Jun. 7th, 2012

Today was the funeral of my grandmother - Gladys Emily Beatrice, known to me, ever since I was a baby as Nan1. It was a small family affair at the crematorium, followed by a small gathering at my sister's house. The local vicar led us in with the usual prayers, but the eulogy and readings were from myself and my sister's two daughters...

This was what I wrote, and more or less, what I said...

Gladys Emily Beatrice

Today, we celebrate the life of a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, sister, and wife.

Gladys Emily Beatrice – to those who fill in forms; just Glad or Gladys to her family & friends, Mum to her children; Nan or Nanny to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I suppose, in honour of one of her habits, I should call her Maud, Em, Lucy, Valerie, Deborah, Karen, Gladys2, but to me, she was, and always will be, Nan. The sweetest, gentlest and kindest person I ever knew.

How can you possibly sum up, in so short a time, a life that spanned over 99 years? A life that saw four monarchs, 24 prime-ministers and two world wars? A life that spanned the electronic age, the space age and the information age?

I could talk of memories. There are so many of them. For me, the strongest ones would be the times that we lived with Nan & Papa in Ardrossan Gardens. Mum, Ron, Deborah & I, and later, Karen as well. All of us packed together in that two-bedroom maisonette. There would be Papa snoring during the day and then getting up and going to work at night3. Nan coming home from work of an evening, with sweets for us kids on Fridays. Nan & Papa doing their tins, putting money aside for the bills, for the insurance, a shilling for the electric, a shilling for the stamp, a shilling towards the phone and so on4. There would be fish-fingers, crisps and coleslaw for Friday supper. Z-Cars, Crossroads and Emergency Ward 10 on the TV. And, of course. a bowl of Fox’s Glacier Mints always on hand. Evenings would be interrupted by the intercom from Maud, Ted & Richard downstairs going beep beep beep beep-beep, beep-beep, which they told me stood for “telephone’s ringing, come down”, when there was a phone call, until the time that they got a phone of their own, on the wall5. I remember Nan sitting up in bed with her glass of stout, as prescribed by the doctor. And I always remember Nan sitting drying her hair, with the hair dryer in her lap and the plastic hood thing over her head, because Nan always liked to look her best, with her hair properly styled. And she did always look her best, no matter what the occasion, or lack of. Always elegant and beautiful.

Those are memories that are long in the past, but, there are many similar memories since. Travelling by train, via Effingham Junction to visit them, and then later, driving there. When we left, they would always wait and wave to us until we were well out of site. Like all of these memories, they are about family. And that, if anything summed up the person that Nan was, a family woman. A woman who was immensely proud of her family, this family, gathered here today. She was a woman who loved her family, with all its foibles and complications, no matter what else occurred. To me, she never seemed happier than at family gatherings – Christmases, birthdays, wedding anniversaries etc., when we would all gather together, especially when those she hadn’t seen for some time were there. Whatever else was going on, she was always pleased to see her family, to have them around her. In recent years, when Ellen and I came to visit, I would always notice that her smile on seeing us could light up the whole room. Just as it would when any family member came to visit. Because, that was Nan, a woman who loved her family above all else.

Even more so, she was a woman filled with love. Aside from her love of family, there was her love for her husband, Don, or to many of us, Papa. That was a love that endured many more years than I have been alive. More years than most of us here. It was a love that was always evident when you saw them together. When Ellen and I got married, my friends remarked to me afterwards, how lovely it was to see Nan & Papa together. Holding hands, smiling and giggling together like teenagers in love. Speaking with Deborah recently, she said that many of her friends had said the exact same thing. A love that endured, and a love that shone like the sun.

And that, I think, should be the most abiding memory of Nan. A loving great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, aunt, sister and wife. I don’t know if they have Glacier Mints or fish-fingers and crisps up there, or whether you need tobacco tins to do the accounting, but I do know that Nan & Papa are together again at last, doing whatever they want to do, together, with love. And, they will be smiling and giggling and holding hands once again while they do it. Because Nan, among many things, exemplified love. A love that we all experienced and will never forget.

And so, I say to her, on behalf of us all, we love you Nan, and we will never, ever forget you.

On that note, I will now hand you over to Emily, with some words from the Songs of Solomon on the nature of love, followed by Victoria with some words on hope from Lois Lowry.

Thank you.


My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past; The rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; The time of the singing is come, And the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land;
The fig-tree puts forth its figs, And the vines are in blossom;
They give forth their fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death, passion as fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.
If one offered for love all the wealth of one's house,
it would be utterly scorned.

(Song of Solomon - 2:10-13 & 8:6-7)


"Time goes on, and your life is still there, and you have to live it. After a while you remember the good things more often than the bad. Then, gradually, the empty silent parts of you fill up with sounds of talking and laughter again, and the jagged edges of sadness are softened by memories."
Lois Lowry

[1] Nan or Nanny when I was younger. Her husband, my maternal grandfather was named by me when I was very young as Papa, and it stuck, even when we were all adults. Paternal grandparents were Gran(ny) & Granddad, so it was easy to work out who was meant. We couldn't use GrannyX and Granny Y as they were both called Gladys.
[2] A family habit. Whenever she greeted somebody for the first time, she would always run through the various family names before she got to the right one. So, in my case, I would be David, Alan, Richard, Andrew, Kevin, Ian.
[3] He worked in the print trade and worked nights to get more money. He had the loudest snore ever.
[4] That was how they did their accounting and managed their money. They had a box of 2oz tobacco tins that lived on top of the wardrobe in their bedroom. All of them were labelled - gas, electricity, insurance, rent and so on. Every Friday, they would sit and empty out their wage packets (cash in those days) and divide the money among the tins. For those not of British extraction or born after 1972, a shilling was equivalent to 5p in current money.
[5] Maud was Nan's sister, Ted Maud's husband and Richard was their son. They lived in the ground floor maisonette. When we first moved there, they had a phone, but Nan didn't. They did have a simple intercom between the two dwellings. When there was a phone call for Nan, Maud or Ted would just buzz "shave and a haircut" on the intercom, and Nan would put on her slippers or whatever and go down to take her call.



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