Eulogy for mother

This is the text of the eulogy I read at my mother’s funeral service yesterday (19th January 2015), principally for those friends who couldn’t be present and are interested in knowing what I said.


I’ve had difficulty writing this, not least in knowing where to start. Joyce – mum – had already lived a third of her life when I was born, so there’s a lot I can’t give personal testimony to. Also, like my late father, she was a hard act to follow; she filled her life with a wide variety of things, and made an impact with most of them, at least until she started slowing down a few years ago.

I can’t ignore her early life, though – after all, some of you shared bits of it. So…

She was brought up all over the place – born near Birmingham, spent time in Scotland and wound up on Tyneside, giving her every opportunity for an appalling accent, which she avoided. She showed early promise in music, and actually had a place to read music at Durham University, but had to forego that when my grandfather became ill, and she had to work. She did that for some years, for the Ministry of Labour (which she largely hated), until my father rescued her, meeting her on a Holiday Fellowship walking holiday and marrying her, which in those days terminated a career in the Civil Service. She actually recorded two records, though not for release, and for many years sang in choirs and gave recitals. She was keen on telling people that I was embarrassed being next to her in church, because I said her voice “stuck out like a sore thumb”. Not the best choice of words… hopefully I can do better today!

She and my father shared Art as a hobby, running the Selby Art Club for over 30 years and organising annual art exhibitions in Selby Abbey. She was pretty good at art, as well, and I know of quite a few people who framed her home-drawn or painted Christmas cards. I particularly liked some of her wood sculptures, made from “found” wood, which exploited the natural decay and grain of the wood to suggest representations.

They were also keen on drama, being members of Selby Concert and Theatrical Society and then the 67 society for many years. Her main outlet for non-musical performance, however, was giving talks to groups around the area about music, art or other topics which engaged her attention.

In her 60s, she decided to repair the lack of a degree, and studied with the Open University, eventually being awarded a BA with honours. She wasn’t prepared to be the odd one out in the family once both dad and myself had a degree!

I should also mention her garden, which was a passion. Sadly, in the last few years this became too difficult, as unsteadiness on her feet stopped her getting out and about, while declining eyesight and hearing robbed her of many of the pleasures of art and music. It was a joy to myself and Nel when, last year, we were able to renew her garden with raised beds which she could actually do some gardening in again, and the picture on the order of service captures her own delight at that on first seeing the new garden.

Some of her talks were about holidays we had taken, and she may have given the impression that she liked to travel. It wasn’t the case – she liked to be in other locations, particularly if there was great art or architecture or magnificent scenery to look at (and sketch), but the snag was the travelling to get there. She never wanted to set off on a journey, and once there didn’t want to set off home either.

Perhaps that’s why she got to be 96? My father and myself used to joke that the way to get her to go somewhere was to make all the arrangements in advance and surprise her by saying “OK, now let’s go…” We might have designed the manner of her passing to suit her – by all accounts, it was as much a surprise to her as it was to us, halfway through a mouthful of her tea, sitting in her favourite chair.

Of course, among all these activities, she brought up a son. For at least  the first 15 years, this was a task which in hindsight I am both extremely grateful for her sticking with and extremely guilty for visiting on her. However, in the last few years, as physical  infirmities started to get the better of her, I am glad to have had the opportunity to repay some of the care and patience she displayed in those early years.

She leaves a huge hole in my heart, and will leave a hole in many others, not least Nel, Alex and Eleanor, but one which is in my case gently filling with good memories. We can, perhaps, share some more of these memories with each other after the service, start to fill the void, and celebrate a long and fruitful life rather than mourning its passing.


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