Thursday 20 January 2011

Nervous Speaker

Yesterday was the scariest day of my life.  I had asked to speak at my Grandad's funeral and as regular blogettes will know, I had found it difficult to even begin writing the eulogy.  What I didn't take into account was how pant-wettingly scared I would be in delivering my words to a full church of mourners.

I am no stranger to public speaking. I used to teach, I have given presentations to a 200 strong workforce, I have delivered pitches at board level and I have presented scientific results to my lecturers and peers.  But somehow this was a very different kettle of fish.  I think it is because the words were so personal to me.  When I finally managed to catch them and force them into submission onto the paper, the reading of them overwhelmed me and even to a devoted audience of one, I barely made it all the way through.

It seems wrong to even worry about how you will find the strength to stand up and deliver a eulogy when your loved one's coffin is placed on its pedestal in church.  This day is not about you - it is about remembering a cherished and dear family member and yet, when I got out of the family car at the church, I thought I might pass out before I even made it to my pew.

When the time came my heels clattered nosily across the flagstones, I clutched my words to my chest and brought my MS (moral support) with me to the podium.  My hands shook violently as I placed the paper down, licked my lips and tried to make my voice work - I had to swallow several times and squeeze the hand of my MS, trying to blink through the tears and make the words stay still on the page.  My legs were shaking so hard that I thought they might collapse so I crossed them and took a deep breath.  The words came, some slowly, some thickly, some with longer pauses then they needed and the final paragraph was said with a growing sob and tears flowing freely but the words all came out and were taken in by my fellow mourners giving comfort, raising smiles and allowing people to say 'I remember that too.'

After I had made it to my seat and the jitters had finally left me, I looked past the altar to a stream of sunlight dancing through the church window and watched a butterfly dance into the light for a few precious moments.  This gave me a measure of peace.  I loved him.  I miss him.  I will remember him.

Grandad’s Eulogy

A few months ago I rang my grandparents and Grandad answered the phone with his usual booming hello.  As always I asked him how he was, the standard reply is fair to middling.  This time he paused and said not too good to be honest.  That was when I knew my Grandad was not well.

To me, my Grandad was always a very tall, strong, calm presence in my life.  My earliest memories are of him at Pantglas in his flat cap listening to me chatter on about some nonsense or other, following him around the farm, wanting to help and getting in the way.  I don’t remember him ever shouting at me or getting cross at my questions.  I will always remember thinking how large his hands were and quietly listening to him singing to the goats.

I always thought my Grandad was a great man, I would proudly tell people that he had been in the RAF, had owned a jewellery shop and was a farmer.  He seemed unshakable throughout life as if nothing had ever or would ever make him pause.  He always listened to me, was always interested in what I was doing and I like to think he was proud of me.

I will always remember how he would smash his shredded wheat down in the bowl; give me an extra roast potato at the dinner table; sniff, shake and feel his presents at Christmas and carry Nana’s sponge cakes like heavy lead weights.  I always, always wanted a putty medal and I am extremely proud to have been his granddaughter.

The last time I spoke to him properly, he was in a lot of pain and very strong medication.  I was having a difficult time and yet despite his ill health, my Grandad did his upmost to make me feel better.  I knew then in that moment how much he loved me and I just hope he knew how much I loved back.

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