Memorial Service 2017
Jenny Uglow is a well respected biographer and she has recently published a new book about Edward Lear. The review I read was uncomplimentary. We remember Lear for his nonsense poetry (the pobble who has no toes) and perhaps limericks like this one:
There was an old man of the Hague
Whose ideas were exceedingly vague
He built a balloon to examine the moon
That deluded old man from the Hague.
In her biography though Jenny noted that before this fame he was a traveller, visiting many countries and writing about them. Her book lists all of his destinations including intricate details of his journeys and accounts of the trains, steamers, roads, rivers and omnibuses that he took to reach them. The reviewer criticises her for missing the essence of Lear. I had previously been thinking about what we say at funerals and how we feel sometimes obliged to give an account of a person’s doings in life.
I could for example tell you of my grandmother, that she was born in Cork, moved after being married to Wembley, had two children,was widowed early and lived a long time. But my memory of Nana is something different. She was the woman who came to stay on feast days and holidays, who arrived mysteriously, and turned the house upside down, who unpacked as soon as her bag had barely crossed the threshold, odd helpful gadgets for my mother, paper and crayons for me. She was the woman who bustled with boundless energy, short, round, compact, who would finish her meal before anyone else and hover by your plate to whisk it into the sink the moment you laid aside your knife and fork. Nana who would be always cheerful, laughing, who liked chocolates by the boxful and a whisky before bed and though impossibly impatient was ready to do anything for you.
Somewhere in there is some of the essence of Nana, and we all have such memories of the one we love, not ordered, detailed or set to a timetable but a great splash of luxurious colour on the canvas and we know that essence to be unique and somehow we know that spirit is still there in heaven waiting for us.
When I light my candle I will not be lighting it for Nana’s accomplishments but for the person she was, the person I know and the one I shall keep in my heart for ever.