Eulogy for Mum; Diane Elaine Saunders 1947-2020
Mum is the woman who could fit a square peg into a round hole.
We can hear her saying – we obviously know the problem, now we’re looking for the solution.
No one could have parented us better than she did and we got the opportunity to tell her so many times. Mum had a plan for everything. Even as a young girl she knew the Woman and the mother she wanted to be.
She decided the job of a mum was to give her children roots and wings, to create an atmosphere of fun and learning and to enable us to feel like we could conquer the world.
She was creative in her parenting; when we were kids, she would drive us around Leeds on what she called a fairy tale tour.
She picked out properties that looked like the stories she read to us; she showed us the three bears cottage, humpty dumpty’s wall, Hansel and gretals house. She brought the stories to life and made it fun.
For years we believed the three bears cottage was in Gledhow! She would take us on adventures by going to the train station and randomly picking a place off the board and off we’d go.
When we were young and occasionally argued, she would separate us into different rooms and wouldn’t allow us to speak to each other until we calmed down.
She would then remind us that your sister is your best friend; she taught us how to argue and not fall out.
She was progressive and different to other parents, Enid Blyton and cartoons were banned in our house, she hated Grange Hill. Enid was a racist, cartoons normalised violence and how people speak to each other on Grange Hill was just not kind.
We were brought up in 3 houses with our cousins running from one home to the next. Our childhood was safe, happy and free and our home had an open-door policy where everyone was welcome and always fed.
Our teenage years were what every teenager dream of. Our house was known as ‘the youth club’. Everyone was welcome, no such thing as too many, she welcomed everyone without exception or judgement.
If they were our friend, they were her friend. She always had time for everyone, a listening ear and words of wisdom, advice and support. She was everyone’s advocate. She helped shape so many lives.
You may be surprised that we weren’t always perfect or easy and as many of our friends were being grounded as punishment, she never understood it, she’d say ‘Why would anyone ground their children? That’s punishment for parents! Why would I do that to myself!”
She led the way, she was ahead of her time, she was always in our corner. She was the glue in our family… she brought family together, she brought people together. When we married, mum was able to merge all our families into one big one.
She treasured her in laws, her sons in law, and they treasured her. She was the adored little sister, aunty, cousin and friend.
Her cousins who are many in number and are with us now via zoom from all over the world were hugely important in her life.
Right up until a few days ago she was communicating with them, arguing politics and telling them she loved them.
Her childhood was tough, but she had her incredible sisters, our wonderful aunties, Pat and Geraldine and they all found their way to becoming women and mothers of substance.
Her capacity to nurture relationships is second to none. Her amazing friends became ours; strong women influencing us greatly. She said strong women surround themselves with strong women and powerful people always have a team. She encouraged us believe in ourselves and always use our voices to better ourselves and the lives of others.
Our family only got bigger with the friends she made and the positive impact she had on so many lives. There was always room for another.
Which other woman would invite their ex-husband, together with his current wife or partner to all family events? She did, and consequently that led to her enjoying her 3 amazing step sons; our brothers Nat, Manny and Josh who have spoken so often of the love they all have for her.
Progressive in her thinking and doing. She set up and was part of many initiatives and projects which, at the core were always about empowering people, especially women and girls. She co-wrote the amazing book ‘From The Leylands to Leeds 17’ which led to one of her many legacy’s; the Leeds Jewish literary festival Milim.
She was part of the ‘Yorkshire Woman of Achievement’ committee for many years, raising money for Wheatfields Hospice – SHE is our ultimate woman of achievement.
She was never afraid to have an alternative view! Some of you may have experienced her opposing views! Unashamedly and unapologetically outspoken!
Opinionated! No one could have done that better. She was courageous, innovative and no lady! A lady is a sign on the toilet door. We are women.
She will always be known for her relentless optimism, radiating positivity, hope and love. We know she touched you all and that makes us so proud.
Mum hated titles – she just wanted to be Diane.
When forced to give a title she would relent to Ms; however, if she was in one of her more mischievous or contraire moods, she would say… ok call me Reverend then!
We can’t talk about mum without talking about what she thought of as her most enjoyable role, being a grandma – And what a grandma.
She poured every bit of love, spirit and soul into Joe, Ellie and Zoe. She contributed greatly to the wonderful adults they have become and she was so proud of them.
She taught us many valuable parenting lessons, main ones being; allow your children to tell you the truth, if you don’t, you leave them no choice but to tell you a lie and always apologise when you’re wrong, show them how, and it makes it easier for them to apologise when they’re wrong.
May 2018 was a turning point in all our lives. Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. She never allowed her illness to define her.
From the time she was diagnosed, she said don’t feel sorry for me. I’m 71 not 21. I have access to the best health care only 15 minutes away. Feel sorry for those who don’t.
Mum fought her illness silently, she never complained. She only ever celebrated; be that the tumour was shrinking or her hair was growing back.
As she was having her first ever chemo infusion, she told us ‘I can feel it working, the tumour is shrinking’. (It had been going about 2 minutes!) Always positive.
She carried on working until a week last Thursday, helping someone very dear to us realise their dream of becoming a home owner as she had done for so many before.
When asked do you ever think why me? She would say, why not me?
She shared a poem called “Why Me” with Joe, Ellie and Zoe and many others. It really touched her and them. Our children have asked us to share that again. It will be posted on the chat during tonight’s Shiva. And that leads us to where we are today. Since September mum’s health has been deteriorating rapidly.
Over the last few weeks, the outpouring of love for mum has been completely overwhelming. When she knew she was coming to her end she seized the opportunity to have wonderful days, she chose her favourite food from Mike’s menu, she relished being able to have important conversations with her niece, nephews, other family and amazing friends. She said she felt engulfed by a blanket of love. She said she felt safe and secure.
Her plan was to make every day and every conversation meaningful and fun. She wanted to create magical memories. She always said life prepares you for death and told us that she was finding the transition between the two worlds curious and interesting.
On her Last night we’d been playing music to her that so many of you contributed to choosing.
We played Barbara Streisand’s version of the prayer Avinu Malkeinu and as the music faded, she took her last breath.
Everyone knows that Mum questioned the religious side of Judaism fiercely, because religious practice for her often-lacked logic. However, Mum loved being a Jewish woman, she was proud of her heritage and made no secrets of it ever. She loved the culture, the traditions, the humour and she wanted to be buried in the Jewish way, with all her family who have gone before her.
We will treasure our memories of holidays, Chagim (Festivals), get togethers, wonderful Simchas (celebrations) and day to day life with mum.
So Mum, we won’t sweat the small stuff. We are so honoured that you are our mother and Joe, Ellie and Zoe’s grandmother.
We will love you always and forever, you will live on in our hearts and our heads. we promise never to keep anything for best. And we will follow your lead in always finding the light in the darkness.