Inspirational epitaph of a beloved mum

Karen Currie with an anthology of poems written by her mum, Jan Goodwin.
Karen Currie with an anthology of poems written by her mum, Jan Goodwin.

From broken bones to new beginnings

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Did you know? The Rowans Hospice opened in October 1994 with 10 beds

Karen Currie desperately wants to say something wise and clever about The Rowans Hospice.

Jan Goodwin, Karen Currie and her sister Kelly Crawford pictured in 2005

Jan Goodwin, Karen Currie and her sister Kelly Crawford pictured in 2005

‘It was amazing,’ is all she can manage before the tears come and she remembers how the staff there took care of them all when her mum, Jan Goodwin, was ill.

‘At a time when you really can’t take much more, they are there to make things a bit more bearable,’ she says.

Jan went to The Rowans in Purbrook a number of times during her long battle with cancer. Each time she went through another cycle of chemotherapy, this close and loving family rallied round, hopeful that she’d pull through.

But less than a month after Jan’s last stay there in May 2008, she died.

‘She was quite a healthy woman really in most ways, it really did come out of the blue,’ says Karen.

‘There were no real signs or symptoms. Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer but she managed to keep going for six years.

‘The nice thing is that she saw me re-marry, my sister Kelly get married and have her two children. For all these significant family things, she was very much at the centre.’

She adds: ‘It was difficult to watch mum go through the chemotherapy each time but she did it for the family. She wasn’t one of those people who said “I don’t want any more treatment, let me go”.

‘She fought it every step of the way. There were times when I thought “She can’t get better from this”. But even when we should have seen the signs, we still told ourselves she’d pull through.’

Throughout her life, Jan wrote poems and together they formed an anthology of all the good and bad times they had shared. She was a prolific writer and jotted her thoughts down on everything from the birth of her grandchildren to her hope that she would get better.

Jan had always planned to publish her collection and was working on it with her husband Alan and their two daughters just before she passed away.

But in spite of the pain they felt at losing her, the family went ahead with publishing her autobiographical anthology of verse. Now her poems act as a lasting tribute to Jan – and the book is also a fundraiser for The Rowans.

‘Mum had always wanted to publish her poetry and she did little diary entries to put the poems in context,’ explains Karen.

‘We were just in the process of finding a publisher when we lost her. I guess my way of coping at that time was to carry on, to do something, so we got it published.’

Jan’s work – called A Life in Verse – covers all sorts of events and experiences. Her grandchildren Adam, Natassia, Eva and Jack all have poems written for them, as does her mum Rosa, now 95, and sister Maureen. Jan’s closest friends are all compared to different types of flowers in one poem. And the collection starts with a poem written by Alan for Jan on their wedding day and includes a verse written about the couple’s experience of having a stillborn daughter, Emma.

Born on the Isle of Wight, Jan moved to Portsmouth when she was a teenager and then on to Hayling Island. After a career as a hairdresser she became an image consultant and co-founded a popular business club for women.

It’s an intensely personal collection of poems, but Karen hopes her mum’s words will appeal to all sorts of people going through all sorts of things.

‘My mum was an incredible person, she had this amazing personality,’ adds the 48-year-old from Hayling Island.

‘Everybody who knew her knew she was quite a character in people’s hearts. She put a lot down in poetry, it was that extra crutch when she needed it, it gave her a little bit of support and I hope that the book can do that for someone else. I hope it can be a comfort and inspire them.’

Monday next week would have been Jan’s 68th birthday and the book has just been re-printed.

‘She wanted the book to be dedicated to The Rowans, that was always part of the plan,’ says Karen.

‘The Rowans never questioned when we wanted to go in and see her, my dad used to stay there every night. It’s difficult to find clever words to do them justice but they really make you feel at home, like you’re just one big family. It’s a charity that’s very dear to our hearts, we do what we can.’

She adds: ‘Even two-and-a-half years on, losing mum is one of those things that never gets easier. Time doesn’t make this sort of thing better.

‘I have a copy of the book that I keep in my bedroom and I still dip into it. I find myself drawn to the ones that remind me most of her and the ones that she wrote for me and about me.’

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Jan Goodwin’s autobiographical anthology, A Life in Verse, is available for £9.99 from amazon.co.uk and The Hayling Island Bookshop.

It is also available to buy direct from the family by calling Karen on (023) 9246 0606. There isn’t a set cover price when the book is sold by the family and they are happy to take donations in aid of The Rowans Hospice instead. All proceeds from the book go to The Rowans.

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The Rowans Hospice charity is dedicated to improving the lives of people with cancer and other life-limiting illnesses.

Established since 1994, it has helped more than 5,000 patients and families across Portsmouth and south east Hampshire.

Services are provided free of charge, but the charity needs to raise more than £3.7m a year. In September, The Rowans launched the Dorothy’s Dream appeal to raise £1m to fund a hospice at home scheme. The appeal, which is being backed by The News, would fund Rowans nurses to offer care and support to those who wished to spend their last days in their own home.

Trustees of The Rowans Hospice have already pledged £250,000 to the appeal and the public has raised more than £500,000 already.

If you would like to help, have fundraising ideas or want to make a donation, call (023) 9225 0001 or visit rowanshospice.co.uk

Extracts from A Life in Verse

Wedding poem – from Alan to Jan

Today when you are all in white

For sure, you’ll look a pretty sight

We’ll both be there for all to see

Me for you and you for me

Today is the day we have waited for

When we’ll be together forever more

And never ever shall we part

Your image locked within my heart

When we are blessed as man and wife

I’ll offer you my very life

All my dreams will turn out right

Today when you are all in white

Hope

Would that I could enter paradise

with conscience clear

To tread the golden staircase without fear

But on life’s rocky paths we trip and fall

Some fiendish power would have us all

Then when at last they toll the bell for me

My weak repenting heart is stilled

Cruel spirit let this troubled frame be free

My dying hope to be fulfilled

To Karen

Nature’s Gift - A Daughter

How did Nature know I needed Karen?

How did Nature know she needed me?

Was it written in the stars – it had to be

Wise and caring, thoughtful, kind

Gems like this are rare and hard to find

She’s beautiful and funny – with a wit

that entertains

When I need someone to listen

Or I want advice or time – she remains

My constant source of love and inspiration

‘Hair so blonde, eyes light blue

With lots of girly glamour – that’s you’

You can cook and yes, you’re bright

Gosh! You know I’m really proud

For a mother this is perfect

To have a daughter just like you

That she loves and wants to be with

This is Nature’s dream come true