MAGGIE FLANNIGAN: EULOGY
Growing up, Meeting Dad and Starting Work.
Margaret grew up in Staines to two loving parents, Betty and Lindsey Weaver. Within a few years, she became an older sister after the birth of Janet. Family has always been the most important thing to Mum and in that regard, she always felt incredibly lucky. Growing up, she attended Ashford County School where she first met Michael, forming a relationship in the 6th Form. Four years later they were married at St Peters Church in Staines. By then, Maggie had established a career with NatWest. As one of the first female Branch Managers at NatWest, she earned a great deal of respect. She steadily made her way through the ranks and was eventually appointed as Marketing Manager at the Head Office in London.
Supporting Dad’s Cricket Club.
From the very beginning of their relationship, Maggie was a devoted supporter of Mick’s cricket club, Sunbury Village. She almost never missed a match and the couple formed lasting friendships with the wives and girlfriends of other players. Her devotion was remarkable, not least because Mick who opened the batting by the way, only scored one singular hundred throughout his entire career. If any of my Dad’s former teammates are here today, I can only thank you for your devotion and apologise for him leaving you 13-1 on a regular basis. It was a real family in those days, and their annual tours were especially enjoyable.
Becoming a Mother.
While she was often praised for her excellence in finance her greatest skills, by far, were as a Mother. Mum and Dad came very late to parenthood, with the birth of Toby in 1997 and later Lydia in 2001. At a time where others might be looking towards retirement, Mum was buoyed and excited by the opportunity that parenthood bought her. She could not have been prouder of her children, who have both graduated from University. Lydia has worked tirelessly over the past few years to graduate in history from a highly respected Russell Group University, and I… well I went to Kingston. Maggie revelled in the joys of motherhood and was a reliable and tireless rock for the whole family.
Going the Extra Mile
If I am being honest, we could have made life easier. I chose to be a vegetarian at a young age, Lydia ate almost exclusively meat and Dad was quite good at cooking beans on toast, but that’s about it. Mum and Dad were a great team. Dad worked very hard in the office and Mum worked even harder at home. Lydia and I have been incredibly privileged and that is because Mum took every opportunity to go the extra mile for us. I know most of you would feel the same about your Mum – it is a Motherly instinct to go that extra mile, but if that’s the case, then our Mum climbed mountains.
When Lydia and I started school, Mum became Chair of the PTA, a role in which she immersed herself wholeheartedly. This voluntary work continued through the primary school and secondary school years….and beyond. She arranged lots of successful events, from quizzes to fetes to comedy nights and colour runs. Her relentless efforts have raised an extraordinary amount over the years.
The May Fair.
The May Fair at the Primary School was transformed by Mum from a small scale fete to a fantastic extravaganza with the tonnes of modernised stalls/games, a number of branded food stalls, and the local radio station even emanated live from the school itself. Such was the success that a few years ago the latest Chair of the PTA phoned our landline and said “ah, thank you so much for taking the call, you’re “The Maggie” who’s May Fairs we are still trying to get back to to this day.”
Away from her work, annual holidays provide special memories of Mum at rest and play.
Mums Local Friends.
Mum had a thriving and loyal bunch of close friends, known simply as “the girls”. “The girls” comprised of Mothers of friends that Lydia and I had made at school. Rather than being a friendship out of convenience, these “girls” have an extremely close bond. Having such a strong group of friends meant an incredible amount to Mum.
Supporting Toby and Her Other Son Andy.
Mum avidly followed my sporting pursuits. She would whoop and cheer me on at football and, much to my Dad’s chagrin, was more than generous with her financial rewards for every goal I scored. My Dad’s frustrations grew when I transitioned from a defender to a striker. So I guess I should also thank my Footballing mates who have afforded me a very prosperous childhood with their Assists. Her devotion to my sporting activities was admirable, but her devotion to her adopted son’s sporting activities blew everything out the water. She found ways to watch him at every tournament, be it on the BBC, Eurosport or Amazon Prime. I would often get up for the gym in the morning and cross my Mum on the stairs who was “just off to bed” after watching a five-set marathon throughout the night. We are unsure where her love for Andy Murray began… but anyway.
Away from Tennis Mum was an accomplished golfer. In her earlier years she played with Dad in Scotland until they had to stop because she was regularly outperforming him, and more recently she rediscovered her love for the sport, playing with her friend Nicky at Whitley Village. She won several competitions at Whitley Village and if I’m being honest, probably enjoyed the fact that she was referred to as a “youngster” by the other residents. Her and Nicky did more than just play golf at the Village. They attended various events and dinners at the village and built up a really good rapport with those living there.
Why We are Here and Her Diagnosis.
Mum was the most kind, generous and loving person you could ever wish to meet. The fact that we are all here today is such an injustice. It is not possible to discuss Mum’s life without giving some attention to her battle over the last two years. Two years ago Mum was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. It was shocking and unfair, particularly given the fact that Mum was a non-smoker.
The Night of her Diagnosis and What She Said.
Mum was such a determined and positive person that on the night of her diagnoses she walked into the living room and said “This might sound cheesy, but I am not going to let this define me”. Well, I’m pleased to say that she was absolutely right. Over these last two years, her diagnosis did not define her. Instead she reaffirmed her status as the bravest and most positive person I know.
What the Scans Showed.
Soon after her diagnosis, further scans and tests showed that the disease was also present in her liver and brain. Mum really didn’t show any sign of this, which again, is perhaps testament to her attitude that “everyday was a good day”.
The Secret That Mum and I Kept.
I’m going to tell you something that only Mum and I were aware of. A couple of weeks after her diagnosis we sat down with her Oncologist, and she was quite frank. She said you have two and a half years left to live. It was devastating. I remember Mum held my hand and grasped it tightly when she was told the news. I don’t think anything can prepare you to deal with that moment.
Why She Kept it a Secret.
Mum and I have always had such a close bond and are so similar in terms of our outlook on life. We agreed that nothing was going to stop us trying to defy the Doctors words, but more than that, NOBODY was to know about what we had been told in that meeting. Nobody was to live with the burden of that knowledge. Those around Mum were to enjoy the time they had, without thinking about the prognosis given in that meeting. Again, this decision speaks to Mum’s character. She wanted to protect people and never wanted anyone to make a fuss. Putting the needs of those around her above her own was something she did without a moments thought. She was kind, caring, loving and warm. She would have hated it if people knew about her illness and therefore stopped coming to her for help for anything they might need.
Supporting Mum and Setting the Record Straight.
You should all know that while Mum made the decision to keep certain bits of information private, she was not alone. I made sure I was there for her this whole time, never once prioritising anything else above what she needed. Together we made sure Mum’s diet was optimised and that we got out for walks almost everyday to keep her fitness up. Mum really enjoyed going for walks and boy oh boy did we walk far. The reason why I am saying all this is because a lot of you won’t know what she went through over the last few years, and I want to set the record straight. When you hear about her diagnosis, you can’t help but paint your own picture in your mind and I want you all to know that in spite of everything, she really was okay. She was still the amazing woman you all remember right up until the very end.
Ups and Downs Along the Way.
As is the way with peoples cancer journeys, there are always the ups and downs and we experienced both extremes throughout the entirety of the journey. At the end of July we all had the privilege of watching Lydia graduate at St Marys stadium. Mum confided in me soon after that day that when she was diagnosed she looked towards Lydia’s eventual graduation and hoped dearly that she would be able to see that day. Well, I’m glad to say that she made it with all her character and personality in tact. Looking back, that was the last event we did together as a family unaffected by the symptoms of Mums illness. Lydia, Mum was immensely proud of you and enjoyed that day as much as any other.
Unfortunately, things progressed with her illness after this date and at my Masters graduation only a month later, it was a more challenging day. At this point, Mum was diagnosed with Leptomeningeal Disease, a progression of her Cancer into the fluid around her brain and spine. It is immensely challenging to treat, and its symptoms are progressively noticeable. Even with the mounting physical challenges, Mum remained determined to do everything she could to defy her illness, never giving up right until the end. She found it more difficult to walk towards the end as her balance and strength in her left leg began to fail her.
Our Walk Along the River.
I remember distinctly walking along the river with her when she struggled to get back to the car. She was upset and said she felt pathetic. The next day I gave her a card and a letter, the gist of which said that far from being pathetic, she was the bravest and most courageous person I knew, and it didn’t matter if she couldn’t walk as far as she could in the weeks prior. The fact that she was doing as much as she could every single day made me immensely proud.
Revisiting her work on the PTA, Understanding Why She did it Even When I Wanted her to Relax.
I’ll wrap this up shortly, but I wanted to finish by revisiting Mum’s charitable time with the schools and beyond. I felt frustrated over the last two years when Mum would continue to put in so much work for the schools that her children had long since left. I wanted her to relax and enjoy her life without being bogged down by her work. But standing here today, I look back and think “Do you know what? The fact that she still kept up that work right until the end just goes to show you what brought her enjoyment.” Supporting others and seeing their happiness is what brought Mum the most joy.
My Samuel Johnson Quote.
And in this realisation I understood that one of my favourite quotes of all time from a man named Samuel Johnson rang true. He said “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good”. And for Mum it didn’t matter who you were or where you came from. You were always treated with kindness, compassion and respect.
There are so many hundreds, if not thousands of children that felt the positive influence of Mum during her time with the schools – a true testament to her character.
Quote by Maya Angelou.
Dr. Maya Angelou once said “They will forget what you said… They will forget what you did……. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” So much of Mum’s work was done out of sight and while so many children at the schools growing up didn’t know who she was, or exactly what she did, they will look back at their childhood with fond memories because of the opportunities and overall enhancements that Mum’s work was able to facilitate.
The advice I Would Give Based on the Experience I Have Had.
Now who am I to give any of you a piece of advice, but if you’ll indulge me for just another minute, there’s one thing that I’ve learned more than anything else on this journey. I want you to think in your head about those you love most. Think about them… cherish them, but know that love goes two ways and the way you feel about them is the way they feel about you. I wouldn’t be the person I am, or have been able to support Mum in the way I have if she didn’t give me the energy to do so by being so positive and determined and brave and willing to make whatever positive health choices she needed to in order to fight for as long as she could. The choices she made, and courage she showed have had such an impact on me and will shape the way I live my life moving forward. She was and is a hero. With this in mind, my advice would be to think about your loved ones as you live the rest of your life. Think about how much you mean to them. Make good choices, be healthy, try to have a positive impact. Even if we struggle to appreciate it at times, know that you all hold so much value in your own ways. Life is so rare and so precious. Never take it for granted.
If you would like to listen to some music for reflection after reading this, Life – Ludovico Einaudi was chosen by me. The “Exit Music” chosen was Simply the Best – Tina Turner partly because it was one of her favourite songs, but there is more to it than that. In Mum’s last weeks she turned to my Dad and asked “Have I been a good friend?”
“Simply the Best” he replied.