I hope this eulogy which I have written for my mother will help you at a very difficult time if you find yourself trying to write one for your own mother.
When my mother died in 1970 at the age of 64, I went into denial. (You can read about that here). She had been living with me for over a year while she was fighting cancer and I was looking after her. She had only recently gone home as she wanted to be in her own home when she died. Because I was in such as state, I found it impossible to get involved in the funeral arrangements, let alone write a eulogy at that time. Writing it now, 48 years later has been an emotional trip down memory lane and a wonderful way to remember my mother. I hope this page can honour her as a memorial to my very special mother. I have written it as if I was speaking it at her funeral in 1970. As they say, it's better late than never.
Thank you for being with us today, to celebrate the life of a remarkable woman, my mother Ellen. There are no lessons about 'The Art of Mothering' we can only do our best and hope that we do it well. My mother certainly got an A ++ in this.
She was a caring, supportive and loving wife, mother, sister, grandmother and friend. Yet she was shy and unassuming and always said of herself "I am just a housewife".
No she was not. She was a homemaker in the true sense of the word. Every room in our home had rugs on the floor that she had made. She had wallpapered or painted each room herself. Every time I or anyone in her family put on socks, gloves, scarves, cardigans or jumpers she had knitted them. All evidence of her many skills. Her budgeting was remarkable. We always had hot meals, soups, scones, cakes and although we were financially poor we never went hungry.
She kept our home warm during the cold north-east winter. The quality of our lives was rich.
My mother was born in March 1906, the third youngest of 12 children. Sadly only 5 survived to adulthood. My mother's oldest sister had children nearer to my mothers age and they lived around the mining town of Washington, Tyneside where her father worked in the mines.
Ellen was clever at school and the teachers all wanted her to go on to college from the grammar school. However, her parents could not afford the uniforms and books, even if she got a scholarship. At the time many thought a woman would marry, have children and education was a waste of their time. She followed the path of many girls at that time and went into service, caring for a family. The father was an officer in the Army. The family were good to her and she was happy there. My father was the driver for the officer and this is how my parents met when he collected him at the home. Mum and Dad started meeting on her days off. The family were moving abroad and wanted my mother to go with them. However Dad was about to leave the Army and they had decided to get married.
They moved to Teeside and Dad started work at the large ICI chemical plant. They were offered accommodation and had 3 houses to choose from which was amazing really.
They married on New Years Eve 1932 and their first child, a boy, was born a year later, but sadly was stillborn. This was a very sad time for her. Then a close family member, an unmarried mother, had a child, a boy, and it was a huge scandal in those days. My parents adopted him and I treasure my wonderful brother. How fortunate we were to have him in our family. I came on the scene 6 years later. I was born in 1939 at the start of the war. Dad had to go back into the Army and mum coped alone for the next few years, though she had her younger sister and her 3 children with us for months, due to the bombings in London. That was seven to feed with rationing and poor wages - it could not have been easy.
I was only 6 at the end of the war, but I can remember being woken in the night to be taken into the air raid shelter, which we shared with neighbors. One night was really scary when there was a banging on the door of the shelter. It was Dad, home for an unexpected leave.
It is hard to imagine now how difficult it must have been for the wives at home, never knowing where their husbands were, or when they would see them again.
The war finished and my father resumed his job at ICI. He works shifts and is rarely off sick despite his Bronchitis. You always supported us Dad and we are very proud of you.
Mum and I were close and I would help her around the home or with the shopping. We would go to the Stockton markets or to Middlesborough on the Transporter Bridge. Mum was small and one day the wind picked her up and blew her a few feet in front of me as we were walking up to the bridge which was really scary. I did not like the cold markets in the winter but mum wanted the cheaper vegetables.
We did not get electricity in the house until I was 9. It is hard to believe we had no washing machine or hoover. The iron heated on the one open fire and washing dried around it on the many wet days. The tub and wooden plunger came out on Monday wash day then the mangle to hand turn. It was a way of life and we just accepted it. However it was an exciting day to be able to flick a switch for light instead of matches and gas mantles. Though it was a while before we could afford the washing machine. Mum had always wanted a fridge. It arrived while she was in hospital last week so she never even saw it.
However, despite the hardships, our lives were filled with music, singing and laughter. Dad always has his country music playing on the radio and he sings along. Mum played her piano often and we would sing. Mum, Dad and I would go to the cinema at least once a week and we went to many concerts at churches, schools and town halls.
We would have family discussions at meal times. There was little traffic in the street so we could all play safely, lots of children together, we had second hand bikes and roller skates.
Coal was delivered by horse and cart in the early years and everything paid for in cash. Fresh milk delivered each day and a very good regular bus service but there were many changes during Mum's life time.
My mother loved dogs and we always had one around the home. Judy, our present dog makes us laugh as Mum would say "Shut the door Judy" and off she would go and shut it by pushing it with her nose.
Two of Mum's sisters are older than her and you know how often she visited you, even in the winter, when one year the snow was piled up on the side of the road and was higher than the coach we were in she still wanted to check you were well. You were always good to her and she enjoyed her weekends visiting you even bringing bags full of coal back sometimes, but always some of your cakes or scones.
Her friends know how helpful she was when they felt unwell. She would do shopping for them and take meals. Strangers would tell her their life histories or troubles even during a short wait at a bus stop, she had that approachable trusting nature.
My brother finished his apprenticeship at the shipyard and went into the merchant navy at age 16. I had the opportunity to start a cadet nursing course when I was 16 in the South of England. My parents agreed and a friend and I went. Looking back we were young and some parents would not have allowed it. Her love gave me the freedom to go. She too had left home at a young age to go into service so perhaps it was easier for her to understand. Dad and Mum had many holidays visiting me during my time near the sea in Essex.
Where they were was always home to me and I knew whenever I wanted to return home I would always be welcome. I hope my children will feel the same. Both parents instilled confidence in me by their unconditional love. I would never do anything to hurt them.
Mum then got a job. She was so proud of it. She worked in a newsagents for many years near the shipyard. They were very busy from 6 am getting newspapers ready for the men going in for the early shifts and for the newspaper delivery boys and girls.
I have lost my wonderful mother, companion, adviser and mentor. I am so honored to have been her daughter. I am grieving for the amazing relationship I had with her. I am grieving for my father who has lost the best wife it is possible to have had, for my children who have only known this wonderful grandmother for such a short time in their lives, for my brother and his family who have lost a true friend, mother and grandmother. We have all suffered a huge loss.
She taught us all what is really important in life - to love, support and care for friends and family in our lives. We are all better off for having known her. It was a great privilege to be her daughter.
I can understand why this church is so full today. Thank you all once again for supporting our family today.
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