March 2009, Bundoora, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
My mother passed away in 2009, one day prior to the beginning of a 4 week run I had to do at the Melbourne Comedy Festival with the trio, The Shambles. The festival show became pivitol for my grieving process during that time, but this was the hardest performance of them all (coming one week into the show run)
Thank you all for coming. In case we haven’t met, and there seems to be quite a lot of you out there – I am one of Maureen’s two sons. My name is Sean, or as Mum more often liked to refer to me as “get your haircut”.
In the last few days, I’ve quickly come to realise that the task of compiling a eulogy is near impossible. Aside from having to avoid sappiness or crying in front of a large crowd – the hardest task seems to have been trying to encapsulate, and do justice, to an entire life in the space of a few short minutes. Not simply to let you know what Mum did – but who she was.
The thing is, there is nothing I can say today that will ever give a complete picture of who Maureen Lynch (or Scully) was. I can only give you the insight into the woman I knew, the moments she shared and experienced with me. Hopefully, you can take that and mesh it with your own thoughts – along with the memories of those people you may chat to today, to give you something close to the complete picture. A constantly evolving puzzle for you to solve. So forgive me if I miss anything, or neglect to mention the things that made Mum unique to you – but I guess that’s the point, that she was part of your life in her own way – and hopefully, those are the things that will stick with you the most.
In looking back and thinking about Mums life, it’s really bizarre that it isn’t the major achievements that jump out at you - no matter how many events or moments that, on paper, may have defined her life – for some strange reason, it’s the seemingly insignificant ones, the ones at the time you may have ignored, which now seem the most important to grasp onto. Things like her religious obsession with watching Parkinson, (followed by Quincy and Diagnosis Murder), her outrageously dangerous driving skills, the love of one very specific Dame Edna facial expression, her freakish and almost stalker like knowledge about the lives of the members of Il Divo (and bear in mind, this is a fully grown woman who in the final months would fall asleep at the drop of a hat – but as soon as you threw on that II Divo dvd shot up like she’d just had 8 Red Bulls and a No Doze). Of course, we can’t forget Mum’s ability to predict the winner of every horse race AFTER it had finished “I was going to pick 3 6 and 8 and I would have won the trifecata”, or her complete inability to do any impressions whatsoever – each voice just seeming to merge into one strange American / upper class British sounding hybrid language...
I’ll remember the way Mum not only loved a good phone conversation- she loved a long one too. Now I’m sure many of you have experienced one of these at one time or another. And if you were one of those people on the other end of the line, you’ll have to fill me in later on what they were actually about. Because all I can remember is being woken up countless mornings to the sound of Mum on the phone, in what I can only assume is some kind of “mums language” that kids have yet to decode. “yeah, yeah... oh yeah... no, no... yeah, wha--- no... nrrgg, yeaaah”. And when it came to phone conversations, it seems Mum had no concept of audio range either – something she picked up from her own mother. If you didn’t hang up the phone without being deaf in one ear or early onset tinnitus at the end of the call – then you probably weren’t trying hard enough to keep the conversation going. In fact, there is a part of me that wonders that in the years to come, when I hear Mum’s voice in my head – I’ll wonder if it is just a fading memory, or is it simply Mum, thousands of light years away, talking on the phone in heaven.
Just little things like that - even something as simple as jokingly ballroom dancing together in the kitchen waiting for the potatoes to boil. In a way, I think that it was these seemingly insignificant moments which meant the most to Mum as well. In the last few months, me and Mum (or Mum and I, in case Grandpa wants to correct me) would take little day trips here and there. She really loved going to places with water or a stream – our most recent trip was up to a little bakery in Warrandyte which was right next to the river – why there? because “it’s just relaxing isn’t it”. She said that it always reminded her of the trips to the beach with her aunties as a kid, or simply the times of being walked up the St Kilda peer to get an icecream as a child – which, Aunty Joan, you’ll be glad to know, she often mentioned and always made a point of stressing just how much she really really adored those times. In a way, that's why the storybook of Mum’s life worked out as well as it could have under the circumstances – just a few weeks before she passed away, being able to watch her first born son celebrating his wedding, where else, but on the beach side. “It’s just relaxing isn’t it”.
Mum never really had any vices (aside from sneaking handfuls of chips into her mouth while standing at the cupboard when she thought no one was looking) - she was never a big drinker, she never smoked, and she didn’t part-take in the sort of idiotic activities most people of our age seem to do these days - which is why it was such an odd thing for her to be stricken with a disease that is often caused by those sort of selfish actions. But occasionally she did let loose during Mum and Dad’s monthly dinners with her friends the Joneses and the Johnstons. The general indication that she was onto her second glass of wine for the evening was when that infectious cackle of mums came bursting out of the Joneses dining room amidst a fiercely intense game of Trivial Pursuit. And when you heard that laugh mixed with Chris Jones belting out a “yo hoo hoo you beaaa-utyyyy” – all of us Lynch and Jones kids playing in the room down the hall knew it was nearly time to head home...
I think the reason Mum was so well mannered, always so polite – because if she didn’t like you, there was generally a pretty good reason - was that she grew up in a very old fashioned household in north Fitzroy with her dad, Jack, and mother, Edna – as well as her brother Kevin. But as a kid, Mum was as cheeky as a young girl could be growing up in a fairly religious and somewhat “by-the-book” household. She worked as a barmaid at her uncle’s bar when she was old enough to start saving for her first car – but she would often tell me that even before that, she remembered sitting outside of where the kegs would get changed as a little girl with her friend to smell the beer – just because they liked the smell of the hops – but as soon as they’d hear someone coming they would run away to avoid getting caught.
And Dad, I don’t want to be the one to break this to you – but it seems you weren’t Mum’s only love... there was a young man by the name of Peter Parasopolis who Mum secretly loved - Sure, she was 12 at the time, but first crushes count. In fact, she was so crafty (with her parents not allowing her to go to school dances) that she said her and her school friends would often just go to church just so she could have that 30 minutes after mass for that slight chance to speak to the boys, which she said she never really had the courage to do anyway.
But, for me, it is all of those little imperfections that made Mum so perfect and loveable – because those are the things that made her human, made her a real person, that made her more than just some details on a death certificate.
Mum was the blondest brunette I’ve ever known. Constantly requesting we “stop flicking and put Blue Heelers back on” no matter what day of the week it was, or even if the show was still in production. In fact, I don’t think she ever quite figured out the TV – it was only a few weeks ago that she finally discovered you could listen to a CD on a DVD player “even if you can’t see it?... ooh thats good isn’t it”.
And if death is considered “the big sleep”, heaven help those who are sleeping on the clouds next to mum because that woman snored so loudly that she could, ironically, wake the dead. It’s one of the many amazing DNA traits Mum passed onto me. She gave my brother Matt the ability to be ridiculously and neatly organised, she gave my sister Fi the good sense to embrace the love of her friends, she gave my little sis Kat the skill and god given ability to teach future generations of our children – she gave me sinus problems... thanks Mum!
When you are a child you can’t spend enough time with your parents, then when you hit 13 – 21 you can’t wait to get out of their sight quick enough – but around the twenty two mark I was lucky enough to start to get to know Mum better, as an actual person, as a friend and not just a mum. It’s something everyone should attempt to do with any of their family members when they feel ready, and I’m glad I got the chance to see and know her as something more than just “mum”. I asked her once, a year or so after her diagnosis when we started going for walks, if there was anything she’d like to do with the rest of her life. Sky dive, travel, eating the world’s largest apple slice – and she said it quite matter of factly “I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ve raised my kids, I’ve seen them grow”. And that’s what she was like – it was never about her. In fact, you could never quite get a straight answer from her. “Mum, what do you want to do?” “Mum, what do you want to watch?” “Mum, what would you like to eat?” Her immediate response would be, “we can watch that if you want”, “we can get that if you want”, “we can do that it you want”. It was an amazing ability to always put someone else at ease – even sitting through endless episodes of Dad’s woefully terrible and dated TV shows, just to allow people to feel comfortable and not put out, and never complaining if no one ever returned the favour by sitting through an episode of City Homicide with her. Even on the last day at home, within the last 30 minutes of speaking with her, for what would be the last time she would ever be in her home again, as she sat in bed – I asked her, “what channel would you like me to put it on?” and she said “if you want to watch that, you can just leave it on that”. And I said to her, “are you ever going to say what you want to do – just once?”. And she just smiled and giggled.
Part of me thinks that’s what she wanted all along – to ensure everyone else felt special, to make sure everyone else felt comfortable, to make everyone else feel just that little bit spoiled. It’s a kind of devotion that I still can’t fathom, and can only hope to emulate. It’s a devotion that carried on into her Teaching , which was another big piece of Mum’s life. And quite honestly, she would be glad and touched to see so many familiar faces who have passed through St. Damian’s over the years here today. Or as her past students might know her better as - “Mrs Lunch” . And it couldn’t have been an easy task having to be a teacher at the same school where she was also a mother. She mentioned there were several occasions where staff challenged her attendance at after-school meetings because “she’s just a parent”. To which she said she would respond and say “I am a teacher and have as much right to be heard as anyone else” – although she regretted that she didn’t stand up for herself in those situations as often as she should have. But she would come home fuming about how annoying “those grade 5 terrors” were, but she always went back. Even in the last few months, she renewed her teaching registration – knowing full well she would never enter a classroom again – and I asked her why. She simply said “because if I don’t renew it, then it’s gone, I’m not a teacher any more”. I never understood how important that sense of identity that the title gave her until that moment, how much the job gave back to her along with what she gave to it.
It was around the time of Nana getting sick that things changed. It all happened so quickly. Nana was diagnosed and died within the space of a month, and shortly after mum was told of her own terminal illness. Throw in a couple of seizures and a brain tumour, chemo therapy and radio therapy and some dodgy legs – and you’ve got yourself a prime candidate for Domestic Blitz or at the very least, Oprah’s Big Give. But that’s not as I will remember her. To me, she will always be the polite one of the family (unlike the mumbling men in our house). The one that always ensured the house was spotless when the mere mention of a potential guest was uttered. And any time someone who wasn’t an immediate family member turned up, she would race to them like a puppy with a new toy.
The warmth that exploded from her was just phenomenal. In a way, I think my gal Jac, Kat's lad Ryan and Matt’s new wife Jane were some of the best things that ever happened to her as they always were able to match her energy and enthusiasm for conversation. She drove us to school and packed our lunches every single day, she would even walk the 30 minutes to this very school when we didn’t have the car. She stayed up until midnight to help finish our projects, the first to give you the right advice when you needed it, she had an intricate almost Gordon Gecko level knowledge of bank interest rates, she was the first to sit with you when you were scared, dinner at 6pm every night, the last to bed first to rise. She was the first to the scene when the sound of one of the Lynch clan needed to use “the infamous spew bucket” (because Dad “doesn’t do vomit”). However, the most bizarre thing about Mum was that until she showed the first signs of her terminal illness, in the 20 odd years I had lived up to that point - I don’t think I ever saw her with a cold, or the flu, or even slightly run down, despite picking up every snotty tissue and being by the side of every possible ill child to reside in the Lynch household. And while Dad may have steered clear of vomit duties – I really do need to mention that the phrase “in sickness and in health, till death do us part” never applied to anyone more than it did to Dad and Mum over the last three years in particular. They might have had different personalities, but he saw and experienced things no one should ever have to – but he did it, and his devotion was unparalleled and I know Mum was fully aware of it.
The reason we outlive the ones we love is so we know how important they were to us. Nothing will ever replace what Dad, Matt, Fiona, myself and Kathryn have lost this week – absolutely nothing. Knowing that our children will never get to know her is a travesty. So Mum, today we say farewell. And in the words of Parky : “thanks for joining us, it’s been wonderful having you here, hope to see you again - and on behalf of everyone here have a very good night... good night”.