Thursday, June 28, 2012

Funeral Oration: Pat Bailey

The brief tribute to my mother that I delivered at her funeral today.

PATRICIA DOROTHY LOUISE BAILEY (10th October 1927 – 12th June 2012)

The emotions one feels on saying farewell to a family member are, in the most literal sense of the word, ineffable. That’s to say, they are beyond anything that can be expressed in mere words. When that person is someone as close and as intimately connected with your own life story as your mother, it is easy to feel that you are saying farewell not just to someone you loved, but to a part of yourself. In that event, words are not merely inadequate; at a time like this they can actually get in the way. And so I am going to keep my words brief and simple.

The first thing I must do is on Dad’s behalf to thank everybody for being here this afternoon – particularly those who have had a long journey to get here. Mum loved every one of you with a fierce loyalty that she didn’t always have the right words to express. It is appropriate to remember that she lost her own mother unexpectedly, without any time to prepare herself emotionally, and at so young an age that she would inevitably bear the effects for life. I know as a former teacher that some children are hardened by that experience, and deal with it by giving first priority to their own needs. Mum dealt with it by committing herself entirely to her family.

The second thing I must do is pay tribute to Mum herself. I will start by giving thanks for her intelligence, her professionalism at work, her brilliance as a homemaker, and her loveliness as a wife, mother, grandmother (and for the last few months of her life, great-grandmother). But there are two more personal attributes I need to mention.
  • One is her moral courage: she was never overly self-confident, but like all her family she had a crystal clear sense of right and wrong, a burning sense of justice and fair play, and she stubbornly did the right thing even on occasions when that made life more complicated. At a time when most people seem to go with the flow, it is trait worth remembering.
  • The other trait, and the first thing Gill and I reflected on together as we digested the news of her passing away, was the indomitable sense of humour that she shared with all her family: on the odd occasion surprisingly loud, sometimes deliciously inappropriate, and amazingly resilient and reassuring in times of difficulty.
The last thing I must do is to pay tribute also to Dad, particularly for the way he cared for Mum round the clock, right up to the point where she needed full-time professional care. At a time in our culture’s history when traditional marriage - marriage "till death do us part" - seems to get shot at from all sides, Pat and Jack lived out their wedding vows for over 60 years and have given us a peerless role model in making the institution of marriage work. Gill’s and my debt to them is immeasurable.

Mum is at peace now. After all the physical and mental pain associated with her terrible illness, pain that she endured with remarkable courage and dignity, she is safe in the healing arms of God. And that mental picture naturally leads us into a brief time of prayer. Kate will come up now to guide our thoughts.

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