Major Lorna Cooper. Bill Cooper's missus. The lady at the shop. the tea-lady's daughter, radioactive Nan, My mum...
What can I tell you about my mum that you might not know? She was the first of four children born into a dairy farming family in the western districts of Victoria, and grew up in Warrnambool, a practical, down-to-earth country girl. Through Salvation Army Youth Councils she met a certain young Ballarat lad called Bill, and a friendship was struck up. Actually the story goes that there were two Bills but the other Bill realised that it wasn't to be, because he destined to go to Officer Training College and she wasn't. Ironically, that Bill never made it to college, but mum did, a year or two after dad, the Ballarat Bill, had been there.
Mum and Dad applied through the correct channels to be engaged, and after getting the okay from the Army, Mum was promptly transferred to Tasmania. Despite it's faults, mum loved the Salvation Army and the opportunities it gave her to serve.
Eventually they got married, and not too long later I came along. At that time we were living at the Mt Barker Boys Home in South Australia, it was a dairy farm, but the lady officers were not supposed to be involved with the cows at all. I don't clearly remember, but I'm sure mum wasn't too impressed by that. She still had plenty to do though. On the day we came home from hospital she ironed the shirts for 50 boys while I was watched over in the bassinette by a golden haired retriever. She was not the sort to sit idly while there was work to be done, mum had a strong sense of duty.
During a short break from Army service, Allan was born in Warrnambool, and then we were back into it. The life of an officer of that era involved a good deal of travelling and a variety of appointments; boys and children's homes, corps in the inner city of Adelaide and in country South Australia. Then there was 5 years in Melbourne and seven in Perth. In Perth, Mum set up about a dozen new thrift stores for the Army, showing the staff by example how to run a store, and when they knew what to do, she opened up another.
Finally mum and dad were transferred to The Basin Farm where they retired early due to dad's health problems. Not that they ever really retired, there was always things that they could and did do.
As boys we didn't really enjoy mum's occassional sermons. Yes, they were much shorter than when dad preached, but she always told anecdotes about 'her boys...' Anyway, mum's strengths were always more on the practical side of officership, working alongside people and showing by her example. No-one better exemplified how to be a servant and yet still be a leader. She could take charge, yet still the country girl was there with the common touch, showing the men at the farm how to milk cows, how to herd them at 5 in the morning. She was not scared of dirt on her hands, or mud on her boots, and she quickly earned their respect.
She was very particular about being punctual, unlike the rest of the family. To get us on time for things she had every clock in the house set ten minutes fast. Of course, we knew the clocks were wrong and we were still late! She was also the organiser. If my brother and I were going on a youth camp, she would always make sure we packed more than we could possibly need, but we never forgot anything!
Mum never really learnt to cook, fortunately dad did, or we would've starved! I think her best recipe was probably packet Macaroni Cheese and Fish fingers... She had a sweet tooth though she tried to deny it.
Mum spent a lot of the last twenty years caring for dad with one ailment or another, dad has had fragile health, and so Easter Sunday 2000 was a big shock for us, mum in hospital and close to death. But she was a fighter, and wanted to see her first grand child. When she was finally realeased from hospital in the June, we took her to visit one day old Bella on her way home. She was a proud and doting nanna who got to see not just one but three grand kids. The first time that she allowed Bella to eat her sweets before she finished her main course Allan and I were in shocked horror! She never let US get away with that!
As soon as she was able, she was back at work at the corps shop, she loved being busy. However in the last few months the cancer finally got the better of her. She tried to hide it, and carry on, I don't any of us really knew how sick she was until near the end. And yet she didn't want us to worry, we won't ever know how much pain she was in, she tried not to show it, probably the greater pain was not being able to work as she had. Even in hospital she tried to be helpful and assist the nursing staff with watching over the other patients in her ward.
Mum's favorite bible passage (Php 1:19-26) deals with Paul's dilemma, on one hand wanting to be with Jesus in Heaven, on the other hand, knowing that there is still much work to be done serving Jesus on this Earth. Mum was born to serve, and now has recieved her 'well done, Good and Faithful Servant' . No more tears, no more pain. She knew where she was going and died at peace and with a smile on her face.
There'll be an empty seat at the hall on Sunday and some one else will have to take up the offering. But in heaven there is one who is probably right now trying to teach the angels to play the timbrel.