Saturday, 3 March 2012

Eulogy for Sue

After nearly a year of battling with lung cancer, my sister Sue finally lost that battle and passed away on the 20th February 2012 at the St Giles Hospice in Whittington, Staffordshire, with her funeral taking place on the 1st March.

Though she was only there for three nights, it was her wish, that if she was unable to cope at home, then she would like to be at the Hospice. Like thousands of other people, I cannot speak highly enough of Hospice work. Sue managed to attend about half a dozen sessions at the Day Hospice, once a week, and to receive home support until she was unable to cope. The quality of care could not be matched, and I will be forever grateful to them.

The present St Giles Hospice is a modern state of the art facility, that was first opened in May 2010. It is called The Compassus Centre, named after the Latin noun which means "a deep awareness of the suffering of others and a desire to alleviate that suffering". Awareness and alleviation is something that they do in abundance, and if you have to lose a loved one, then you want them to be peaceful and pain free. Below you will find a brief tour of the St Giles Compassus Centre.

Sue and John
The photograph opposite was taken two weeks before Sue died, and was one of the last few days at her home in Lichfield.

Apart from it making me realise that I must lose some weight, I treasure it as a captured moment when brother and sister are together. We haven't always been close, but the past twenty years in general, and the last twelve months in particular were very precious, when perhaps we got to know each other in new ways. I gave a three minute Eulogy at her funeral service where I tried to say how incredibly proud I was of my sister. This blog will simply expand on that theme for the benefit of her family and friends, but will still only give a brief picture of her life.

We were born and brought up in the small village of Penycae in North East Wales. I arrived in this world in 1947, and Sue in 1951.  When Sue was about three or four, we moved from a small cottage in the village to a small holding just outside the village. She loved it there, and in spite of fairly spartan conditions, there were many happy moments.

She loved feeding the chickens, and being with the few animals that were around the place. She also proved to be very useful to my friends and I. She would be placed in goal when my friends and I were out in the fields playing football. But I think that judging by the number of times she mentioned this over the years, the experience may well have traumatised her.

When she was just gone seven, we moved back into the village, and our father died. She attended Penycae Junior County Primary School from 1958 to 1962, and in a future reference, the Headmaster of the school wrote that Sue "was a pupil who applied herself diligently to her work, and showed great promise of becoming a competent scholar. Sue was a thoroughly reliable girl who seemed more mature than the usual in her attitudes towards her studies".

The words application, diligence, competence, reliability and maturity, were to be used many times by others over the coming years. I'm very proud of her for that. Sue was the intelligent one in the family, and it was a great day when she passed the entrance examination and went to Ruabon Girls' Grammar School. In the summer of 1966 she achieved nine passes in O'Level subjects, with I remember, Latin being one of her favourites. In 1967 the school became a comprehensive, and it's name was changed to Ysgol Rhiwabon (Ruabon School). In the summer of 1969, she obtained A'Level passes in English and Geography, with the latter being particularly mentioned. The then Headmaster wrote that Sue "was a quiet, pleasant, unassuming young lady who was a most helpful prefect in the Upper 6th". 

Leaving school in 1969, she went to live in Oxford and did a two year Cartography course at Oxford Polytechnic. She left there with a Diploma in Cartography, and I have in my possession her final piece of course work for that Diploma, which I must say is a beautiful piece. She went to work for Lovell Johns Ltd, a cartographic company in Oxford.

Passport Photo 1980
Over the next 37 years Sue had a variety of jobs with various levels of responsibility, and in them all proved herself to be very competent. I think that because it was also in my area of interest that I was particularly proud of the fact that between 2004 and 2010, that she was a part time tutor teaching employability skills to 16-19 year olds wanting to enter the Construction Industry, and part time tutor in numeracy as a basic skill to those who had missed out on education.

Her level of interest and commitment to this work was shown when my son, daughter in law and I were clearing out her flat. (And I can't thank them enough for the amount of help that they gave me). The amount of paperwork from that period was incredible. On that point, if Sue had a downside, it was that she was a hoarder. There were even empty envelopes from forty years ago, and nothing she ever received seemed to have been thrown out. I'm sure that the amount of paper that we sent to the furnace, would have generated plenty of energy for Lichfield.

Take one look at Sue's CV, and the thing that strikes you is that from leaving school in 1969 until 2007, her life was one of constant study and betterment. I am so proud of her for this.

BA Honours 2004
Among the many qualifications that she gained, I am particularly proud of the Diploma in Cartography in 1971; the Institute of Managers Certificate in Computing and Management Information gained in 1995; her European Computer Driving Licence gained in 2003/4; the PGCE awarded in 2007, and above all of these was something very special to Sue.

I was immensely proud to be at Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent in July 2004 to see Sue receive her BA (Honours) in Business Studies from Staffordshire University. It was a lovely day; Sue was so happy; photos were taken, though I had to force her to get the official one done; refreshments were devoured, and "The Old Fashioned Love Band" were playing New Orleans Jazz, and I paid £10 for one of their CD's. I couldn't have been happier for her.

I wish that I could speak more about her friends and her social life, but I don't know enough about it. That's one major regret that I have, that we spent too many of those important years apart. But none of that diminishes the love, pride and respect that I have for my sister. At the funeral service last Thursday, I finished my brief Eulogy with these words, which I will also use to close this blog.

St Giles Hospice, Whittington
Above all of the things that I am proud of with Sue, I am immensely proud of the way that she dealt with her illness. Twelve months ago she was told that she had lung cancer: what followed was a series of fairly invasive tests to determine the type, then a lengthy treatment programme. A week before Christmas she was told that the treatment had not worked, and that she possibly had about two months to live. Throughout all of this she was strong and positive, and I can only remember one day, near the end of her life, when through frustration at her bodily weakness, she was irritable. Sue spent the last few days of her life at St Giles Hospice in Whittington, which is where she wanted to be. Sue was no saint, but I am, and will always be massively proud of my sister, Sue.

Sue front right, date and venue unknown
Happy Days
More Happy Days

1 comment:

  1. Humbling and at the same time inspiring, John. My sincere condolences and best wishes.