Family reflections of a precious wife,
mother, grandmother and great-grandmother
26th April 1923 – 4th January 2010
Read at the Thanksgiving Service for her wonderful life
Llanishen Evangelical Church, Cardiff
Monday 18th January 2010
Somehow we knew that there would not be a long time between standing here in this chapel paying tribute to our dear father and doing the same for our precious mother. They were inseparable in life and we believe they will be inseparable in death. They have been reunited in the presence of the God they love.
Our parents shared a beautiful poem, which they always regarded as their own. It is entitled ‘How do I love thee?’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and comes from her collection called Sonnets from the Portuguese. In it there is a line which reads…
I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears of all my life! And, if God choses,
I shall but love thee better after death.
God did choose and since 4th January that line has become a poignant reminder to us of two wonderful people that we had the privilege to call dad and mum. They will be in love forever!
Our mother was the heartbeat of our family. She really was the most remarkable lady. She was small in stature but a massive force for good in the lives of all who knew her. As a family we would all echo the words of Abraham Lincoln who once said
‘ All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my mother’
She was a humble lady; who lived simply and loved a lot. Mum and dad didn’t have much, especially in the early days of their marriage, but they shared everything they had with anybody they could. Just like our dad, mum’s main aim in life was to live in such a way that she honoured Jesus in all she did and she tried to show love to others as often as she could.
She showed her love in many ways
She showed her love by the way she loved and cared for our father. It is impossible to speak of one without the other, because they were one. Together they showed us what true love really was love. There is little doubt we enjoyed a number of extra years with our dad because of the wonderful way she looked after him throughout his life, but especially as he got older. She gave him extraordinary care, sorting out his countless pills and tablets, organising a host of doctors and hospital visits. We will always be grateful to her for the selfless love she always showed him. They were married for sixty-three years and she didn’t love him the same after all that time… she loved him much, much more!
Before meeting our dad, mum had a very tough life. She was an original ‘Girl from Tiger Bay’ and was born in Sophia Street in the very heart of Cardiff’s tough dockland area. Her father was an alcoholic, who suffered from a severe form of epilepsy and the effects of this made him treat his family in a very cruel way.
Mum often told us how scared she was when he became violent. She had a loving, caring mum and a wonderful brother and sister, Doris was older and her brother Bill was younger and she adored them both all the way through her life. Mum always told us her life began the day she met our father during the dark days of World War Two. It happened in a dance hall in Newport Road in Cardiff, when he was home on leave from serving his country. God obviously brought them together and despite many wartime dangers and difficulties, their romance blossomed and, as soon as they could after the war, they married.
God blessed them with sixty-three wonderfully happy years, three children, eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren and each one of us adored this remarkable lady. Their love story is unique and an inspiration to us all. They lived for each other and many lives over many years have been touched for good by this special couple.
She showed her love by the way she cared for us, her children. She was caring, hardworking and totally devoted to us. She took in sewing when we were younger, helping to make ends meet; she was a dinner lady in our local school, went on to become a tax officer and eventually realised her dream and opened up a flower shop in Grangetown. This meant very early mornings and late nights, but she never complained. Mum and hard work were always close friends. She often reminded us that on the day the shop, which was called Flower Trend, opened in Paget Street, her dear friend Bill Davies – Brother Bill to most of us – called into the shop and prayed with them; what better way to launch a business venture. She opened the shop in the face of advice to the contrary, but mum knew best, and her hard work, her skills, and her positive nature made it a success.
She really believed her job helped others; whether it was a red rose to a loved one on Valentines Day or a little posy to a proud new mum, or a beautiful funeral tribute bringing comfort to someone grieving, she knew the joy that flowers could bring and she just loved bringing joy into other peoples’ lives.
She was selfless in the love for her family. We never once doubted her love. She used that love as a shield protecting us from the harsh things life often likes to throw at us. When things were tough with money worries, we never knew. Whenever she was ill and sometimes she was really ill, she would protect us from the worry and say that she was fine, never telling us when things were bad. We shared with you when we said goodbye to our father, that our childhoods were idyllic living here in Llanishen. We played in the street and in the local woods, built damns and caught fish and always got wet and at the end of the day we came home to our mum, whose love filled our home. It was so real you could almost feel it. Mum had a wonderful way of always knowing what was in our hearts and on our minds even before we had the chance to say anything.
She helped us realise our dreams, forgave us our mistakes and loved us unconditionally. As with our dad, we never needed to earn mums love and affection, she gave it freely and in generous amounts. It has been said that only a mother can share her love with all of her children, yet give each child undivided love. We found this to be true each and every day of our lives with her. How she did it will remain a secret. Mum never knew that statement, but lived it out from the very day she became a mum for the first time in 1947.
She showed her love by the way she nurtured her relationship with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She has a wonderful way of developing a unique relationship with each one.
She took an interest in what each one did, whether it was hearing about what things had happened in school or at work or at home. Even in the tough days of her last illness, she would still delight in hearing of what we had all been up to, when they went to visit her in hospital.
In late December, when she was really weak, she still found the strength to sing Happy Birthday on the phone to Gareth, just as she and dad had always done, without fail, when that special day arrived for each one of us. She rejoiced with us in our happy times, cried along side us in our sad times, comforted us when we were anxious and was always the rock on which we could depend – she really was the heartbeat of our family. She probably was the most positive person in the whole world. She never got down and if she did, she never ever showed us.
She showed her love in her devotion in her church. Mum became a Christian in 1949 shortly after dad. Both of their lives have been devoted to following God and working as part of the local church since that time.
During those years, countless lives have been touched by their love and kindness. In the early days of this church they ran boys and girls youth meeting in the evenings; teaching children and young people many different craft skills and sharing with them the truths of the Bible. They made their home available to the young people of the church and week after week on a Sunday evening, our home would be filled with youngsters chatting, singing and drinking endless cups of tea.
One day, Paul, our friend, arrived on our doorstep, suitcase in hand, needing a place to stay and he actually came to live with us on a permanent basis, such was their devotion to their church and their God. Later on, she became a Girl Covenanter leader and worked with the girls with great energy and enthusiasm for many years. Some of the trophies she won still stand proudly on the wall in the back of the church. Look at them and smile on the way out!
When the church started a new youth work in recent years, mum got involved, and soon found a job looking after the tuck shop. At 80 plus years of age she was surely one of the oldest youth leaders around! What a role model for all of us who follow!
In Coffee Morning on a Thursday, mum always took her turn making the coffee and clearing up afterwards. She always prepared the flowers for the church, using the skills she learnt as a florist.
Like our dad, mum loved this church with a passion; whether it was called Llanishen Gospel Hall, Emmaus Chapel or Llanishen Evangelical Church, they loved it because it was God’s house and their main aim in life was to serve the God they loved.
Mum also showed her love by the way she cared for animals. Her love for animals started when, as a young girl, she owned a dog called Nell. She loved them all, especially all of our dogs; there was always a treat ready for them when they visited. She loved Helen’s horses, the other grandchildren’s rabbits and hamsters…anything! Whether they had four legs, two legs or as in Bobby’s case three legs, it made no difference, she loved them all. The birds in mum’s garden were the best fed birds in Wales and she would spend a fortune on coconuts, peanuts, and fat balls to make sure they had enough to eat all the way through the year. The birds were her friends and they would often eat out of her hands as her and Dad sat or worked quietly in the garden.
One thing is certain… sales of Take a Break, crossword books, cockles and clotted cream will be down in the coming weeks and months. Viewing figures for Emmerdale, Dancing on Ice and Coronation Street are already down by one these days. Those things she really loved!
She loved to travel as well and would often thrill us with the stories of her journeys to Greece, Spain, Yugoslavia, Israel, Egypt and many other places. Her love of holidays and travel has been passed down through the generations and we have all followed her lead and heeded her advice to ‘get out and see new places’.
Mum was loved by everyone in the small community where she lived. We are so grateful to see many of her friends and neighbours here with us this morning. Mum had a heart for people.
She was greatly loved and will be greatly missed by us her family, her fellow Christians, here in Llanishen and across Cardiff and also by her many friends and neighbours. Her passing has left a huge hole in the hearts and lives of all who knew and loved her.
For us the family chain has been broken the family chain has been broken, but we have the wonderful hope that mum is the second link in a new chain in heaven and one by one, as we join our beloved parents, that a new chain will link up again. We don’t like to say goodbye to the ones we love. We thank God for allowing her to see little Mia, her first great grand daughter and sixth great grandchild and also allowing us to share one last Christmas with our mum, and this year we realised again that the best of all gifts around any Christmas tree, is the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.
If what the Bible says about heaven is true and we believe it is, one day we will meet again, reunited in the presence of our Saviour. It is right for us to weep but there is no need for us to despair. Mum suffered her; she has no suffering there. She struggled here; she has no struggles there. We might wonder why God took her home. Mum doesn’t! She understands; she is at this very moment at peace in the presence of God, reunited with our Dad, her precious husband.
If we had the chance to listen carefully on the day that she died, as we shed those tears of grief, we would have heard the still, small voice of God saying to our mum…
“Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord…Jacks been waiting for you…
She is gone.
We can shed tears that she is gone
or we can smile because she has lived.
We can close our eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or we can open our eyes and see all that she’s left for us to remember.
Our hearts can be empty because we can’t see her
or they can be full of the love we shared together.
We can turn our back on tomorrow and live for yesterday
or we can be happy for tomorrow because of our yesterdays.
We can remember her and only that she’s gone or we can cherish her memory and let it live on.
We can cry and close our minds, be empty and turn our backs
or we can do what she would want:
Open our eyes,
Love each other…
…and go on.