My Nan died a few weeks ago, just a handful of days after her 89th birthday. My mum asked if I’d say a few words at the gathering, and rather than reciting a poem or a passage, I wanted to write something for her. A eulogy that would be meaningful and that would sum up my relationship with my Nan and how she made an impact on the world.
I found it very difficult to get started writing a speech about the death of my Nan. Writing a funeral speech is hard to do, and while I don’t wish it on anyone, I’m sharing my words for those who are facing this difficult task.
It was the initial process of actually putting the first few words to paper that I found hardest. Starting to write anything at all around a eulogy was difficult. I just had a mental block. But once I started throwing down ideas – anything that came to mind – it all started to flow.
I wasn’t sure that the things I was writing down were the things that I wanted to say, but it helped me gather and capture my thoughts. And that helped trigger the memories.
That’s the problem with funeral speeches, you can’t really plan a eulogy ahead of time, or write it after you’ve had some time to mourn the death of a family member or friend.
By posting this funeral speech that I wrote for my Nan, I hope it might help someone else out there in some way and give them a starting point at a difficult time.
How to write a eulogy? I still don’t know, it’s an outpouring of emotion that needs to be contained in three to four minutes of clarity. Below is the funeral speech that I wrote for my Nan.
Rosilla was my nan. Many of you know her as auntie, mum, grandma or friend. Whatever the relationship, we all know her as a woman whose life contained happiness and sorrow.
We know her as an accomplished wizard of the one-liner-put-down and we know her as a fanatical shopper and serial holiday taker, forever pushing the planet away beneath her feet whenever she could. A wish to escape rather than explore. Never at home, even when she knew that me or my brother or my mum and dad, or anyone, would be driving tens, or hundreds, of miles to visit her or pick her up. Everyone abandoned in favour of a nice trip out to the shops.
When I think back to Nan when I was a child, I remember her infectious laugh. I remember how inseparable she seemed from my Granddad and how I always looked forward to seeing them. I remember me and my brother taking holidays with them to Sutton on Sea, one time buying pea shooters that were quickly confiscated, as well as sliding down the coastal defences until my brother completely wore out the seat of his trousers.
I remember exploring Clumber Park. I remember mung beans and sleeping high up in the magical rooftop room of 31 Stocks Lane, with my uncle’s diving equipment in the corner, an odd electrical bed warmer under the covers and countless jars of nails and screws on shelves.
I remember a lot of happiness.
Later, after my Granddad died, Nan’s wanderlust kicked in, travelling across Europe, but always returning to the English seaside towns she loved, particularly Cleethorpes, and her love-hate relationship with Blackpool. Though Lake Como was high on her list of cherished places too.
Above all, I remember and treasure my nan’s skillful one-liner-put-downs that she could fire off effortlessly, followed up by a cackle of laughter. Nobody was safe – except for my girlfriend, for some reason spared the tongue. I endured more than my fair share of Nanageddon.
To one of my brother’s friends who made the mistake of wearing his hair long:
“Have you got a job?”
To another of my brother’s friends, turning up at my mum and dad’s with his girlfriend, who happened to be wearing a colourful dress:
“Is your girlfriend a gypsy?”
To my Greek university friends, particularly Iannis, who was a bit chubby:
I bet you all like eating Greek salad don’t you? And (pointing to Iannis) I bet you like eating it the most of all.
And the one she saved up for my mum, just a few weeks ago, still able to deliver:
“I’ve always been taller than you.”
That was my nan, she was venomous and she was magnificent.
My nan’s life contained happiness and sorrow and laughter, tears, disorientation and confusion. In later years my Mum spent so much time looking out for her and making sure she was as happy and as comfortable as she could possibly be. My mum has been incredible over the decades, years, months and the last days, as has my dad. And the staff at the nursing home. But most of all, my mum.
And I’m so grateful that I was able to spend Nan’s birthday with her just a few weeks ago, alongside my mum and dad and brother, opening presents and re-watching a family photo DVD with her that was put together for her 80th birthday, nine years ago. It was priceless to see her reactions, her smiles, and I’ll treasure that day forever.
Thank you Nan, for all the memories. Thank you, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.