Sunday, 31 March 2013

For everything there is a season

My father's memorial took place last Thursday in All Saints Church Drinkstone in Suffolk.

His humble beginnings started with his parents, Elsie and James, who ran their own fish and chip shop in Bristol and where at 16yrs old, Dad left home to join the Navy as an apprentice. He had ambitions to further himself and so, after a day's work, he studied hard every night to get his officer's exams. He went on to become a  L. Commander and captained his own ship.

Similarly, when he left the Navy to join civvy street, he went to nightschool most nights and studied hard to get qualifications, while still keeping his family housed and fed, and eventually entered BAE Systems as an overseas operations manager, the job taking him (and Mum) to far flung places, such as Indonesia.

So it was fitting that the memorial took place in the village church just down the road from the cottage they loved and had happily lived in for the past twenty two years. The little church was packed with local villagers, friends, family and neighbours who had come to pay their respects.

It was a beautiful, modest ceremony, heartfelt and sincere, with just the right amount of pathos and humour - just as my Dad would have liked it. (overloaded sentiment and fussing wasn't his style). There were wonderful tributes from family and friends coupled with moving poems and readings. The best tribute that I can give is to rewrite, verbatim, my spoken eulogy to the congregation in church that day, followed by some more precious pictures of him in his later years.  

               Dad seeing me off in London at the beginning of my world cycle ride.

My eulogy: March 26th, All Saints Church, Drinkstone Green, Suffolk

''We are here today to celebrate my father's life, but it's impossible to talk about him without including my mother - such was the unit that they were. My Dad loved all his family more than we could possibly know but he was devoted to my mother. They were inseparable.

And this was bourne out by a story he once told me when, as a young naval officer and after months of separation from each other, he turned down a commission and retired from Navy life so he could be with Mum. And apart from the inevitable hospital visits later in life, he proudly once told me;

'Since then, your mother and I have never spent a night apart'

And similarly, my mother was devoted to my father. During his illness and especially so in the last weeks and days of his life, she never left his side. She was, I know, a great comfort to him during this time.

Dad was kind, patient and gentle - a true gentle man. Never one to brag about his achievements, never quick to temper; just a raised eyebrow and a certain look on his face, was all the signal I needed when I knew I had stepped out of line.

He was large (well he was married to the best cook in the world) and he certainly loved his food. In hospital his vital signs registered  - 'twix' !
He was large and loveable and had a sharp wit and intelligence.

And he certainly knew how to handle me. On many occasions when I used to get myself all tied up in knots over a particular problem, he would never tell me what to do. He would just simply, almost nonchalantly, tell me a totally unconnected anecdote about something or other and hey presto! there was my problem solved. I, of course, thinking I had solved the problem myself.  He was a clever man!

But for all his quiet and gentle manner and great sense of humour, he also had a stubborn streak. Mmmm! there is a certain genetic link here!

But it's his sense of humour that I loved about him. As all of you here know, he loved telling a joke or two and I know all of you here have at one time or other had experience of patiently listening to some of them.

Usually for the family, these would inevitably come out around the dinner table and needless to say we were spared our blushes with some ripe navy and rugby ones that were circulating, that we never got to hear. After all , for all his gentleness, he was still very much a man's man! But I remember this manly pride was once seriously dented when on a family sailing trip in the Solent.

Mum and I along with hundreds of others were sitting on the beach watching Dad and Martin launch the little Firefly dinghy out into the Solent's choppy waters, only to watch in horror as the boat gradually began to sink lower and lower into the water.
Thankfully, they made it safely back to shore, exhausted from frantically bailing out as they drifted back in. But his embarrassment was complete.  After all, it's not good when an ex naval officer forgets to plug the drainage holes in the back of the boat before setting sail!....thank God he wasn't a sub-mariner !!!

But I loved Dad's sense of humour. I always shared moments of great laughter with him as he watched his favourite tv comedy sketches, such as the Morcambe and Wise Christmas Shows.. and who can forget  Shirley Bassey singing in a hob nail boot or Eric Morecombe slapping the most famous conductor in the world, Andre Previn (or is that Preview!) around the face.

But his absolute favourite comedy sketch of all time was when the comedian, Rob Brydon, a Welsh rugby fanatic, is shown at the birth of his first child. He stands at the business end and when the baby is delivered into his hands, and he is cooing with wonder and delight over this new born, the nurse comes in and he says, 'ok, over to you nurse' and throws the baby across the room like a rugby ball -
....not realising that the mother and baby were still attached by the umbilical cord!.

My Dad's all time favourite comedy sketch and I can still remember him chuckling about it in his last days.

It wasn't easy seeing my father as he was in the last few months of his life, but one of the most abiding warm memories I have, is of us as a family, with a friend and neighbour present, all sitting around drinking beers, watching the rugby on tv and with Kim, the dog, lying at the foot of his bed. That will be one of the great, warm memories I shall take with me of his final days with us.

When I was told of Dad's terminal heart failure, I hoped above hope, that he would reach certain milestones. He did:

He managed to join us for Christmas dinner, albeit for only half an hour and he didn't eat much but he got there.

He reached his 80th birthday in January (somehow, 79 just seems too young)
And he got to see Martin and Colette start up their own successful business in Devon and me back in a settled and satisfying career again.

But.. most importantly of all, .. he got to see England beat France in the rugby Six Nations.!!

Unfortunately he slept through most of it, but I remember that even with his eyes closed, that satisfied smile on his face when we told him they'd won.

Unfortunately he didn't quite make it to see them in the last match, probably just as well as  we got trounced but having played rugby for England as a schoolboy, it was fitting that his last rugby memory was of an England win.

The family always came first for Dad and he loved us all dearly but he was always concerned for Mum. I know Martin told him at his bedside that we would look after her but I tell you this again , now, Dad;
'I promise you that all the family, friends and neighbours will look after Mum in the years ahead. Behind the grief she is strong and will get stronger as times goes by. But we will always be here for her'

And on behalf of the family, I'd like to thank all those involved in his care while he was at home; the doctors, nurses, his wonderful carers, Devida and Louise, our brilliant neighbours - you were all beyond brilliant! and for whom nothing was too much trouble. And for all of those of you here, who even just rang to ask how Mum and Dad were, we thank you, that was a great comfort to both of them.

And also to Reverend Ruth, who was also a huge comfort to them and for her help in putting this service together.

My Dad was just simply a wonderful father, husband and a gentle man.

He will be in my heart forever''.

            Mum, my brother Martin and Dad on the beach in Sardinia


 Dad with his beloved Bella - the predessor to the dog they have now, their equally beloved Kim

                           Dad with his first great grandchild, Joe Brady

One of the last pictures of Dad and Mum with his last surviving sister, Kath,
(now deceased) in Bristol. He was the only boy in a family of seven step sisters.
His dad married again and hence Dad was born. Three of his step sisters died at an early age of diphtheria but his remaining four sisters doted on their step sibling.

     Dad checking his camera settings at my round the world cycle send off in London in May 2011

        My brother Martin and Dad doing a lean-to - mucking about as usual.

    Martin, Colette and Dad in Sardinia where my brother and his wife lived for four years. 

           Martin, a friend and Dad scrumming down. Sardinia.

     at the helm again

Dad's Memorial Service in All Saints Church, Drinkstone 
          photo by Colette Brady
pictures courtesy of Martin  Colette and Mike Brady(c)
text and photos copyright Deborah Anne Brady: all rights reserved March 2013

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