DRIGGS, IDAHO – It’s the dead of winter. I am in London, next to the River Thames.
Damp, cold air rises up from the slow, lead-colored waters and wraps us in a freezing, misty blanket. It is so cold and damp, my nose stings. I keep my hands shoved in my pockets.
“It’s colder here than Driggs,” I think.
I walk up the gravel driveway. People, dressed in black and wearing masks, cluster in little groups at the entrance to the chapel.
Somewhere, a church bell tolls…
My mother – Teddy Dyson – died on Christmas Eve from Parkinson’s Disease, age 70.
Death came so fast I wasn’t able to get to London in time. I watched her take her last breath on a FaceTime video call from our cabin in Driggs. A few hours later, I set out for the airport…
In London, my brother Jo and I organized the funeral. The U.K. is in a Tier 4 lockdown. We made the arrangements while under quarantine at Mum’s house. We had the funeral on Monday.
In accordance with the regulations, we didn’t hug. We didn’t sing the hymns. And we stood 6 feet apart from each other.
We were allowed to invite 30 people. In spite of the virus, all 30 came. (Mum’s dog came, too.)
It was a nice service. Mum even had a pink coffin. She would have loved that.
I’m writing to you now from our cabin in the mountains. I got home yesterday after a COVID-19 test, three flights, and 23 hours of travel. Here is the eulogy I gave…
Eulogy for My Mother
Thank you all for coming to say goodbye to my mother, Teddy Dyson.
It’s great to see that Mum can still draw a crowd, even in a Tier 4 lockdown. She was a very special person.
Also, greetings to those joining us by video link, including Mum’s two sisters who live in France and Italy.
I’m Tom, Teddy’s oldest son.
There’s an old saying that goes, “There is no teaching. There is only learning.”
I think about this, as a parent. It reminds me that we have far less control over how our children will turn out than we think.
And really, the best parenting strategy is not discipline or coercion, but to just be good role models for our children… to lead by example, so to speak…
In her life, Mum was a role model for Jo and me. And her death has already left a massive hole inside us.
But let’s not dwell on the past, for at this moment, it’s too sad.
Instead let’s quickly look to the future and ponder the ways – in death – that Mum will continue being a role model for us… and perhaps even you, too.
It’s three things.
The first is how bravely she fought Parkinson’s. That horrible disease stripped her down bit by bit over seven years… and eventually took her away.
She never complained. Not once. She actually saw the humor in it, if you can believe that.
For example, she had a name for the tube that came out of her stomach. She called it “Charlie.” And she called her dyskinesia “hula hooping.” And she was so proud that she’d crashed her motorized scooter into Budgens on the first day she had it.
She was such a good sport in the face of such an uphill battle, and I’ll continue looking up to her for that for as long as I live.
The second was her work ethic. I’ve never known anyone work as hard as my mother worked when she was a London Blue Badge guide.
We have received many letters and emails from former workmates expressing how much they loved working with Teddy:
“She was a brilliant guide,” says one.
“I’ll always picture her in her red Burberry raincoat. Always glamorous! A classy lady. Big loss to our industry,” says another.
And a third says: “She was a true professional, full of knowledge, humor and honesty and always perfectly turned out.”
And another: “It was never boring working with Teddy. Who could forget the red and white hanky always with a knot in it to remind her to do something?”
And finally, the third way Mum will keep being our role model is because she was such a good egg and so much fun to be around…
She would pick me up from college in her blue Peugeot sports coupe. I’d put my trunk in the back and then we’d drive back to London at 120.
Or at the West End musicals she took us to, she’d always be the first one to yell, “Encore!” when the curtain went down. I’d be mortified. But she did it with such aplomb, they came out and did the encore every time.
Or renting a massive American stretch limousine for my 21st birthday – a white one – that was so long, it couldn’t turn the corner at the bottom of our street.
She loved Wimbledon, and Cheltenham, and Lords, and The Six Nations.
Even recently, she bought a share in a racehorse and watched it win its first race on the television with a large bet on at William Hill.
She did a skydive in New Zealand.
She loved massive parties in fancy venues and even organized one fairly recently for all her Oxford mates, at the Roof Garden in Kensington, which, of course, was a massive success.
And of course, she had her five great indulgences:
Booze, Marlboros, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, lots and lots of Irish butter, and, of course, Neil Diamond.
Mum adored her friends. Many people here can say they’ve been friends with Teddy for over 50 years or that they worked with her 30 years ago.
Mum also has five goddaughters, whom she adored and has proudly displayed their pictures in the sitting room for as long as I can remember.
Finally, she loved her sisters, her boys and their families, and her lovely dog, Tessa, unconditionally and always with so much tenderness.
Mum, I’m so proud of you.
I’m really going to miss you.
Now, I’d like to read a verse from the Book of Common Prayer:
Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear sister here departed, we therefore commit her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Tom Dyson
P.S. This is Tessa, Mum’s beloved black Labrador, lying in the same spot she’s lain in for the last 10 years… at Mum’s feet. She’s heartbroken…
Mum’s beloved black Lab, Tessa
P.P.S. The U.K. is in full lockdown. Today the government authorized the police to fine anyone who goes outside without a good reason or breaks mask rules…
Full lockdown in the U.K.
Today, readers send their condolences to Tom…
Reader comment: Dear Tom, I am very sorry to hear of your Mom’s passing. Losing a mother is never easy but it does connect us to our shared humanity. It is through this connection that I offer prayers for your mother to ease her passing and for you and your family to ease your grief. Wishing you well.
Reader comment: Dear Tom, I have been reading your Postcards daily for the past two years and have enjoyed armchair traveling with you and your family. There is nothing more important than family. Kudos to you to have seen the light through your world travels with them.
I am so very sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. My husband is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and our family knows how debilitating it can be. My thoughts are with you in this trying time. God bless you all.
Reader comment: Hi Tom and family. I am very sorry to hear of your mother’s passing. Please accept my condolences. I lost my mother 15 years ago and my father 18 months ago. People say that time heals. I do not believe this. Time is an ageing process only.
As always, please keep sending your thoughts and questions to [email protected].