This phrase, which we often use to describe our dog, and possibly comes from a film I can’t recall, came to me as I stretched out with our injured dog early this morning. Among the ups and downs of “rescuing” this dog, one constant has been his devotion to the family. This current rough patch of lumpectomy, a torn knee ligament, and the restriction of activity of a large and busy Lab has all been mixed up with the backdrop of the larger loss of my mother-in-law in England. It’s been hard to compose a fitting tribute to her.
But actually, ‘Devoted to the family’ would fit Mum, as she was known to me. Like others in her generation, she’d already lived a somewhat momentous life before her own family came to be. As a young girl she’d dreamed of attending Oxford, but the War that she survived interfered. Thankfully the bombs dropped on Birmingham didn’t reach her, and she emerged to go on into teaching, taking her love of literature, music, poetry, and no doubt dogs and horses with her. She met my father-in-law when he returned to England from the fighting in North Africa. I’m told on their first date, he fell off a horse and, most definitely, for her. They were married six months later, on the very same day that my parents, in Kentucky, became engaged. An ocean apart, two marriages began. In time, with the ocean crossed, their respective children would marry.
Mum’s jobs included mother at home, infant school teacher, and Head of a large Infant School. We see her no-nonsense approach in our daughters: Mum could walk into a gym of 600 children and lead them in an assembly by herself to give her staff a break. For her retirement party, she asked for two kittens, happily supplied by one of her elementary schoolgirls. She and Dad were very interested in our life in America, and made a trip to each place we lived. They saved. They took two English holidays a year to walk the dog in the dales. She produced magnificent meals every day of each trip we took to see them. Many evenings were spent gathered around the fire, hearing the old stories with a mug of warm cocoa, or planning our adventures to the lovely towns of Devon and Somerset.
Devoted to the family and yet a very private person, Mum has gone to rest after long years. This short and pale reflection only begins to consider what she loved. Even though her memory faded, the words of the 1928 Prayer Book did not, and I pray that now she may see life again in all its fullness, and her True Devotion.