In memory of Janet Lyle-Stokes

Mum an her graduation day that she completed whilst fighting bowel cancer = superstar!

I have kept meaning to post this for some time. I wanted to share it for friends and family, but also as a place to archive it for the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll be reading it again aged 80 reminding myself of the life I have lead is due to this writing I did at 33 years old. I have thought about the life I want to lead and the things I want to do with it a lot since Mum’s death. I imagine my life in future is going to be positively effected due to that, and later I will be able to say that this was the catalyst for all the change that is going to happen.

The first half of this memoir (if you want to call it that) was written first hand from my Mum. Sadly over the course of 2012 did not return to writing and finishing what she started. Her request was that ‘Jan’s bit’ was read out at her funeral, but for that to happen it needed to be expanded upon by a third person. Gratefully her Brother Gerald Ward wrote down a number of events written ‘as Mum’, but after some discussion I rewrote the second half from our, her family’s perspective.

My Brother read the following out at Mum’s funeral with myself stood by his side. The service was held on the 10th December at Polruan’s Saint Saviour Church after burial service at Church of Saint Wyllow, which is found just outside the village.

In memory of Mum…

Janet Lyle-Stokes 23rd August 1954 – 28th November 2012

Born in rural Shropshire at Whiston, my childhood was idyllic. Beautiful countryside, my father’s parents living next door, my mother’s parents in the village a couple of miles away and good country living. Vegetables and fruit from the garden, eggs from the hens and a once a week delivery of meat and groceries. No modern technology, how perfect those days were – my tomboy days with my brother, Gerry. I do have a sister, Rachel, but she wasn’t into fishing, tree climbing and straw bale jumping! Gerry and I had hours of fun exploring the countryside on our doorstep. I spent a lot of my time with my grandparents in the village. I loved the fluffed-up feather bed Gran provided. It was so warm with the flannelette sheets. She taught me such a lot about life and became not only my Gran but she was also my best friend and rock. We adored each other.

A move to Worcestershire was short lived when Grampy died of Bowel Cancer. February 1969 we moved to Telford. I went to Abraham Darby Comprehensive School and joined the choir where I met up again with my music teacher from my Shropshire days! I loved the choir and dragged my friend, Annie, to be a member. We sang at local festivals and it was at the Newport festival after singing ‘The Heavens Are Telling The Glory of God’ that the adjudicator stated we were the best choir he had ever heard. We all became integral members of the newly formed British Youth Choir. We performed with all the other members at Sheffield Cathedral. The BYC still survives!

I trained at Harrogate in the early 1970s as a nurse. My intention was to return to Telford to the new hospital to work there. I qualified and there were still no foundations laid down for the new hospital!

I stayed in Harrogate for a while doing Gynaecology and moved to St Albans to do Infections and Diseases before moving to the Sue Ryder home at Stagenhoe. I had a Honda 50cc motorcycle at this time…

It is at this point that the saying “A mother’s work is never done” is never truer. Jan never finished the rest of her story. So with the help of family and the trio that consists of Stuart, Kayleigh and Dale, we have tried our best at completing the achievements and memories of Jan for you.

As she mentioned, she would often spend time with Gerry and get herself into scraps with him, which once meant a cricket ball breaking her nose – this was a story often told to her three children that Stuart her eldest remembers.

Gerry himself recalls a day where they all went fishing using home-made elderberry rods and Father’s finest line from his match rod, probably his best floats too, and after all the jam sandwiches had been eaten Janet landed a carp. Plonking the poor fish head first into a metal seaside bucket they all raced back home some half mile away. Using their Mother’s enamelled laundry tub they quickly filled the tub up and let the monster swim around until their Dad came home. Secretly they were sure he was proud of their catch!

As time passed Jan moved to Leicester, had her first son Stuart with Peter in 1979, left nursing and began working as a seamstress. She eventually parted from Peter and it was shortly after that Gordon came into her life and they made a home with a new addition of a baby girl, named Kayleigh born March 1986. Within a year they had all moved to Wales and February 1987, Dale the youngest of the three, was born at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend.

The move to South Wales was brought about due to an offer of resuming her nursing career. Eventually Jan went on to work as a District Nurse in Cardiff which meant long hours away from her family. She always made an effort to spend quality time with her three children though, and with money never in abundance the children learned the joys of simple holidays in a caravan (apart from the one when the car was stolen near Swansea). They also spent much time in the great outdoors and were entertained by Bluecoats at Pontins in Somerset.

The marriage with Gordon had rocky times, which meant she focused on her children lots and formed great bonds with all three over the years as they grew up; so much so that they followed her to the ends of the earth – a place that many people call Cornwall.

Whilst in Cornwall she returned to work after a period of illness that she endured whilst living in Wales for the last few years. She loved working at ASDA near Bodmin; helping customers, being around people whilst she worked, and completed a management training course and advanced food hygiene training which meant she ran the in-store cafe.

It was at this point that her three children would like to ask “Who’s Paul?” and and close a chapter of her life that wasn’t full of happiness, but did mean she moved to Cornwall and eventually led her back to doing what she did best – caring for people.

Whilst working at ASDA there was a gentleman called Richard who Jan started to spend time with, and when she spoke of him there was a twinkle in her eye. As time went by their long walks together turned into a beautiful relationship and Richard encouraged her to return to nursing. Jan completed her return to nursing course and later went on to complete her diploma at Plymouth University, braving chemotherapy and showing utmost determination for her parents to see her graduate, in which they proudly witnessed in 2010.

Needless to say, Jan’s concerns about returning to nursing were unfounded and in the words of Angie, her co-worker whilst working at Fowey Hospital, who became a dear friend:

“She was a thoroughly reliable member of the team. From a boss point of view, she was one of those who I could leave a list of things to be done and Jan would always do as much as possible and more importantly, she would document it.”

“She had a good sense of fun. She also had a favourite word that was used if anyone was being stupid. Not repeatable in public and staff would know if you alluded to it. She was the strongest person I have ever known. Stubborn yes, but not unreasonable.”

“We grew to really love each other and could be very honest with each other. Jan and I both talked a lot – I don’t know how Richard put up with us!”

“As a person she was immensely proud of her children. She talked with fondness of her childhood. She had immense courage and was always thinking of others no matter how ill she was. Jan has helped and touched many lives never for her own glory. I will miss our chats, laughter and even the tears.”

I hope we have done her proud by filling in the gaps and I think we can all agree; that by living a life that helps others, where you put others before yourself and make others around you feel excited about their lives – that itself is a life worth living.

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