Jade Goody’s mother, Jackiey, broke down when she read a poem that a well-wisher had left for her daughter. The poem was called Mothers Never Really Die. Did Jackiey cry because she knew in her heart that the wrong woman was dead?
The good mother, the one who had used every last ounce of fight in her body to guarantee a decent future for her kids, had passed away at the age of 27.
Jackiey, the drug addict mum who got her five-year-old girl to roll spliffs for her, was still alive. Still alive and still the needy child she had been throughout Jade’s life.
‘I’m just not coping,’ Jackiey moaned. Indeed not. Her little girl wasn’t here to take care of her any more.
It was proof of Jade’s big-heartedness that in her book, Catch A Falling Star, she thanked her mum for what, by any standards, was a catastrophic childhood.
‘It’s because of what I’ve been through that I’ve become the strong person that I am today,’ she insisted. And Jade was strong. Strong and loving and impulsive and gobby.
Her character was forged in the kind of adversity most of us in modern Britain would rather not think about. But Fry was right. Neither Diana or Jade had a template for a happy family. Both had mothers who abandoned them. Each was damaged, each sought the love and approval they had never known from a fickle public.
Both women ended up as a kind of royalty, one ancient, the other that modern monarchy called fame. They had the power of changing a room when they joined it. They made people happy and excited, which may not be a degree course, but is a talent nonetheless.
Both were damned for being dim. Diana confessed she was ‘thick as a plank’. Jade, unforgettably, believed that Rio de Janeiro was a person and said she didn’t want to be made ‘an escape goat’.
But they had a way of bypassing conventional intelligence and making an intuitive connection with a crowd which unnerved some commentators - especially men.
Both were expert media manipulators, yet universally adored for being ‘real’. Both were meant to be living a fairytale, but it ended unhappily ever after and no prince could kiss them better. ‘In good times and bad, she never lost the capacity to smile and laugh.’ Those were the Queen’s words, after Diana’s death. But it could be Jade’s obituary too.
Whatever their faults - and there were plenty - Diana and Jade overcame neglectful upbringings and became excellent mums to their own boys.
Only last week, Prince William said that not a single day passes without him thinking of his mother. Bobby and Freddie will now be missing their noisily aspirational mum, who lived life to the full. I only hope the boys don’t have to walk behind Jade’s coffin as William and Harry were made to.
Plenty of people will say enough is enough. Many would pay good money to leave the country and avoid the funeral extravaganza on April 4, which has been styled a ‘Jade Goody Production’. The cortege of 21 Daimlers, giant external TV screens and hordes of weeping mourners will be further proof for some that our society is in thrall to hollow, meaningless celebrity.
What did Jade Goody mean to them? Why should she mean anything to any of us? Because, in the end, the human being trumped the celebrity. The reality star made cancer real for many women. Hundreds of lives may be saved because she lost hers.
The poet Philip Larkin has a line about how hard it can be to escape a bad start in this world. ‘An only life can take so long to climb/Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never.’
Well, Jade Cerisa Lorraine Goody had only 27 short years to climb clear of her wrong beginnings. But she made it. Millions never will. Jade should not be an ‘escape goat’ for our shallow, celebrity culture. Sadly, it was her only way up and out. She gave it everything she had.