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Issue No. 49 [Back Issues]
21st June 2005

This Week - [Schools' Carnival - Linton Festival] [Bishopswood Flower Show - JKHS Summer Ball - Y-Zone]
[Lea Primary School - Real Nappies - Topical Photography - Nature Watch] [A Tribute to Mum, Norma Evelyn Wood]

Norma Evelyn Wood
10th November 1933 to 13th June 2005

This page is a photographic tribute to my dear mother, Norma Evelyn Wood, nee Pocklington, who passed away peacefully in Oldchurch Hospital, Romford, Essex on Monday, 13th June 2005. Born into a very poor family, mum was a remarkable lady who always put others first, even as a child. Her father, a director of Phillips Electronics, walked out during her early childhood, leaving the family penniless and struggling to survive (something I always remember when purchasing electrical goods). During her school days, Mum used to give her brother, John a piggy back to school because his shoes were too small and hurt his feet. This same 'caring about others' attitude remained with her throughout her whole life.

My first memories of mum began three years after the photograph below, in which she is showing me my reflection in the mirror. I obviously cannot remember this photograph being taken but I can remember sitting on her lap in the living room of number 6, Park Avenue, Barking, Essex three years later while she taught me to read, and I can particularly remember struggling with the letter 'e'. Mum taught me to read before I went to school, a little before my fifth birthday; something which stunned the headmistress, Mrs. Biddis.

Although, in my living memory, Mum did not attend church on a regular basis, as a child and young lady, she was a member of the Salvation Army and had a profound Christian faith. Mum was one of those truly genuine people who did it rather than just talk about it! Something personal which happened at the exact moment of her passing brought home to me just how strong her beliefs actually were. Soon after I took the photograph of 'Mum's Last Smile', she closed her eyes for the last time but carried on breathing and communicating, albeit with great difficulty, for a further three days. Until that moment, the twinkle in her eyes was still noticeable and she made jokes to the very end, laughing at being called, 'Biggles' when she wore her oxygen mask. At one point, my father accidentally hurt her arm and Mum said to him, 'Watch it Jeff, you're next and if you're not careful, when I get there, I'll put in a word to make sure it's sooner than you think.'

There are so many memories I could recall here but there is not enough room, so I will just describe those depicted in my own the photographs of a very brave lady. Due to the nature of his business, my father was a world traveller and during the 1970s, he spent more time abroad than at home. The photograph of Mum 'Walking like an Egyptian' was taken at her home in Barking, Essex during a long period Dad spent in Egypt.

The visit to Athens was Mum's first ever journey abroad. Dad was working in Athens and in Singapore during most of 1986, returning home on just the odd weekend. In Late September of that year, he bought his air ticket to Athens but then had something more important come up in Singapore, so telephoned me at work asking, 'Do you want to go to Athens and take Mum to give her a break?' Two days later we were flying to Greece. I will never forget Mum's surprise on our approach to the city. Having never travelled before, she had fully expected to see rows of housing estates, just like flying over the East End of London and was taken aback by the white buildings in the bright sunshine. Mum was a very intelligent but not well educated lady and when I explained the situation, relating the ancient buildings to the geography of the Bible and pointing out the place where St. Paul had addressed the Athenians, her view of the city suddenly fell into place. This journey took place a matter of weeks before a vital heart operation and at that point, she was virtually knocking on death's door, yet she insisted on walking to the many places of interest which Dad had talked about. With temperatures in the high 90s, we climbed the steep hills at a snail's pace, stopping regularly so that she could catch her breath and she made it! Having discovered that flying was not something to fear, she then accompanied Dad on his next visit to Singapore before undergoing her first life saving heart operation!

Although not well known in the town, Mum visited Ross-on-Wye often until she became too ill to travel and over the years, many of my friends from Ross have slept over at her home in Essex during visits to London. Mum was always keen to meet the people I made friends with after relocating to Ross in 1976 and always asked after those she did meet.

Mum's passing last Monday has left a big empty space in the lives of the many people who came to rely upon her over the years. The many hundreds of Christmas cards she received every year without fail, since a time before I can remember gives some idea of just how many friends she made during her life. Even during her last days of life, Mum demonstrated her feelings for others. Struggling to breath herself and well aware that she was going to die, she pointed to a complete stranger, recovering from an operation in the bed opposite and said, 'Look at that poor lady over there.' Mum will be sadly missed and fondly remembered by those whose lives she touched!

Mum's funeral service took place at Barking Salvation Army yesterday, Monday 20th June at 2 pm - the cortege taking her from her home in Upminster to Barking. She was interred at Rippleside Cemetery, Barking at 3 pm, with a gathering of family and friends taking place afterwards, back at her home. For the first time I can remember, Mum was unable to prepare the food for such a gathering and food had to be ordered in from outside caterers. The weather was hot and sunny and, with black ties exchanged for shorts or whatever else was available, we tested the waters of the new swimming pool she never got to use. Mum would have loved it and I felt certain that she was there with us in spirit!

Mum (holding the doll) - circa 1939, with sister, Eiileen and brother, John.

Mum and myself - 1953. 6 Park Avenue, Barking.

Mum - 8th August 1949.

A memorable visit to Athens in October 1986.

Walk like an Egyptian - 1977. 132 Westrow Drive, Barking, Essex.

1997 with Dad at my brother's house in Upminster. This photograph was taken just prior to Mum's second life saving heart operation. She was told that the operation had not been very successful. That may be so but it still gave her a further eight years of life.

Mum's last smile - 10th June 2005, Oldchurch Hospital, Romford, Essex.

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