on, not on the many occasions when we sat with her alone, in sad reflection, but at the one time when we were all finally in the room together. With music playing, and everyone laughing.
To know her was to love her, and her memory will inspire all of us to do better with our lives. Through the widespread and lasting impact of her spirit, I know for certain that, whatever feelings anyone has about the afterlife, my mother will live on. She will be felt, forever, in the love that she gave us all. She will be felt forever in everything that any of us achieves thanks to her support, and that support will never wain for as long as we remember her. Though her body is finally laid to rest, a rest she has long deserved, my mother’s spirit will continue to grow and spread. If every day we try to live a little more as she did, in the strength of her memory, then her love will outlast us all.