Monica Ruth Briscoe

We might think Monica has been cheated. She cared for others throughout her life - us children, supporting her mother-in-law, Norah, then Vera Green, the family housekeeper, whom she visited religiously in Mills Meadows, Aunt Ruth then Paul. As each person she cared for left us, I think she was looking forward to having some freedom. Then, even before Paul's funeral, she was struck down herself.

But let's not mope and morne. She had a wonderful life. She made duty into an art form. She enjoyed nothing more than to have completed all her duties. Her fulfilment was through engineering the joy and achievement of all her loved ones.

What a lovely start to life she had! She was born at Sandpit Farm in Bruisyard in 1930, to Jack Larter & Margaret---originally an Edwards. She was a real country girl, playing in the streams and ditches, rearing rabbits, chickens, ducks; cycling into school in Framlingham with her friends and sister. She kept a diary every day of her life, full of lovely snippets and details. Supplemented later by meticulously arranged photo albums.

In the middle of the War, in 1943, the family moved to Home Farm in Parham; still with pigs, sheep, cattle in the yards around her. Still with all the relatives nearby. Still the farmer's daughter.

But she was obviously bright and organised too. She became Head Girl at Mills Grammar. She went into teacher training; at Homerton College, Cambridge. With her gang of friends, she lived the Cambridge student life to the full. But, I've been told she dreaded the thought of facing a class of children; and apparently her mother Margaret suffered the same anxiety during teacher training.

Her first teaching job was in Lowestoft, but she was relieved when a job came up with a much smaller class of little ones at Campsea Ashe; she and Mrs Chapman, the head mistress, were the only staff. This was also a wonderfully happy time in her life. Amateur dramatics in FADS, tennis & hockey club; and she was honorary secretary of Fram Young Farmers Club too.

She met Paul at a Fram Conservative Club dance, and they were married in Parham Church, on the 28th of July 1956. To save you doing the maths, this year they celebrated their 54th anniversary.

She chose not to return to teaching. Instead, she took up her career as the archetypal matriarch---a profession she has honed to perfection over those 54 years. She became the uber-manager of her growing family, the most reliable worrier we've ever had. Her life-long friend Shiela just told me that Monica never missed sending a card since first befriending her at Mills Grammar 69 birthdays ago.

She was a natural mother and housekeeper, but she always read the manual first. When we were babies, she always referred to Dr Spock, in fact right through to our teens she would refer back to that book.

She gave us a wonderful wholesome life as children. Home cooking. Playing out in the Essex countryside. Bath every night. A prayer by the bed too---she quietly continued this devotion throughout her life. Visiting her father at Home Farm where we now live, every second weekend and every holiday. Visits to keep up with all our relatives. I remember her Suffolk accent came back whenever she phoned her father. And, of course, her calls were reliably regular. She was doing the right thing as the teacher's wife but also still the farmer's daughter.

Monica never did anything naughty or wrong, at least not as far as I can know. She devoted herself to her family, and bringing us up good, and proper. Of course, I was ungrateful for her motherly attention as a teenager. But I'm happy she now knows that I recognise it was love---wanting the best for me.

But I mustn't say 'for me'. I must say 'for us'. Because Mum would have it no other way. Everything had to be shared in equal measure between me and Kate. Every gift was recorded, for each cousin, god-daughter, niece or whoever. And a gift of equal value would have to be found for every other cousin, god-child, niece or nephew.

The gift list was just one of the lists she kept. Monica had a list for every occasion. She had lists of what visitors didn't like to eat. Lists of how much of different foods had been left over after a party. She had lists of things to worry about. She had lists of lists.

This year has been harsh. It was only just before New Year that she learned that Paul's cancer had jumped to the bone and he had but a few months---just after she herself was told she needed major heart surgery (which passed off very successfully in February). Everyone has been praising us for looking after Mum at home, but we forget that she was looking after Paul for longer---yes, with the help of Alfred, Barbara, Angela and others. But don't forget she was 80 and herself convalescing.

Having said that, Mum never really experienced hardship. So I don't know why she packed the glove racks, and every pocket of the car and her jacket with energy bars and other emergency rations, even though the journey was only from Mill Place into Framlingham. I suppose you never know what might happen while you're out. Perhaps it was because, like Paul, she was brought up by one parent, and cared for by Nannies. When Monica was two, her mother went into St Audrey's and she only saw her very occasionally. It stayed that way until Margaret's death when Monica was eighteen.

So in these last few months, it has been fitting that Monica has received all the attention we have been able to muster. And it's been lovely to rekindle old friendships with all those who have visited her. I want to thank everyone for the warm wishes, cards and thoughts. And especially the amazing carers who have lovingly looked after Monica. And special thanks to Lyn for deciding to look after Mum at home, and following through unremittingly for the last 3 months. And a huge thank you to our extended family and friends who stepped in to back her up.

Bob Briscoe,
November 2010