Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eulogies 101 - Nelllie

Continued from Muse 8

It was a small crowd that ventured into the chapel. She hadn't established many friends, some had passed, some had lost contact. It had been years since she'd heard from either of her brothers. The select and solemn group included close friends, her sister and family and of course, her own children and grandchildren. Each filed in quietly greeting each other ignoring the time-pressured funeral director peering from behind the crematorium curtain, eager for his cue to begin the ceremony. 

All took their seats as he began the non-denominational service, welcoming all and activating a data projector which showed slides of her rather ordinary life and some extraordinary travel to those who cared to look.  She had been explicit during her life that she didn't want a funeral. Her son and daughter had arranged it more to provide closure for themselves. She'd never know, the old atheist didn't believe in such things.

She didn't want a eulogy from people who had not expressed their affection for her during her lifetime. In fact, she had been so adamant that she'd written her own as part of a writing competition, never really expecting anyone to see or read it other than her fellow writers. Her daughter stood and walked up to the small podium, glanced briefly at the coffin on it's scissor lift and thought, 'How did my mother fit in there, it looks so small and fragile?' 

She began to read the words her mother wrote.

"I didn’t do much with my life that would put me in the history books. I was good, empathic, raised two children pretty much alone. I guess they were my main achievement. I was sometimes happy, often sad, always lonely. Years of moves and relocations saw friends come and go. Desperate times saw me widowed and orphaned too young.  Retrenchments and financial strain seemed to take too much cerebral space that should have been assigned to love and grace, charity and hope.  But by and large, I was fairly happy.
 My childhood was incredibly happy. The first 11 years of my life spent in country England when it was safe to ride a tricycle to the local building site and marvel at Irish labourers fiddling with solder - they shared their chips with me and had handkerchiefs on their heads with knots tied on each corner. I was even happier when each birthday, high day and holiday, someone paid for a horse riding lesson or better still a day trek at the local riding school. On those days, we  rode and froze before returning and chowing on beans on toast and jacket potatoes.   
I was happy when I went to my Nana's each Saturday. She owned a pub in Manchester so while she and my mother drank tea and gossiped, we kids ran riot in the supply room in the basement, pinching corners of jelly and drinking little bottles of coke and mini packets of chips in the days before they were pre-salted. We dressed up in swags of feathery, sparkly clothes and buckets of cheap jewels. If I ever stayed over, she would saunter out of bed at 2.00pm and talk some restaurant into staying open for very posh late lunch. I had my first prawn cocktail when I was 7!
 I was pretty happy when I first arrived in Australia although it was very, very different. Big. The fields were bigger, the trees were bigger, the cars were bigger - even that expanse of blue sky looked bigger. It took us a long time to settle and we moved from Melbourne to Sydney - 4 primary schools and 3 high schools later we stayed put in the North West of  Sydney. I never had the urge to move anywhere else after that.
Of course I was happy falling in love, getting married, delivering two perfect children. My pigeon pair. Then nine years of blissful and uneventful marriage sustained that euphoric state. It wasn't without it's moments but in retrospect, I was very happy with my lovely husband, my tiny house, my lovely children and massive mortgage. Left a widow too young, alone and in the depths of grief, my children made me happy. 
I was pretty happy at work too. I had a great bunch of colleagues in a creative environment and we socialized and worked together. I still keep in touch with them and our quarterly lunches at each other's houses are really worth looking forward to. A couple have since moved overseas but the core sticks together. They were halcyon days filled with art and music, differing opinions and weird clothes. After that, it was an assortment of jobs and careers. Some were wonderful, many were not but earning an income was an evil necessity so I did what I had to do. 
I was happy camping when the children were younger. I had a little trailer tent which I could put up myself in minutes but as they grew older the trips became few and far between so I sold it, something I regret now. We went from beach to bush, caving, swimming, walking - no TV, no mobiles.
I was very happy when my younger brother and his family moved in next door after our Dad died but it was short-lived. The gloss soon disappeared as his anger and abuse increased, we no longer speak. My other brother turned out to be a vegetarian narcissistic hedonist by his own admission, we rarely speak. 
I was always happy travelling. Lucky enough to enjoy Fiji, Tahiti, England, Scotland, Wales, Channel Islands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria. I even found a travel companion in my twilight years that made me incredibly happy as we explored, Australia and America together.  Those times made me extremely happy, until my arthritis became so painful that I had to let him go and resigned myself to travelling vicariously.
I was happy on Saturday mornings having coffee at home with my sister and catching up, making sure the horses were groomed and fed. I was always happy smelling like hay and horses, always.  I was happy catching up with friends. They are few and far between and some have relocated great distances but reunions are filled with joy, gossip and laughter, they have been my rocks in times of dire need and sadness. 
In the end, I was happy with the little things. That time in the evening just before the sun goes down and it's cooling off and the birds are settling and we sit out in the garden or dangle our legs in the pool. Those times when we dangled legs in the pool and bathed in the very summery fragrance of jasmine and gardenia. The times we had family dinners, movie nights, veranda fights and conversations, bear hugs from my son and snuggles with my daughter. 
I didn’t achieve much throughout my life, my glass seemed always half empty. But as I ponder and recall the little things, I know I was a good person, a great mother, a loyal friend and an empathic being. I guess that too, made me happy. 
Some great part of me too, hopes I may have shared that joy with someone else, perhaps made a difference to someone else...made them happy."

Posted for the 10th River of Mnemosyne Challenge
Muse 9 "Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain"


  1. very personal stuff. Some of it was very hard to read, especially the antagonism of siblings. I admit, some of it I couldn't read, the conflict is just too heavy. The tears I can handle, anger is much harder. Good, i'm glad you followed through to the end