Who is Mamma Jack?
My Mum adored flowers, there were always beautiful, bright, fragrant hanging baskets all-around her home and garden making it an oasis of colour and life, filling it with the wonderful smells that still remind me of home in the summer months. Granted it was my Step Dad Lenny who created and maintained them, but mum was always his muse and sometimes his critic. In fact, Mum loved all things bright and beautiful, she loved spending her time crafting, making, creating and expressing herself. She would spend hours and hours pouring her heart and soul into the greeting cards, jams and cakes that she made for family and friends to enjoy.
Mum and Lenny were always decorating. The layout of our house could change daily (Lenny also has a talent for making, but his skills lay more in hammer, nails, bricks and plaster). A new wall up, an existing wall down, a loft turned into a bedroom, a bedroom turned in to a bathroom, a warming coal fire and not forgetting a brand-new conservatory, all built with hard working hands and some imagination. It was a very inspiring house to grow up in. Messy and normally noisy, but inspirational none the less.
Who can I blame?
In the March of 2013 Mum was diagnosed with stage 4 Lung Cancer and given a devastating prognosis of only ten months to live.
When she told me, I can only describe my initial reaction as feeling totally numb. I just sort of carried on at first, like there was nothing wrong. I simply buried my head in the sand, I am not sure why but with hind sight I think it may have been that, subconsciously I thought that if I didn’t acknowledge the cancer, it wouldn’t really exist. That seems silly now, but I have discovered that the human mind is very protective of itself. It is hard to accept the fact that someone you love is not going to be there anymore, and worse still there is no way to stop them from leaving. This is when the Anxiety and a feeling of helplessness came for me, why is this happening? why can’t I fix this? and I am sorry, but not embarrassed to say, who can I blame? There was a lot of fear and uncertainty for us as a family during that time.
Mum continued to be Mum, and for a long time we couldn’t really tell how she was feeling. She was always so positive, so determined. “Don’t worry I’m not going anywhere yet” she would say, and, “I won’t let this beat me” and she carried on with her life as best she could treating trips to the hospital for chemotherapy, as she treated a trip to Asda to pick up some wine.
This wasn’t the case for me, while mum remained composed I was running about like a headless chicken. I couldn’t put my thoughts in order and the only thing I could think with any clarity was, How on earth am I going to cope?
Cancer makes me cross!
I even had pre- bereavement counselling, I previously hadn’t known that, that was even a thing. I didn’t realise you could anticipate grief, but looking back, I think the counselling helped. It turns out, everyone grieves differently. It was news to me that I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to feel anything specific, and those un-specific feelings would come and go, and then come back again in no specific order. I learned that grief isn’t a tick box that we just have to complete and then move on, I often would move through an emotion, say anger (yep that’s right, anger. its ok to be cross, cancer makes me cross) and I would think, well that’s anger done, only to find myself two weeks later struggling again with my anger at how unfair this all was.
I also learned that for me dealing with my grief and importantly my anticipation of grief, was more like an unimaginably high steaks game of Snakes and Ladders. Some days I would be climbing high and functioning like a woman on a mission, my husband and son would be washed dressed and delivered to work and school accordingly and I would then put in a full day at the office myself. Other days I found myself sliding helplessly backward and feeling totally out of control. The epic Snakes and Ladders tournament is still very real and often a daily contest for me, but with patience, time, love and the acceptance of help, I can tell you that my board now has far more ladders than snakes. I now understand that Grief is not a debt that we owe to someone who we have lost, it is a range of emotions that have been honed over millennia to enable us to deal with loss and the changes initiated by that loss. To ask for help is not to relinquish control, it is in my opinion to take control.
It wasn't all sad.
Mum continued not allowing cancer to beat her and with the help of Lenny, who was unwavering in his support, love and 24/7 care, 3 lots of Chemo, Radiotherapy and her eternal optimism, my mum fought cancer virtually to a standstill. It was a time of intense emotion for us all, but I can promise you that it wasn’t all sad. We often cried with laughter as mum continued to be mum, her brilliantly timed one liners, or just her randomness that had everyone in stiches, you sometimes got a sneaky wink at the end of a spout of randomness, she knew exactly what she was up to. Sometimes it was peaceful, we would just sit in the garden listening to the birds surrounded by her beautiful flowers. Other times we would sit on her bed watching Coronation Street with a cheeky glass of cider, this was normally when she fancied one of her ‘chicken wing Fridays’. Inevitably the cancer took more and more of her strength and mum spent some time in hospital before she took the reins and made the decision to start spending some time in St Luke’s Hospice in Winsford.
I told you that mum loved flowers, I think everyone loves flowers in their own way. Even if you think you are not a flower lover, at some point you have bought a bunch for someone, whether it was to say “I Love you”, “I’m sorry”, “Happy Birthday” or even just “hey, I’m thinking of you today”, we have all turned to flowers to make someone smile. Studies have proven that flowers have an immediate impact on our emotional wellbeing. "Flowers bring about positive feelings in those who enter a room," said Dr Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology "They make the space more welcoming and create a sharing atmosphere." I couldn’t agree more Jeannette.
For lots of very good reasons hospitals and hospices are not keen on having bunches, bouquets, sprigs or sprays of flowers about the place, this was a sticking point for mum as she craved the colour and smell and life of her plants and flowers. Lenny found the solution, he started taking photographs of their garden on his phone and bringing them to her. The pictures had to be captured daily, there could be no repeats. This wasn’t the real thing but it was a compromise that she accepted, and sharing those simple pictures helped to brighten some of the darker times for them both.
Inspiration truly is everywhere!
During her time in St Luke’s mum needed different bits and bobs, a note pad, her diary, some stationary, a few pictures to make her little space homelier. All these things and Lenny’s photographs had slowly planted a seed that now began grow (pun absolutely intended). I had begun spending my free time doing crafts to occupy my sometimes tired and spinning mind. Not that there ever seems to be any free time, as I have two children in my house one is 8 and the other is 39. It was during this time I decided that I would create those products that people in hospital and hospices need, and I would decorate them with the colour and beauty of mum’s flowers, and I would scent them with the things that she loved. I saw the uplifting effect the images had on her and I hope that we can emulate that feeling in others. When your world is turning at a thousand miles an hour, taking 5 minutes to do something you love like taking a picture can be the difference between ‘getting through the day’ and ‘getting on with your day’. I have learned that something as simple as a picture of a flower taken on a smart phone can give a person in great pain, the will to continue even when the future promises to be more difficult than the present. This is where our little business idea began to blossom (I know the pun thing happened again)
Nurture small seeds and big ideas grow.
It is with enormous pride that I can tell you that my mum, Mrs Jacqueline Maureen Bunting stood in defiance of that terrible and cruel illness for the 10 months that had been estimated by the fantastic medical staff (and they are fantastic and caring and dedicated), and she then fought on for almost 2 more years. It is with sadness that I am typing, that my mum passed away in the early hours of Monday 2nd November 2015. She left us peacefully in her own home, in her own bed with Lenny lying beside her (right beside her were he had been since March 2013 and we love him for every second of it) but before she went my mum taught me one last thing, inspiration truly is everywhere!
Mum was affectionately known as ‘Mamma Jack’ by many of her family and friends and so it is only fitting that we are named for the amazing woman who inspired us not only in business but also, in love, life and in happiness.