Thursday, June 08, 2006

In Loving Memory of My Mother
October 16, 1924 - June 5, 2006

An ordinary, decent woman who showed
extraordinary love and devotion to her family and friends.

Loved by all, the memories of my Mum
will live forever in the hearts of those who knew her.

Spared further suffering, she now rests in peace.


Lois McPhie was born Norma Lois Haeberle, on
October 16, 1924 at "Glenhope", Estella Street Glen Iris,
in the eastern Melbourne district of Camberwell,
where she lived virtually all her life.

Her father was Christian Charles Haeberle, then 36 years old, wood merchant, labourer and gardener, born at Bet Bet in country Victoria.
Her mother was Charlotte Francis Haeberle (nee Wilkins), then 35 years old, born at Bowenvale in country Victoria.
Her sister was Francis Joyce, aged 8 when Mum was born.
Her family home was at 16 Fuller Avenue, Glen Iris.
The young Norma Lois Haeberle,
who would later prefer to be known as Lois,
attended Glen Iris Elementary School No.1148 all her school life.
(In the photo, Lois is standing on the left, 3 rows back.)

Generally, her school reports show an average or above-average student, who was "...promoted each year...always very reliable,
neat and honest in every way...
anxious to take her part in all school activities
both in the school and playground".

Lois Haeberle was awarded a 'Pupil's Cookery Certificate' from the Victorian Education Department on December 31, 1938, after making "satisfactory progress" at the Armadale Cookery Centre for 12 months. Anyone who would later enjoy her wonderful cooking would understand that!

In a reference, dated December 2, 1938, (her final school year),
the Head teacher, Mr. J.B.J. de Hugard, wrote:
"I would recommend her to any employer and feel sure she will do her best."

Lois graduated with her Grade 8 Merit Certificate in 1938, at the age of 14.

She worked some years as a machinist at the Melbourne Pelaco company.
There she made not only quality shirts, but also quality friends, some of whom would later be affectionately known by us as "Auntie" and "Uncle".


On September 21, 1946 at the age of 21, Lois married Colin McPhie,
at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Gardner.
Colin, 22 at the time, was born in Surrey Hills, to parents Norman McPhie and Pearl Barlow, but raised in Yarram, and later in Melbourne by relatives living at 158 Glen Iris Road, Glen Iris. .
Lois and Colin, who met at school, were always a devoted and inseparable couple for almost 60 years, living true to their solemn vows of love
"until death do us part".

(PHOTO: Mum with her father in the front garden of their family home at 16 Fuller Avenue.)


Together, Lois & Colin built their new family home
in what was then the orchards and green rolling hills of Burwood,
at 3 Morell Street, (later the suburb was renamed Glen Iris),
and there they raised their two sons -
Bruce born in 1951, and Russell born in 1955.

My brother Russell and I were blessed with parents who loved and supported us every step of the way through life. Through all the very good times and the bad, the ups and downs of life, Mum and Dad were always there with a helping hand or a comforting word.

When we were young, our parents were not wealthy, but they saved wisely and made sacrifices to give us a good education, and we enjoyed many family holidays together.

In the photo above, we are at Mordialloc Beach, near Melbourne, and below we are at Mildura. My favourite family holidays were on the farm at Yarram.

Lois was always the true loving Mother -
encouraging, sharing, seeking the best for and from her children,
and forgiving when necessary.
(PHOTO: The proud Mum!... I may have earned the Queen's Scout Award, but Mum & Dad rightly deserved much of the credit. Photo taken in November, 1968.)
(PHOTO: Russell, Lois, Colin & Bruce - a happy family celebrate Dad's 60th birthday
at 3 Morell Street, Burwood, in 1983.)

Mum devoted so much of her life to her family,
but she was also a keen supporter of Carlton at the footy,
and was especially keen on her magnificent garden.

Together with Colin, Mum enjoyed many coach tours around much of Australia, and they visited Singapore, Fiji and New Zealand.
More than just wonderful holidays, these became opportunities to gather even more close, long-term friends.

For Mum, many of her proudest days were devoted to her grandchildren
born to Russell and Janet - Stuart, Ryan and Ashlea -
whom she loved so much.
Now their loving Nanna is gone, but never forgotten.

(PHOTO: Mum & Dad with the youngest of their 3 grandchildren, in 1989.)

For some 20 years or more,
Mum was a popular and skilled player
at the Box Hill 10-Pin Bowling Centre.
As a member of the Jokers team, in the Morning Star league, Mum won a mantle-piece-full collection of trophies for both team and individual awards, including "Bowler of the Week" at least twice.

Dad would always accompany Mum to the bowling each week, although not bowl himself, and together they made many good friends there as well.
For the most part, Mum enjoyed an active, vibrant life.
Yes, she would sometimes talk of her aches and pains, and her "nerves", but mostly she got on with life.
Looking back now, Mum had to deal with a lot of sadness in her life,
(as well as the happiness), and she kept a lot of that to herself.
Her father (1888 - 1956) died when Mum was still quite young.
Her only sister's only child, Peter Stockdale, died tragically
in a car accident before he reached 21.
Her mother (1889 - 1971) died after suffering dementia for sometime.
This greatly troubled mother, who feared she would suffer
the same fate, and sadly she did.
Her much loved only sister Joyce died in 1986 after suffering angina.
Many of Mum's good friends also died during her lifetime.
In one of her letters, she mentioned 11 friends had recently died.
(PHOTO: My Grandma Haeberle with me on the left, brother Russell in the centre,
and cousin Peter on the right.
Grandma died in 1971, at age 82. Peter died before his 21st birthday.
The photo was taken at our family home at 3 Morell Street, Burwood.)
Unfortunately, Mum decided to give up her
10-pin bowling in the year 2000,
to have an operation on her wrist.
Not long after that, her health began to noticeably deteriorate,
and in 2003 she was officially diagnosed with
the feared Alzheimer's Disease.

Sadly, but eloquently, in one of the last of her many letters and
cards sent to me working in Viet Nam, Mum wrote:
"I never thought it would end like this!"

For Mum, it always seemed that her greatest joy in life
came from her caring for family and friends.
This was the ultimate measure of her happiness and quality of life.
Tragically, that fine quality of life was slowly, but inexorably, stolen from her
by the dreadful and debilitating Alzheimer's Disease,
and then finally other health complications.

The last 3 years of Mum's life were a 'living hell' for her and her family, as she
lost her memory, vitality and dignity.
The last part of her life was spent in different nursing care homes after it became impossible for Dad to care for her at home.
In a way, my grieving for the loss of my Mum began back then.


On the night of Sunday June 4, Dad, Russell and I visited Mum at her bedside in the Surrey Hills Private Nursing Home, at 16 Florence Street.
By now, Mum could not talk, or even move her head.
Her blank, staring eyes appeared to be lifeless, looking out into space.
We held her cold hands, but by now she could hardly even squeeze them.
There was no obvious sign that she even recognized we were there.
But later, perhaps those tears that formed in her blank, staring eyes spoke louder than words ever could.

Perhaps now, reunited with her immediate family all together with her again for the first time in some months, for Mum this was the right time to let go. Had she been awaiting my return from Viet Nam?

At 2:30 on the morning of Monday June 5, 2006,
I got the phone call I was actually expecting, but also dreading -
Mum had finally passed away
to that long-awaited and much-deserved peace.

I was just so thankful that I was able to fly urgently from Viet Nam back to Melbourne just in time to see Mum that very last time.
There was some satisfaction to be with her at the end of her life,
as at the beginning of mine.
The hand of Fate had been kind.


On Wednesday June 7, 2006 at 12:15pm,
about 45 close family and friends gathered at Wilson Chapel,
Springvale Crematorium, to say farewell to Mum,
who was cremated at her request.
Music played included Vera Lynne's "We'll Meet Again",
and the Carlton footy song. We think Mum would have liked that!

The moving service was well conducted by Mr. Michael Kesik
from Syd Peek & Daughter funeral services.
Coincidentally, it was held in the same Wilson Chapel
where the funeral service for Mum's only sister,
our Auntie Joyce, was held on September 4, 1986.

Some of the colourful flowers arranged on Mum's coffin
were from her own garden.
During the time of reflection, all those in attendance placed a strongly-scented lavender flower from her garden onto her coffin as they filed past.

Even brilliant sunshine came out that day to brighten up
the gloomy Melbourne winter, exactly as I had requested.
The hand of Fate had been kind again.
Mum would have been very happy!
My Mum was not a famous person, or a celebrity
(except to her family and friends, perhaps).
She was not much interested in high politics,
or achieving great things in the world.
Simply, she was a great Mum and friend
who would do anything to help others.
What she offered the world was her love.
How can we begin to adequately measure the great value of that?
The basic motivation of life (and politics) is,
or should be, love -
Love of humanity. Love for the planet.
Perhaps, at the most basic level, the most special love of all
is the love between mother and child.
Thank you, Mum.

(PHOTO: Mum & Dad at 3 Morell Street, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, September 21, 1996. This year, 2006, would have been their 60th wedding anniversary. Mum passed away just 3 months before reaching that milestone in married life.)


Although gone in body, the memory of Mum's spirit will live on forever in the hearts of all who were lucky to know her in her long 81-year life.

Mum, thankyou for your life, and your
unqualified love.

We will miss you very much.

Rest in Peace - Lois McPhie


With love from Bruce

1 comment:

Walter said...


Glad your mum made you and helped you become a guy doing good work and however she influenced you, I'm sure from your obvious love of her, she helped you make the choice to open your eyes and heart to Vietnam and it's people.

From another old anti-war activist that has a lot of thanks for the gifts that the Vietnamese gave to me and the world.

Walter Teague