I often write about my dad and his journey with dementia. Today I want to introduce my mum – this week’s Hero of the Week in my hastily convened Hero of the Week category.
Mum was conceived out of wedlock in a strict Northern Irish Brethren household. Her parents escaped to Dublin after a quick marriage, and fostered her out to a war widow who had seven other children, a mix of her own and other foster children. As far as she knew that kindly lady was her own mother, she certainly was treated as her child. No one knew in Belfast that mum even existed. It was her parents’ secret. Her father then ran off with another woman, her mum went back to Belfast and mum was left with her foster mum and brothers and sisters – deep poverty and deep happiness – until being kidnapped back by her real family at the age of eight and whisked off back across the Irish border before anyone was the wiser – mum included. She woke up the next morning in a strange bed in a strange city with strangers surrounding her and said loudly “Mummy will be worried about me!” Beside herself with grief more likely.
Mum (right of pic) with her foster sister and foster brother in 2012
There’s a book in that to write one day. But it’s just a prelude to why mum is my hero of the week. Because of that experience – and because of her love for Jesus – mum has always had a heart for the waifs, the strays, the homeless, the stolen people and the asylum seekers. So when she read in the local Fremantle Gazette that there were many homeless people living in the area – and read the story of one young woman who is experiencing homelessness in what is pretty much Perth’s affluent, hipster/Baby Boomer port city -, she knew what to do. Well she knew what was the second best option. If she lived in anything but a retirement shoebox she would have been inviting people in, but the next best option she could manage.
Mum started storing up warm clothes, jumpers, warm tops etc, washing them and making sure they were in one piece. She then packaged up toothbrushes/toothpaste/washers/soap in bags. She filled other bags with energy bars and little food items. Other bags she filled with coins. She then packed a few of these in her shopping bag and went about her weekly chores, catching the bus into Fremantle to do her shopping. All the while she kept an eye out for people who might need some help. You see mum has decided that the best way to help people is not with reactionary guilt when the need shoves itself in our faces, but with proactive grace; always being prepared to be generous whilst still going about daily life. Jesus has been generous to her, time to pay it forward.
Mind you, for all that, it was still a bit confronting for a 70 year old single lady to walk up to a group of people who looked like they were living on the street and offer help on her next outing to Fremantle, but that’s what she did. She simply put on her “grace-glasses” and went about her daily life. When you decide to see what is actually going on around you – the brokenness, the mental illness that sees people fall through the cracks- , then it’s relatively simple to help. The young woman mum first helped was grateful beyond belief. They talked, mum gave her some things, and then went on her way. Later when she re-read the Fremantle Gazette it was the young woman the journalist had spoken to.
Question: When mum comes home from those outings does she put up her feet, shut off the world and thinks only about her own needs? OR when she comes home does she help fed, dress and launder for several of the other residents who are her neighbours in the retirement village, including one lady who is in palliation? Not hard to guess the right answer to that one.
My mum: Hero of the week.