A few may have noticed that my blogging became rather sporadic before Christmas. It was due in part to a family bereavement, when my husband’s Gran died aged 97. Various things, like clearing Gran’s flat, took a greater priority than proper blogging (except for the odd adventure in the snow!)
In the period running up to Gran’s death, my husband migrated his ramblings from LiveJournal to WordPress and his thoughts and grieving process, which in many respects occurred before Gran died, appear here.
Many of G’s family are not church-goers. However, Gran had been in the past, and from my conversations with her definitely believed in God, and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Her husband had been a Reader for many, many years and she had supported him in that ministry. Even before she died, I had been asked by the family if I would therefore be willing to take Gran’s funeral, as it seemed appropriate as the ‘next generation’ of Reader in the family.
And so, at Putney Vale Cemetery on 22nd December 2011 I led the family in their mourning for Gran (Lily Pepper), and committed her to God’s care. This difficult privilege was something that felt very right, but I am aware that I need to reflect further on the doing of it, when Christmas and New Year aren’t getting in the way! However…
G had asked me to use 1 Corinthians 13 as the Bible reading, as for him it was most appropriate to Gran’s character and the example she set him and his brother as children (as she helped to raise them.) And, to complete the circle of memories he started on his blog, he has asked me to post what I shared with the family here:
I was well aware before I ever met Gran, or the rest of the family, that she was regarded as the family treasure. It was something to do with the way Graham spoke of her, and spoke of the way that everyone treated her. I wasn’t wrong,and i’ve never changed my opinion.
Gran did “love”, by the (snow) shovel-full. Adam has already shared with us about the sacrifices she made, her stamina and her character as the antithesis of a Mother-in-law. But “love” does not take pride in itself, but in the successes of others – and Gran always took pride in what members of the family achieved: Elizabeth to university and The City, Marion her nursing, then both Graham and Michael as they moved through school, to university and successful teaching careers. She was always there for them both when they came home from school, cup of tea and cake at the ready.
Real “love” is often grown through a simplicity of life and outlook, and follows through the tough times as well as people’s successes, and Gran’s story is testament to that picture: She was born Lily Hudson, in East Ham, London where her father was a lighter-man on the River Thames and her mother stayed at home to raise the children, Bert, Charlie, herself and her sister May, who sadly died of TB.
When last we spoke at length, appropriately over a bacon and avocado bap with chips at the Windmill on the Common, Gran talked of their simple up-bringing, playing on the roads that were dirt tracks, games like “knock down ginger”, and watching the cricket on the playing fields behind their terraced house until they were chased off by the groundskeeper! She also remembered weekends walking the bank of the Thames to Barking, and was a good swimmer.
Lily married Jim in April 1939 (April 22nd) with whom she enjoyed ball-room dancing, amateur dramatics and rambling. During The Blitz, they were bombed out of East Ham, moving to Harrow where the girls were born. Jim was a travelling salesman, and when Marion was 3 they moved to Parkstone on the south coast, and later into Bournemouth. As well as raising Elizabeth and Marion, she nursed first Jim’s mother, then her own till their deaths, and also found time to support Jim in his church commitments as a Reader, and play the piano for activities like family carol singing before Midnight Communion.
Together they eventually returned to London, and made a home in Viewfield Road, Southfields. Lily worked as a Registrar at Wandsworth Town Hall, and frequently told the story of having “married the butcher” for which service she always received a discount off her shopping. She was always busy, undertaking civil wedding ceremonies for many Jews and Catholics in the community, before they were able to have their own faith ceremonies recognised as legal marriages.
In later life they were able to afford and enjoy several cruises, and also visited her brother Charlie in South Africa, but after Jim’s death in September 1979, Marion and Dave moved to the house with their boys. As they grew up Gran was able to enjoy coastal walks and holidays with Marion and although she had many friends, her main focus was always the family.
Living in the converted garage as she did, she was a quiet, encouraging companion to those of us that had to learn to live at the rather more hectic conversation speed, and volume, that was shared by the family when all were gathered around her. She was always eager to hear what everyone had been doing. If we dropped a snippet of news into conversation, she’d always say “Go on…?”, eager to have the story or success expanded upon.
There were a wonderful selection of doggy companions including Kimmy, Pat, with whom the boys learnt to play ‘tiggy’, then Beau and then the more refined Jamie-dog the Cavalier King Charles. It was Jamie that assisted with the Christopher-therapy after her stroke, as Gran knocked a ball the length of her living room using the up-turned end of her walking stick, so that either dog, or boy, could retrieve it.
Gran was patient, Gran was kind. She did not envy, or boast in herself, and only showed pride in those who were the treasures of her life. She lived a life that loved, protected and trusted everyone in the family, and she was certainly not easily angered.
It is incredibly difficult, to do justice in a few short minutes to the memories that we all share of someone who brought so much joy and friendship to the lives of her loved ones. Whether they make us smile or cry, we should treasure those memories. We need to make them part of our future as well as our past, in a way that means we can build on the values of love and family life that Gran made the focus of her life.
Love, and sacrifice, was of course the focus of Christ’s activity in this world. His was a love that understood grief – he expressed his own loss and pain with tears. The knowledge that Jesus in his humanity, also cried when faced with difficult situations in both his earthly and eternal family, are a comfort and reassurance for those of us who face these situations today. Jesus’ sacrifice of course led him to death on a cross, and to resurrection and his rightful place with God in glory. We can now be assured that Gran too, has her rightful place with God.
Gran has been a living example of loving sacrifice. Let us hang on to those values, and continue to live by the example that she set, because it is a good one. By following it, we will honour her name, and the importance of our memories.