Janet Millett

Janet Millett

23 November 1939
Nottingham, United Kingdom
12 May 2014
London, United Kingdom
Words by
Richard Millett Son

Thank you very much for coming today. It is incredibly supportive and I know it isn’t easy to get here in the middle of the day.

The best way to describe mum is that she loved life and every second of it was precious to her. Even during the five and a half years of her illness she made the best of it she could. She went to the park every day and to the very end, just before she went into hospital for the final time, we were going into Golders Green to shop. This was brave of her but she loved to be outside and just to see people. And people loved her when they saw her. She was a people person at heart.

a Samaritan spending many a night listening to peoples’ problems and helping them through their darkest moments

Towards the end she was quite immobile. But the one thing that she managed to retain was her smile and the ability to give a thumbs up to let us know if she was ok or not. I don’t know how she did it but she was incredible fun despite her illness. She was such lovely company. Taking her out in her wheelchair would give us the chance to appreciate the nature that she adored. The flowers and trees were there to entertain her every day with their new blossoms and colours.

Mum grew up in Nottingham and eventually went into the family business which mainly involved her driving the company van between all the east Midlands towns. She loved business but her passion was dancing and she told us that she never waited to be asked to dance and would end up asking the men to dance first. Strictly Come Dancing always made her smile and I loved watching it with her. She met dad and they had three children which then became 5 grandchildren and she loved every single one of us deeply.

She was a loyal and deeply loving wife, mother and grandmother. And we all loved her too with all our hearts. She was the best. She was also always there for others and spent at least 10 years as a Samaritan spending many a night listening to peoples’ problems and helping them through their darkest moments. Mum always had a big heart for those worse off than her.

Mum was a staunch royalist. She loved the queen and princess Diana and loved to follow the exploits of William and Harry. She was worried that her illness would take her before the wedding of William and Catherine but she watched it and loved the whole thing. The queen has lost one of her biggest supporters in mum.

Mum loved Israel. She wasn’t so political. She loved going to Israel on holiday but whenever I was due to go to an anti-Israel event in London to defend Israel she only had two words for me: “Be Careful”. She said that without fail.

She was a wonderful cook and loved the atmosphere of Friday night around the Shabbat table. During her illness whenever it was Friday a simple “Shabbat shalom” from me would bring an instant smile to her face and a girly giggle.

I think that really after 5 and a half years one has a long list of thank yous. What an incredible country we live in with such incredible people. Thank you to Barnet Council for all the support they gave to us including the dieticians, language therapists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists and the many associated support organisations. Thank you to everyone at the Royal Free Hospital who looked after mum and the paramedics who would rush to mum’s flat within minutes when needed. Thank you to Kate and Justine for keeping mum looking so beautiful right till the end. Thank you to mum’s friends who always sent her little notes and boxes of flowers, especially to her overseas friends Laurianne and Helen and her cousin Jacqui. Thank you to the strangers who we would meet in the street or the park or the shops in Golders green and who befriended us. Thank you most of all to Chitra and Anita who looked after mum and who made her look so beautiful every day and who mum adored. And a special mention of thanks to the Lemurs in the park with their hilarious behaviour. Not a day went passed when they didn’t make mum smile.

Mum just loved life. She didn’t want to leave it and fought hard. However limited her life became due to her illness she still enjoyed it. For 5 and a half years she gave life everything she possibly could physically and mentally. Her only wish was not to be in pain and she never was. She was such fun and good company despite everything.

Above all mum was so brave. But yesterday morning finally she didn’t have anything more to give.

She will be missed every single day.

Words by
Richard Millett Son

Thank you very much for coming today. There are obviously far nicer things to do on a Sunday morning so your support is very much appreciated by all of my family.

Not long before mum died she managed to slowly spell out to me two words: “one year”.

What she was trying to explain is that for one year after she had gone it would be hard for me and the family but then it will get easier.

Well that year is almost up and it certainly doesn’t feel as if it is going to get any easier. I am sure that those who have lost someone so close and so special must feel the same. I don’t think that any amount of time can take away the pain or feeling of loss.

Last month an American woman died at the age of 69. She wrote her own obituary that was published after she had died. Her obituary reminded me of what mum might have written had she done the same.

Emily Phillips described herself as a “loving wife” and “comforting mother”. My mum was both of those.

Emily continued:  “I was born; I blinked; and it was over. No buildings named after me; no monuments erected in my honor. But I DID have the chance to know and love each and every friend as well as all my family members. How much more blessed can a person be?'”

supportive, caring, loyal and fun

And that was life for my mum also. All very simple. All my mum wanted was to love and be loved. She loved her family and friends and would do anything for anyone who needed help.

Mum possessed an incredible humanity. She loved life and cared for people, even total strangers. She spent over 10 years volunteering as a Samaritan listening to people’s problems all through the night.

Even during her own illness she would be upset and concerned when we would see groups of the mentally disabled who visited Golders Hill Park on a daily basis.

But this last year has certainly been hard. Around the dinner table on Friday nights and over Pesach her supportive and fun presence has been deeply missed. As has her wonderful cooking.

One heart-breaking aspect was having to sort through mum’s personal belongings. Heartbreaking but also very sweet.

I found four beautifully preserved books from when she was thirteen years old, with her having written neatly her Nottingham address on the inside front page asking for these books to be returned if found.

One book was Wuthering Heights, another was called A Girl of the Limberlost, another was a book from her French class and finally there is a beautifully preserved book from 1952 called Ballet Biographies which contains photos and individual biographies of all the famous male and female ballet dancers of the time.

Dancing, ballet and musical theatre were mum’s passion. My 3 nieces must miss their regular trips to the West End with mum to see all the musicals. Mum loved taking them out for the day. She loved spending time with her five grandchildren more than anything.

I would never normally have watched Strictly Come Dancing, but during mum’s illness I always watched it with her and I loved seeing the smiles on her face and hearing her laugh.

When she was healthy mum never missed an opportunity to dance.

she loved life whatever the cards she was dealt

I also found a tender note to mum which sums up what people thought of her. The note was written in 1993. It is written on a page torn out of Tender Is The Night by Scott Fitzgerald. It reads simply:  “People especially true friends, are mirrors in which we begin to discover ourselves. Thank you for everything. Much love, Massy.”

The main words which described mum are supportive, caring, loyal and fun. She always supported and loved dad and all her family and friends.

For five years she somehow kept strong during her awful illness. Many times she cried and I have kept the scribbled notes when she was trying to communicate how scared she was.

But she also smiled as much as she could. I think she was trying to stay positive for us as well as enjoy what was left of her life.

She outlasted the assumed maximum life expectancy for motor neurone disease of two years by another three years. At heart this was because she loved life whatever the cards she was dealt. She appreciated every ounce of life, however limited it became for her in the end. I honestly think that she always felt blessed that she was given the opportunity of life itself.

We took her out to the park every day. She loved the park and seeing the constant change of nature with all its different colours. She loved it all. She embraced life and appreciated every second of it even in her darkest hour.

On the day before she took her last breathe we were all sat around her bed in the hospital. The last person she looked at was Daniel, my nephew. She opened her eyes wide at him and smiled tenderly. Then being so tired she fell asleep and heartbreakingly didn’t have the strength to wake up again.

Her last smile to Daniel was to say “Daniel, enjoy your wedding day with Hannah and your life together.”

I know mum is now with her own mum and dad and her brother and sister. I know they are all having a lovely time together. I know mum is still worried about us, but I pray to G-d every day she is enjoying herself after all she went through.

I picture her once again dancing to her favourite songs, watching the ballet and just being free again.

I miss her deeply every day but I pray that G-d is looking after her.