At Gloria’s funeral, my sisters and I each gave small eulogies.
The last cup of tea I made for Mum, three days before she died, came out just right. Just how she liked it.
Which was not as straightforward as it sounds.
And I want these words I speak today to come out just right, just as she would have liked it. Which is not as straightforward as it sounds.
Because how do you find the words to do justice to Mum?
This amazing woman who went daily to the margins, to people who needed financial, practical and emotional support, and helped them get what they needed. The sort of person who quietly stuffed fifty quid into the hands of the young widow she knew was struggling to pay the bills.
This amazing woman who stood up for those who could not speak, not just as a local politician, but the sort of person who in her 80s headed to Westminster to lobby for better palliative care for those suffering from motor neurone disease.
This amazing woman, the great matriarch, devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, presiding over us all, holding us all together.
Today I will discipline myself and talk about just three of Mum’s amazing qualities.
Firstly, she was an expert encourager.
I would phone her every Saturday morning for a lovely long chat and often look for a bit of moral support ahead of some daunting event the following week at work. She would listen intently, take it all in and then find the perfect words of encouragement. She always knew exactly what to say to make you feel better about handling something, didn’t she? So many letters we’ve received in the past ten days speak to that ability she had to make you feel supported, cared for and capable of more. That’s probably why we’ve found that her address book is full of the mobile numbers of people from all walks of island life, as well as politicians, royalty and Hollywood A-listers.
Secondly, she was a fantastic forgiver. The rest of us mere mortals bear grudges, don’t we, tend to find it hard to overlook bad behaviour in others? But Mum was above all that. Her father, who walked out on them during the war, she invited to come back 20 years later. She always left the door open for people. If there is anything that you wish Mum might have forgiven you for, I think you can consider it done.
Finally, she was a brave and dignified leader.
I’m not thinking about the fact that she was President of everything although locally she was, wasn’t she, President of everything!
I am thinking about times like when Ant died. I thought she would crumble, but she was magnificent. Stronger than the rest of us put together, navigating a path for us through the thick fog of grief.
I am thinking about when she found out she was seriously ill. Her first thought was of Dad and protecting him from the worry of it as much as she could, and she called on all of us to do the same.
She wasn’t really an everyday person, Mum. She excelled in the extraordinary moment – whether through fabulous hospitality at times of celebration or finding awesome strength in times of crisis. An exceptional person in every sense.
The saying goes that to be a great leader, what matters is not that you’re perfect, what matters is that people will follow you.
And look how many of us have followed Mum to this place. Perhaps she’d have been most touched, as I have been, to know that her dear friend Mary Plazas has come from London to sing for her, and that one of her pall-bearers, a local man who was very fond of her, particularly asked to be allowed to carry her today.
Mum lived her life in obedience to the most important commandment of her unshakeable faith – to love God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength and your neighbour as yourself. One of her favourite sayings, drawing from the Gospel and looking to our own mortality, was ‘You never know the day nor the hour’.
That day and that hour came much too soon for our liking but it’s hard to imagine anyone better prepared to meet their maker than you were.
And our hearts will carry you today and always
and sing in your memory until our own dying days.
Because love never gives up.
Love is stronger than death.
And love always wins.
Rest in peace now, lovely Mum.