Eulogy by Karine Akbar

Eulogy for my mother
Well I would like to apologise in advance for two reasons:-
1) This is the hardest speech I have ever make and I will breakdown so bear with me. 2) These are my recollections of my mother they may differ to yours.
My mother was born in 1936 just before the war in place called New Wortley near Leeds. She started school at 3 years old (she had an absent father he was away at war in Burma and Egypt and her mother worked long hours in the armaments factory) so she spent most of her time with a grandfather who she loved dearly. He taught her many things and developed many qualities in my mother. He used to take her on outings into the woods around Yorkshire where they would collect field mushrooms, medicinal herbs and plants that they could eat. She said that during the war she always had enough to eat due to her grandfather knowledge of the forest. It was during these excursions she developed her love of nature, her resourcefulness, her quiet private nature, her ability to be self- reliant. She was brought up as a single child until her brother Terry came along when she was 12 she had spent much time alone so she was comfortable in her own company. She married my father Les on 26th March, 1955 in St Marys Anglican church in New Wortley when she was 19. She always said he was a handsome man and he was. She liked dark haired men. After he died when she was 48 in tragic circumstances she never married again. She retired at 61 and pursued her hobbies.
My mother was a Yorkshire lass and with this came particular character traits dependable, hardworking, straight to the point never sugar coated things she called a spade a spade (not a metal implement with a wooden handle) when she was young she had a stiff upper lip (she didn’t like to show emotion) and was never the kissy or cuddly mother but always caring, but she mellowed with age, when her grandchildren came along this changed and she smothered them with kisses and cuddles. I remember when we were kids living on the farm we would often have accidents she would get a hankie wipe our knee and “say go play you’ll be right” she never stifled our adventures.
To outsiders my mother would seem a simple woman who liked a simple life but in fact that is far from the truth. She was very complex had many great qualities.
When I was 9 years old I realised my mother had a great inner strength. My mother was 28 we had just arrived in Australia. She had 5 children under 9 and had just spent 6 weeks on a boat to come to Australia where she had been terrified the whole time that one of us would fall overboard as there was only one area of the boat that was netted. When we arrived in Australia we were taken to Villawood hostel which in those days were tin sheds she had left a lovely home in England she was devastated .To add further punishment a few days after arriving later my father got rheumatic fever and was taken off to Prince Henry hospital indefinitely. She knew no one in Australia had no family here no support network, 5 children under 9 she was alone and didn’t know what she was going to do. She would talk to me when my brother and sisters went to bed one night she started to cry, she never cried so I started to cry she turned to me and said don’t worry Karine it will be alright I’ll make sure it is. She always did.
She loved history and had an avid interest in Egyptology. She would often discuss historical events with members of the family and could relate modern and ancient events. She was always seeking more knowledge.
My mother always had a young spirit loved life we never considered her as getting old. She was not just a mother or grandmother she was also a friend. She always had a listening ear and gave you words of wisdom.
She was well read she had 100s of books she instilled this love of reading in all of us and loved the fact that her grandchildren would read and relate stories they had read to her. She said if you can read you are never alone.
My mother was the greatest cook and loved food it was a passion for her. She would always make a feast for Christmas and any other celebrations. Many of her neighbours were recipients of her bakery treats. She often packed me up little lunch and big lunch and my staff at school knew and would laugh and say “oh your mother is spoiling you again”. She always knew which food everyone liked and went out of her way to make the things you LIKED the best. She loved it when her children and grandchildren asked for recipes or came over to learn how to cook them. She always made chocolate roulade as one of her desserts Jessica is the only one that comes close to making it the same. She loved to go around delicatessen, markets and the good food and wine show to see new types of food she would say let’s go and find something tasty. From being young children our parents took us out to restaurants they loved trying new things. My mother made all kinds of cuisines she saw food as an adventure. Maybe she should have been a chef.
She travelled to many places and got joy out of nature. I asked her recently when she was first diagnosed was there a place she would like to go with me to see said no she had seen enough then started telling me about one of the best things she had seen a waterfall in Malaysia some of the family had visited when I was twenty she recalled it with such detail that it came back to me vividly. (Funny I had forgotten it)
She liked movies and television shows especially murder mysteries Waking the Dead, Silent Witness, Mr and Mrs Murder to name a few. She was looking forward to seeing new series of Game of Thrones, she loved trivia shows really was annoyed when letters and numbers was taken off the TV, Liked any archaeology or history nature program, had an amazing general knowledge and ability to recount facts. She loved to discuss movies she had seen and her tastes were not limited.
She disliked sports and infotainment- only liked pastimes that increased her knowledge she was to use an educational cliché “a lifelong learner”
She could never swim or drive but that did not stop her giving you driving tips!

She had great resolve and this helped her deal with the tragedies in her life. Her beloved grandfather died just before her wedding so she was married in grey instead of white as was the tradition back then she regretted this as a result there are no photos of her wedding, she was a widow at 48 and my father had changed the type of policy he had so she had to start her life again. She fought cancer three times- throat, melanoma and finally brain tumours. As well seven years ago she had gangrenous appendix. My mother never had an easy time but always kept happy and optimistic. She was always a survivor never a victim. She never understood giving up and saw it has a great weakness.
She was very intelligent and knowledgeable about many things and what she didn’t know she would find out about it. She had respect for education and got joy when we achieved any form of success.
She was articulate, was a bit of a wordsmith, she had the most beautiful handwriting. She was great at crosswords and solving puzzles.
She was tenaciously Independent and forthright- a friend of mine had moved just around the corner and came over to visit mum she knew my mother could not drive so she said if you ever need a lift Alice up to the shops or anywhere just give me a call I will give you my phone number, my mum refused point-blank saying I can make her own way around. Later she asked me to apologise for her. She was just so independent.
She was the Eternal optimist, even her family doctor Edmund Lai called me after her passing and said to me that my mother was like a breath of fresh air in his office, she always funny made him laugh and she always looked on the bright side and was always optimistic she always was a glass half full type of person.
A quiet achiever she did things quietly she never wanted accolades.
She was funny and witty loved to make other people laugh. She had great repartee. I will relate a few examples
1. When I asked recently where would she like her ashes spread she looked at me with a smile well you know I like going to Fairfield RSL you can spread them there on my favourite machines (she liked when we went to the club). She would tell the workers down at the RSL with a smile on her face that I would nag her all the time so she had no choice but to bring me down to the RSL.
2. Recently we went to see Professor Thompson. He said he thought she was in the clear she turned around to him and said you know I want to live for a long time so if I don’t I will come back and haunt you. I pity Professor Thompson she was always a woman of her word.
3. She was even funny when she wasn’t trying to be, she loved a laugh and sometimes quite irreverent. My mother was relating to a neighbour that she was making a fancy dress costume for my son Michael. It was a bad taste party. He was going as a klu klux clansman. Her neighbour said well aren’t you worried that he is going out in public dressed like that she turned around and said no Hitler is driving him. She then laughed seeing the funny side of side of what she said. She could make fun of herself too. There were thousands of these times it was fun to be with my mum.
She was resourceful and she put her hand to many different things. I’ve seen her milk goats, collect eggs, bake bread, made jams run a worm farm and she was a dab hand at making fancy dress costumes. She made fancy dress costumes for her grandchildren and children. This will embarrass my brother Mark but I remember when he was about 6 he was in a school play. So my mother stayed up late one night and with crepe paper made the most fantastic costume. My brother was the best tree in the whole forest. She made many costumes another that comes to mind was when we were having a spooky party she made Michael a devils costumes and Nicole, Jessica and Natasha were witches they made the best coven. This was a great way for my mother to express her talents.
She loved her family passioately, and was always proud of them and strongly maintained her family unit, she treated us all equally, she was the rock!!
She was always very artistic- when she was young she was offered a scholarship to go to art school she declined it because in those days you had to choose career or family. My mother chose family. But she kept an interest in art; many hours were spent in my mum’s home doing art and craft. And as a result is all of her offspring have artistic talents. the Grandchildren all show artistic flare they can paint, sculpture, make hats, cake decorating, film &video and ornaments they can all start with simple basic ingredients and create something fantastic.
She liked to look good and dress well, she would always ask before leaving the house “do I look ok in this” even if we were just going to the shops. Her hair was always lovely, when she was in hospital she had just been told she had been diagnosed with brain tumours. The nurse said to her Alice you have such lovely hair a beautiful colour not a bit of grey we both laughed and said yes its Nordic blonde a loreal product the nurse laughed and said well I better go and buy some now. Another example of my mother humorous nature even after such horrible news.
I saw my mother in all styles of fashion she loved to look modern. I’ve seen her in dresses, trousers, jeans, skirts, shorts, hooped earrings, afro hairstyles, short hair, long hair, curly hair and even kaftans.
She always had a hint of rebel during the 70 and 80 she was known with my father to use medicinal marijuana but unlike Clinton she inhaled!!
She didn’t like fuss, she didn’t like elaborate celebrations she would often say when a birthday was coming up “let’s just go out for dinner somewhere I don’t want a fuss”. She didn’t like crowds I think that was due to her private nature.
She had many sayings when asked do you want to go out for dinner “well we might as well”
When asked when I was trying to solve a problem what I should do she would say” Karine do what you think is right, bugger them, they can like it or lump it” She had great trust in our judgement. She would often say we all make mistakes; we say and do things at times we shouldn’t that’s normal we are human. No one is perfect.
I asked her recently was there any regrets in her life she said no I’ve had a full life, I’ve loved my family, seen many things it’s been a good life she was always the optimist.
On behalf of my family I would like to thank you all for being here today to celebrate my mother’s life and gain a hint of the person she was, we will all miss her greatly. But on a personal note I would like to say I’m proud to be her daughter and will miss her every day of my life.

By Karine Akbar
27th April,2013

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