Remembering our Janet← Back
We realise that it was a bit short notice, but the timing made it impossible for us to wait until we could let everyone know on a Sunday morning. So it is possible that you didn't know about the funeral - and we are sorry if that was the case. But all is not quite lost - as Janet's family brought various tributes to her and I have been given permission by her sister, Kath, to include her tribute here.
Before I add it, I should say that Janet kept up her noble tradition almost to the end! Her coffin arrived in style in a horse drawn hearse - twenty minutes early! The place was almost empty, so we waited until the right time and there were plenty of people there.
Here is Kath's tribute:-
13/02/1949 – 13/04 2015
Janet would try the patience of a saint. She combined a unique take on life with a fierce determination to do things her way and a total disdain for conventional logic. She could overcome all opposition, however well-meaning, to anything she’d set her mind to. When Jan decided she needed residential care, it took her less than 20 minutes to change her social worker’s position from ‘our aim is to keep people in their own homes for as long as possible’ to ‘yes, we should be able to arrange a move for next week’.
Jan also used her fierce determination to extract every last drop of pleasure from life and to face the considerable challenges it threw her way with courage. She learned early on that she was different from her peers and that she couldn’t afford to care about what other people thought of her. She made her own rules and she stuck to them.
One was to delight in any potentially enjoyable thing that came her way. Janet loved Christmas, she loved animals - especially dogs and fish and birds and tigers - she loved airplanes and holidays, going out in her car, pickled onions and cheesy footballs, Marmite, puns, Hyacinth Bouquet, hot chocolate and icy-cold drinks. Until this last few months, when she was getting tired and frustrated by her increasing disability, Jan loved life. Even life tied to oxygen concentrators and cylinders and a mask – a terrible imposition which she dealt with bravely and with astonishing equanimity.
Janet would burst into a vigorous rendition of ‘Oh what a beautiful morning’ whenever we went out in her car, irrespective of what the time was or what the weather was doing, and she is the only person I know who claims to have really enjoyed the 24 hour flight from London to Sydney and to have looked forward to another 24 hours on the return leg. But all aspects of holidays thrilled her, whether she was having her sandwich stolen by a seaside seagull on a week away with her best friend Muriel, practising her swimming in the pool at our father’s house in Spain, plane-spotting at Manchester airport with our Uncle Fallon, watching Will and Kate’s wedding on a giant screen in London’s Hyde Park, tucking into Christmas dinner and piles of presents every year at John and Denise’s in Wallasey, or making friends with rabbits and lambs in the Lake District.
The two people who had the most influence on Janet growing up were our maternal grandmother, Nana Higgs – who taught Jan to play the piano – and our mother. Mum was Janet’s great champion. She provided the unlimited and unconditional love, encouragement and support that gave Jan the confidence to make her own way in the world. This she did – with help from our brother John and his wife Denise - from 1974, when Mum died, right up to Jan’s move into residential care two years ago after it became clear she was no longer able to manage on her own.
A later, very important influence was the Christian Fellowship here at Devo Road. Here Jan found a caring community she could belong to: people who shared her values, nourished her faith and gave her life-affirming friendship, practical help and a job on the Dream Team. Janet had had jobs before: at a laundry, a toy company, a care home with the Salvation Army and Rice Lane City Farm where she famously brought the scraggy, neglected chicken flock back to robust health. But, from all accounts, cleaning this room each week with the Dream Team was the job with the most fun.
One of the hardest things for Jan as her mobility diminished was not being able to continue attending meetings here. And one of her happiest days since then was when so many of her friends from the fellowship came to her 65th birthday party last year to help her celebrate. Throughout her whole stay in care, Janet enjoyed many visits, especially from Muriel and Lesley who went to see her just about every week , but also many more including Trish, Pat, Ruth, George, Raymond and Ruth, Rada, Marilyn and others who dropped in when they could and brightened up her days. Peter’s visits were also important to Jan and, in her last few weeks, to me, too.
Janet didn’t get the best of hands when the health cards were dealt and her increasing dependence on oxygen therapy for the last few years was an especially cruel twist, especially since the reason she needed it was never discovered. Jan ‘passed’ every clinical test her pulmonary and cardiac specialists could put her through -always to her delight as she felt passing tests was a good thing, and to the family’s dismay as yet another possible explanation and hope of treatment was ruled out.
Jan was looked after extremely well at Cressington Court where she lived for past 18 months and where the staff are, without exception, highly skilled and deeply caring. In the end, though, the struggle to get enough oxygen into her brain and body wore her out. She became anxious, began refusing her medication and ate less and less. When she developed a pressure ulcer a few weeks ago, Jan didn’t have the resources to cope. She fought a long, hard battle but finally gave up her struggle, with John and myself beside her, on Monday afternoon.
Janet will be especially remembered for her jokes, puns and inadvertently funny sayings – or Jan-isms. One of my favourites was when we were in the café at ASDA one lunchtime and I suggested she have the ‘All Day Breakfast’. ‘Huh’, she said ‘that won’t last ME all day!’ The final joke we shared was on Jan’s last trip out to Dobbies Garden Centre in her car. I was getting her wheelchair all strapped in and said ‘just putting the brakes on’. She said ‘don’t need any plates’ and when I explained the misunderstanding simply roared and roared with laughter.
That’s how I think I will remember her best. Tickled pink and setting off on a new adventure.