I have been so moved by the many kind and thoughtful people who have left comments and messages since I wrote a few words about the death of my mother.
It means more than I can ever express in words.
I will pick up the threads here soon, but today I am simply going to share the eulogy that I wrote for my mother’s funeral last Friday and thank all of her friends who made it a lovely service of thanksgiving for her life.
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Beth first came to the promenade when she was four-years old. James and Daisy adopted her and brought her to a lovely home with two big brothers, Geoff and Ken.
That was when she first came to St Mary’s, walking up from the promenade with her mum.
She told me that being adopted was the best thing that could have happened to her. In later life, when she was curious to know a little more about her background, she went through the necessary steps to see her original birth certificate and find out a little more about her twin brother who died in infancy, but she always stated quite clearly that the couple who adopted her were her real parents, that she was lucky that she chose her, and that she wished people spoke more about the joy that adoption could bring.
Beth grew into a bright and outgoing girl. I remember her speaking of Geoff teaching her to ride a bike; of looking through an atlas to find a good name for her dog, an Afghan hound; of going to the Jubilee Pool and to Madron Carn with her friends, Anne and Jenny, who lived a few doors away …
Her school report – which I found a while ago – said that she would do very well if she talked a little less and listened a little more!
She did do very well. She was educated at the Girls’ Grammar School, where she became Head Girl, and then she went to Hockerill Teacher Training College.
Beth taught for nearly forty years in Penzance – at St. Mary’s School, at the Girls’ Grammar School, at the Humphry Day Comprehensive, and finally at the Bolitho School. She always said, quite simply, that she loved teaching because she liked kids.
She always loved meeting former pupils in town and hearing what they were doing.
I couldn’t walk more than a few steps through town with her without bumping into someone she had to stop and chat with. An old neighbour, a childhood friend, someone from church, a teaching colleague, another former pupil …
She always was what she would call a ‘people person.’ Even towards the end of her life she took an interest in her carers, asking what they were going to do after work, admiring a new top or a nice pair of earrings, smiling and saying thank you.
I also remember her, more than once, reaching out to take the hand of an anxious or upset lady in the chair next to hers.
She was always sociable, but she was home-loving too. She recalled sitting upstairs with her mother watching the sea and people walking on the promenade; and in later life, when she moved to another house just a few doors away from her childhood home, she would often sit upstairs in her bay window, watching the world go by and waving to friends and neighbours.
Beth married Neill – the brother of her friend Diane. They were very well matched and they were very happy together.
They had two children – Jane and Nicky.
Jane was very quiet, like her dad; and Nicky was very sociable, like his mum.
Nicky had Down’s Syndrome, and caring for him and making the right decisions became the focus of Beth’s life. She tried to keep a balance, doing the right thing for the whole family of four, carrying on teaching; but the son who was so like her was always her special boy.
She was thrilled when Father Jim, after consulting with the bishop, suggested that a grown-up Nicky be confirmed at St Mary’s; because, though he didn’t have the understanding some might expect, he had his own full understanding of his God. The day of Nicky’s confirmation was a wonderful day; one of many days that Beth said was the best day of her life.
She also said that about the day she was adopted, the day she got married, the day her daughter was born, the day she moved back to the promenade ….
Of course there were sad days too. She found her father dead when she was just seven years-old; and she would lose first Neill and then Nicky.
The day Nicky died was her saddest day; he had been at the centre of her life when she was a widow and her daughter was many miles away.
She still found joys in life. She went out and about with friends; she moved back to the promenade that she loved, that she would think of as ‘home’ to the very end of her life; she enjoyed holidays is warmer climes with a group of retired teachers; she loved her border terriers, Pip who arrived not long after she retired and Briar who would follow in her paw-prints; and she was delighted when Jane moved back to Cornwall …
But the people who had said that Beth would never be the same again were probably right.
She became physically and mentally frail, but she was very much herself until her last few weeks.
She left this life quietly and peacefully, with her daughter at her bedside.
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