Monday, May 12

Here's my mum's eulogy from my grandmother's funeral service. I hope I can write something this good for her when the time comes.

Thanks to all our family & friends for being with us today to say goodbye to Mum.

Mum hated funerals although she loved cemeteries and her children & grandchildren have happy memories of following her around, admiring beautifully carved headstones and reading out all the really sad epitaphs.

If I could write an epitaph for our mother, it wouldn�t be a sad one, though the last 17 years have had their share of pain and great sorrow. It would say that

�Here lies Ann Fraser Hunter, born 31st January,1917. Died 1st. May,2003. A loyal wife, a loving mother and a proud Scot who would have made a great Australian.
She lived her life with courage, love and laughter. She taught her us to see the clouds and the trees, to love music and to value family and friendship above all else�.

I believe Mum was a great Australian. She hated pretension, she chopped tall poppies off at the ankles and she despised whingers and those who chose money over everything else. She was very proud to see her children and grandchildren achieve a life that she could only have dreamed of in her younger years but she never lost the lessons of hardship and poverty that she learrnt from her life in Scotland and she only respected people for themselves, not for their possessions.

She was a free thinker, nobody�s fool with a Peshaniki fur stole to prove it .However, we could never persuade Mum to become an Aussie. It seemed to her it would be a betrayal of her heritage and her history.

She was born, the youngest of twelve children, in a single room and kitchen in a Glasgow slum, though she took offence when I called 439 Garscube Road a slum! But believe me, it was a slum! Her father, Angus Fraser and her two eldest brothers, Bill and Donald were soldiers, fighting in the trenches of France in the horror of the First World War when she was born.

As a child, Mum slept on a truckle bed that slid out from under her parent�s bed and her three brother and the two sisters who still lived at home somehow fitted into the other room.

There was a communal toilet one flight of stairs down which was shared by three families , the bathroom was a small tin bath in front of the fire and the wash house was shared amongst all the families in the tenement .You washed on your day, rain or shine.

Granny Fraser�s kitchen had an open coal fire with a kettle simmering on the hob for there was always friends and family coming and going .As a child, I remember Granny�s black and white puddings made from blood, offal and oatmeal hanging from the ceiling, tied to the wooden clothes line where the washing dried on miserable wet Scottish days.

As Mum grew up, the Great War was followed by the Great Depression and poverty was always at the door but in Mum�s memory, her childhood and young womanhood were happy days, full of music and laughter with young people always welcome around the fireplace for the price of a song or a poem .

Her father, her eldest sister and a brother died when she was in her teens so there was great sorrow as well as laughter in her life.

Mum met and married our father , George Hunter, in 1938 and went to live with him in his parents front room. There, Betty was born and from there our father left for the Second World War, just over a year later, leaving his 22 year old wife pregnant with their second child, me.

For the next six years, she struggled to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Dad�s leaves were few and far between but during this time,she had two more children, Jim and George. Her only security and support was the love of her families, the Frasers and the Hunters.

No wonder she had little patience with whingers and complainers. None of us have had as little as she and made such a good job of it. And all the time there was the fear for Dad�s safety , the fear of invasion and fear for the safety of all those she loved.

Six years later, the young man she married came home and they struggled on to make a life for themselves. Sometimes there was porridge for breakfast followed by porridge for tea with bread and syrup to fill in the spaces . Wee Ann was born soon after Dad�s return to be followed by Drew 5 years later.

Like her mother before her, Mum welcomed everyone into her home which was always warm, sometimes tidy and with the door always open but it was a hard struggle. She could make a tin of beans go round an awful lot of people!

Our good friends, Rena and Jimmie Davidson, were making a good life for themselves in Australia and offered to sponsor our family, to organise a job for Dad and to help him find a house for us. Mum was determined to leave Scotland,to find a better life for us all, even though it meant leaving all those she loved behind.

But she couldn�t leave her mother . When the fog of dementia overtook Mum, her last link with the life she had lived was the memory of her mother. We all faded away but her love for her mother stayed with her for the longest time.

Finally , after Granny Fraser�s death,Dad left for Australia in 1957. That was a terrible night as we all wondered what the future held but Mum was as strong as a rock. Throughout her life, she refused to wallow in self pity or sentimentality, except in graveyards. She rarely cried.

A year later with the great help of the Davidsons , we joined Dad in Sydney. Mum and Dad had been married for 20 years but had been together for only 13 of those 20.

From there on, Mum never looked back, though it was harder for Dad who missed Scotland greatly. Mum threw herself into a life she couldn�t have imagined.

She learnt to drive and was rarely still after that. She had friends everywhere and our home was again filled with visitors. They were able to put money in the bank and , best of all, Dad was able to buy the house in Eaton Rd, West Pennant Hills .

To own and drive a car ! To buy a house! These were things undreamt of! Up until Dad�s death in 1986, life just got easier and better for Mum and Dad. They managed a trip home , having thought they would never see their families again.

Mum managed 3 trips back and, with Ann & Donald�s help, she travelled to Canada, Singapore and with Dad, they had quite a few trips to New Zealand, catching up with Fraser relatives who had left Scotland generations earlier.

But Mum never recovered from Dad�s death. She refused to leave Eaton Road though she gradually cared less about the house, her friends, her hobbies and, eventually, herself.

Depression overwhelmed her until she at last agreed to move to a retirement village in Normanhurst where we felt she could make friends and live a more social life again. We just didn�t understand the realities of dementia which was complicated by increasing deafness.

Finally, we persuaded her to move to Princess Julianna Hostel where the care and affection she has received have been marvelous. Not that she always appreciated it!

And now she�s gone and nothing will ever be the same again. I am so glad that she was my mother and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for all I have learned from her. Rest in peace, Mum.

Well, my grandmother did die a few days after that last blog entry. She didn't come out of the coma, and her last few days were very peaceful. True to her wishes, the family buried her. Interesting choice, because she wasn't religious at all, so we had a ceremony with a 'celebrant' who bookended the service, with family members providing three very moving eulogies.

The celebrant just called herself a "celebrant" which I suppose sounds less contradictory than "funeral celebrant". I couldn't picture myself introducing myself as a "funeral celebrant" at cocktail parties... but then, I don't attend many cocktail parties.

The celebrant did her best, but what are you going to do when you don't actually know the deceased at all? Any inspirational, positive stuff you come out with has to be so generic it comes across very tacky. "Well, at least she had a good innings," she could have said, but did she really? How would the celebrant know? Would it be too painful to do some research prior to the service perhaps? Speak to some of the close family... ring them up... "Hello, you don't know me, but I'm the funeral celebrant for your grandmother's service next Monday, and I was wondering if I could have 10 minutes of your time to get you to recall any especially insightful memories you have of her. Oh, I'm sorry, you're grieving right now? OK, perhaps I should call back later, what time would be most convenient for you?"

I was so proud of my uncles Jim and Drew, and my mother Jean. Each of them gave a very moving eulogy, all of them moving everyone attending to tears and laughter several times. My grandmother really valued people's honesty, and she couldn't abide false emotion, and I can't help thinking she would have been very proud of her three children and they way they spoke about her life.

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