Yesterday it was time to say a final farewell to my mother. My siblings and I gathered for the occasion at the Helidon Cemetery. It was a small gathering including partners and the two youngest children of my brother Michael, Jaylen and Maia. My sister Christine and her husband John travelled from Malanda on the Atherton Tableland, the longest distance, so that we could all be together to fulfill our mother’s wishes.
Our dear mother, Valma Jean, asked for her ashes to be scattered at the cemetery in Helidon. There are two cemetery’s at Helidon, the Roman Catholic one and the general one at 6 Cemetery Road, on top of a hill with a great view. My mother converted to Catholicism when she married my father. However, all her ancesters were Anglican and many of them are buried in this cemetery.
This includes Charles and Elizabeth Wilkinson, Valma’s, great-grandparents. Elizabeth (which is my second name) died aged 86 years in 1923. Charles died in 1926 aged 89 years. Their son Albert married Mary who are also buried there. Albert in 1937, aged 72 years and Mary in 1957, aged 91 years. Albert and Mary’s youngest daughter, Clarice Elizabeth, married young and gave birth to my mother, Valma, when she was 18 years old. Clarice died in 1997, aged 89 years. A big part of my family history exists in Helidon and the Lockyer Valley.
On Clarice’s 21st birthday, she was living in Charleville with my grand-father, Stanley, who worked for the Railways. Clarice’s father Albert wrote her a letter. Valma was just over 2 years old. Although I never met my great-grandfather Albert I feel I know him from this letter. In part he said, ‘Your kind letter by mail arrived this day and we are pleased all are happy and well. Indeed we are very sorry to hear that our sweet little darling fell and hurt her little forehead. I suppose she cried, we did not hear, God bless her. Today gives both Mum and I sweet recollections of twenty one years ago and we tender our most sincere congratulations to you on attaining the age of womanhood. May you live and enjoy many many Happy returns of the day. We would have liked you with us today but of course distances alter cases’. At the bottom on the letter he added further comments. Firstly, ‘The sox are for Stan from Mother’. Then ‘Remember us all and Stan and our sweetie litte Valma, the pet’. Then finally, ‘This is not the usual weekly letter, but a letter of Congratulations on 21st Anniversary of yourself. I was going to wire but thought Len could take this down. xxxxxxx (repeated twice again).
I copied the letter together with the three poems read on the day for my siblings. My One & Only (O&O) had researched the gravesites (on our earlier visit) and everyone got copies of headstones, history about the person, and a map he drew that identified all the family graves at the cemetery. As our mother requested two white roses and two red roses on her coffin we followed through with the laying of a white and red rose on the gravesites of Valma’s great-grandparents, Albert and Mary, and her mother Clarice.
While we could have just gone and scattered the ashes I thought we should make it an occasion of rememberance. A life well lived, a mother much loved, never to be replaced – Valma Jean Pleming.