Eunice Audrey Jay(my Mother), Circa 1943
I originally posted this for Remembrance Day in 2012 and again, edited with greater detail, in 2013 but I wanted to re-post it today, for Mother's Day. I apologize to those who have already read this piece. The older I get, the more I think of the lives of my parents and the more I gain insight into why they were the way they were and why they did the things they did.
One thing I remember so vividly, is my mother walking briskly through the streets of London one night with my brother, Philip, on one side of her and me on the other, an arm around each of us. She was reminiscing about her time during the war, when everything happened in a moment - life, death, love - and she sang us the songs of the day and we joined in for it was rare to see her this happy. It was as though we were given the opportunity to step back in time with her to gain an understanding of the passion she had for life, love and her country in that time and how every hour was savoured as it could very well have been one's last.
This is one of the lessons I have carried throughout my life, thanks to my mom. I am passionate. It serves me both well and ill - I am all sunny days and raging storms. There is little middle ground in my nature. I have little patience for mediocrity and I am still learning patience and kindness everyday. I learned many things from my mother, some of which I have spent a lifetime unlearning and some are integrated in every fibre of who I am, leaving me glowing with cellular pride.
Richard, known to his family as Dick, and my mother were in love. My mom was in the ATS at Biggin Hill fighter station and he was posted at Predannack Airfield flying Typhoons. They lived fast and true to their hearts. There was no time to waste by not feeling, blocking and worrying if it was right. Life was tenuous - up for the lottery at every moment as airplanes fell from the sky, bombs fell from the sky and buildings crumbled around people daily. The world was at war and nothing was forever. There was only the moment in which the truth existed.
Richard was shot down over France on January 31st, 1944. He was killed. His grave is in the Guidel Communal Cemetery in the Bretagne region of France. I have hopes of visiting there next year on behalf of my mother and to express my appreciation to him as an officer who gave his life for freedom from oppression.
In 1948, my mother married my father. They had four kids, moved to Canada from England twice, started their own business and divorced in 1975. My mother continued to work to support the two children she still had at home. She created a new career for herself and kept my brother and I in school, in good clothes, with enough food to eat and the occasional vacation and special treat. She did well by us although she was sad - she had lost a part of herself in the process of all this.
At 58 years old, she died of ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), robbed of her retirement and her chance to go to Europe and explore the arts of the countries she had spoken of so passionately over the years. I am sure she would have travelled to Guidel to see the resting place of her true love while there.
Her wish was to have her ashes taken to Peachy's tomb at St Mary's, Harrow on the Hill, to be spread in the place where she remembered her passion, her love and her truth. This was done in 1983 when I was 21 years old. I hope that my mum and Richard's molecules are dancing together still.
Live, love, be brave.
-Gillian Cornwall - c.May 11,2014.
The Tear by Lord Byron
When Friendship or Love our sympathies move,
When Truth, in a glance, should appear,
The lips may beguile with a dimple or smile,
But the test of affection's a Tear:
Too oft is a smile but the hypocrite's wile,
To mask detestation, or fear;
Give me the soft sigh, whilst the soultelling eye
Is dimm'd, for a time, with a Tear:
Mild Charity's glow, to us mortals below,
Shows the soul from barbarity clear;
Compassion will melt, where this virtue is felt,
And its dew is diffused in a Tear:
The man, doom'd to sail with the blast of the gale,
Through billows Atlantic to steer,
As he bends o'er the wave which may soon be his grave,
The green sparkles bright with a Tear;
The Soldier braves death for a fanciful wreath
In Glory's romantic career;
But he raises the foe when in battle laid low,
And bathes every wound with a Tear.
If, with high-bounding pride he return to his bride!
Renouncing the gore-crimson'd spear;
All his toils are repaid when, embracing the maid,
From her eyelid he kisses the Tear.
Sweet scene of my youth! seat of Friendship and Truth,
Where Love chas'd each fast-fleeting year
Loth to leave thee, I mourn'd, for a last look I turn'd,
But thy spire was scarce seen through a Tear:
Though my vows I can pour, to my Mary no more,
My Mary, to Love once so dear,
In the shade of her bow'r I remember the hour,
She rewarded those vows with a Tear.
By another possest, may she live ever blest!
Her name still my heart must revere:
With a sigh I resign what I once thought was mine,
And forgive her deceit with a Tear.
Ye friends of my heart, ere from you I depart,
This hope to my breast is most near:
If again we shall meet in this rural retreat,
May we meet, as we part, with a Tear.
When my soul wings her flight to the regions of night,
And my corse shall recline on its bier;
As ye pass by the tomb where my ashes consume,
Oh! moisten their dust with a Tear.
May no marble bestow the splendour of woe
Which the children of vanity rear;
No fiction of fame shall blazon my name.
All I ask – all I wish – is a Tear.
October 26 1806