My mum passed away on April 23.
This is an extract from her eulogy.
Joanne Allison Bruce possessed a strong and free will.
She was beautiful and gracious with a heartfelt love of people.
As a young woman, she was often mistaken for Elizabeth Taylor, with blue eyes, porcelain white complexion and black, wavy hair.
She adored the colour pink, willy wagtails, sweet peas, kewpie dolls, tiny Easter chickens, little blue wrens, The Royal Navy and everything Welsh.
Born in Strathfield to a nursing sister Thelma, and Welsh Merchant Navy man, Richard Rees on November 11, 1929, she was the eldest and only daughter of four children.
Her childhood was hard.
My Nanna Rees was a single parent.
She worked as a private nurse, riding her bike to treat the sick and was considered saint-like by patients; some couldn't afford her services, but were given years of extended credit.
Mum met and married her first love, a tall, dark and handsome British Royal Navy Fleet Air Mechanic, Ron Blewett.
They were 21 and by 1952 they were at HMAS Albatross, Nowra.
Kisses were 'birdies'.
They made a striking couple.
Mum 'lost' her her beautiful Ron, first after he suffered a catastrophic brain injury aged just 48, and finally, when he was felled by cancer in 1988, aged just 58.
The following years were difficult for mum. I had moved to Tasmania.
She said she was proud of my Tasmanian achievements but was dreadfully lonely.
She brushed away my apologies with "don't you dare say sorry, flossie ".
My home town, Nowra held mum close.
Being part of the fabric of the town was important for mum.
Nearly 20 years ago, Eric Bruce knocked on her door.
Eric, a Scot, had served in the Fleet Air Arm and was looking for my dad. He found mum.
A new, strong love grew into a marriage of some 18 years.
They made a home and lived in a bubble filled with all types of pretty things, a little garden with her favourite azaleas, camellias ... buttons and bows ... and more recently a pretty, pink flowering gum, straight from the pages of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.
Mum didn't love to cook, but she could bake a mountain of a roast dinner and the absolute best Christmas pudding, every October, loaded with half a bottle of brandy.
She made her final, fabulous boozy pudding in 2017 aged 88.
In the past year she became frail, but those of us who tried, were told no one would take over her life.
Inside the beautiful, pink bundle, mum was an independent and courageous beast, which we didn't dare poke.
Six weeks ago, she told me she really didn't think she would "go" first.
She said she was ready and would really have preferred to "just fall asleep".
"How do you know you're ready mum?"
"I just feel peaceful," she said
We talked about my books and laughed when she woke befuddled, and said she felt like the Muddleheaded Wombat, one of our favourite stories.
For a week, I fed her ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Slowly she was awake less and finally, for three weeks I sat with mum, in peace.
Those days were a gift to us both. We gave each other grace and courage beyond words.
She died with great dignity.
Mum, thank you for all my beautiful books, for forcing me to practice my spelling, for our small and perfect Christmases, for special days in Sydney at David Jones, at The Botanical Gardens or roaming the Art Gallery of NSW.