Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Male Staff's Mum's Eulogy

Today is my male staff's mum's funeral. For the last few days I've been helping him to write her eulogy. If you don't mind, I'd like to post it here on my blog site. I'll be posting my usual blog post a bit later today.

Rest In Peace Frances Sylvia Kearns Emery
24 May 1932 - 18 February 2012.

My male staff's mum's eulogy.

Every child wants a mother that they can be proud of, and Suzanne and I were fortunate enough to have one such mum. She had courage, compassion, a sense of humour and was utterly selfless.  She served her country as a nurse in Aden in the WRAF, where she met Dad. Photos of that time show her as a very beautiful young woman, small wonder that dad fell in love with her.  She worked for the Salvation Army at their Whittington House aged care facility, and most notably at a council run aged care home in High Wycombe where her courage, compassion and determination were instrumental in weeding out abusive staff.

Towards the end of her life she displayed astonishing courage and fortitude when confronted with the fact of the tumour that finally took her from us.  There were no histrionics, no anguished shouts of “Why me?” Her main concern seemed to be that whoever was pushing her wheelchair didn’t get too tired.

I would have been five or six years old the day the barn that stood next to our bungalow in Oakham caught fire. With no thought for their own safety, both Mum and Dad rescued several panicked cattle from the blaze. I stood and watched, terrified, but not really understanding the danger they were in. It was only when I grew older that I began to comprehend the heroism of this act.

Mum loved animals you see, Suzanne and I have inherited that love and I can’t help but judge people by the way they treat animals. Around the same time as the barn fire I had a hamster – Jenny. I loved that hamster, but one freezing morning Mum found her lying very still in her cage, obviously close to death.  She took Jenny back to bed with her, gently warmed her and massaged her little heart until it’s beat sped up and finally returned to normal. Then she fed her copious amounts of brandy with a dropper. Jenny survived and went on to become the first non-human member of Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Mum’s favourite song was “Morning Has Broken.” One day whilst we were living in Gibraltar she recorded it on a cassette tape and played it so often that Suzanne and I became utterly sick of it. When she caught us eyeing the tape with a view to wiping it clean she wrote on it “Morning Has Broken. And so will your neck be if you erase this tape.” I think she was joking but I didn’t want to risk it.

In the nineteen eighties she taught herself how to make wine; and my word that wine was good. Mum and I were particularly fond of her rose petal red and her elderflower white.  We’d sit and play Scrabble together in the evenings, just chatting and enjoying a glass or six of her home made wine. I nearly always beat her at Scrabble – I think she let me.

She loved her garden and had the greenest of green fingers. My wife, Jacky, a farm girl from Australia was always astounded at the productiveness of Mum and Dad’s garden. Mum could grow anything.  Once she even grew a banana tree in the dining room. This thing was massive, it even grew a small bunch of bananas. This was in deepest tropical Buckinghamshire. The local newspaper came and did an article on Mum and her banana tree. There was a photo of her with the tree under the headline “FRUITY FRANCES”.

I still have the newspaper cutting. Another memento I have is our wedding video. Jacky and I were married at her parents’ farm in Australia. Mum and Dad came – their first visit “Down Under.” Before they returned to England I asked Mum what she thought of Australia. “It’s very nice,” she said. “But there’s so much of it.”

So, what do I think Mum is doing now?  Well, she’ll be up there, wherever and whatever “up there” is, making “beige cake” for one of the other resident’s birthday or anniversary.  She loved making celebratory cakes and always managed to source an appropriate greetings card, no matter how obscure the occasion. If they made a card that said. “Happy Halloween To My Next Door Neighbour’s Sister’s Cousin” she’d have found it.  Once the cake is baked and everyone has a cup of tea she’ll go out and throw a tennis ball for her much loved dogs – Jonathon, Petra and Hannah. This will be followed by a spot of gardening, an afternoon tea of scones with jam and large dollops of clotted cream and finally a game of scrabble and a couple of glasses of her own elderflower wine.

Mum, if you’re listening.  You spent your life courageously, selflessly and compassionately making life more comfortable for others, in particular Dad, Suzanne and I.  Now it’s time for you to kick off those smelly old slippers of yours and put your feet up. 


  1. That was a beautiful eulogy. We have no doubt that she was a wonderful woman, who managed to pass on her sense of humor and love of animals to your staff.

    Sending you many piggy hugs during this difficult time, from all of us.

  2. Lovely words for a lovely lady.
    hugs for you all

  3. Dear Billy & Peter, your eulogy gave me a real sense of Frances & what a gift she was to the world. Quite the lady you'd want to be related to or friends with. Fruity Frances obviously even conveyed to the local journalist just how ready she was to have a bit of fun & laugh at herself. On the day of her service Billy's tale of the centipede rescued & eaten would have delighted her for sure.
    Hugs & whisker kisses. XO

  4. you mum sounds like a beautiful soul. we are so sorry for your loss- it is the people left behind that hurt the most when someone crosses over into the next. I have no doubt that your mum was listening the day you read this and was deeply touched. *guinea pig hugs*
    -puppy the guinea pig from twitter