My mother passed away on the 2nd May 2021. She had been ill for a long time. Her diabetes and failing organs was taking its toll on her, but the loss of our sister, her eldest daughter, so suddenly seemed to be the final blow to her strength and resistance. What follows below is the Eulogy I wrote for her and delivered at her funeral on the 19th May 2021.
I should start by saying that this Eulogy should have an age rating, PG 13 may contain violence or bad language with scenes upsetting to younger viewers. And we are going to have to stop meeting here like this, there’s no bar.
So, mum would be annoyed right now, because she didn’t have the option to die first, or get to choose who went before her. Because she would be staring at me and saying, your last eulogy was beautiful, but you used up all the best words. This one is going to sound like a sequel, and they’re normally bloody awful.
I once spoke to my mother about her funeral. It was after the death of her friend, Mary. Her comment, I hate funerals everyone is always so bloody miserable. There’s so much sadness I don’t want to go like that. We joked about it, we finally decided that what we would do was leave her body randomly in a skip with two fingers raised up to the world. But clearly that’s illegal, I checked, you can’t dump a corpse in a skip and you cannot mail it to a political party.
The other thing she wanted aside from less sadness, was the poem by W. H. Auden from Four Weddings and a Funeral, Stop the Clocks. She loved a good tearjerker moment. Yes, she was a contradictory old bird, she wanted us to be happy but listen to this sad poem.
My Mum liked a laugh. In fact she was happiest when you’d make her laugh so much she could wee herself a little. She was less happy as she got older and more ill but there was still a twinkle in her eye.
I remember how she would play jokes, tricks and even exaggerate stories to amuse us. She sang to us at bedtime, often really badly, just to emotionally scar us. In truth, she gave everything for her family
A few weeks ago I had to write a Eulogy for my sister that was based around love. Because love and the balance of it defined her. But this one is more about the attitude. I hope I can remind you of my mother, of her beauty. And if not, this is going to screw you up. Because, like my mother’s jokes, and occasional choice words, her fondness for an insult and profanity, this has bad taste for a memorial address.
Let me tell you of a few of her exploits, those that won’t lead to legal cases. To raise a smile, in spite of the fact that she is dead. Because she’d want me to remind you of the fact that she is dead. Very dead. But happy to haunt you. She’d enjoy the look on your face if that happened. She’d laugh and say I told you I was ill. She’s swear for good measure and take a verbal swipe at someone. Somewhere she is prodding me and saying slip in a good line to shock them all. You know, they are not really going to expect you to say bollocks.
Some of this is as mum would have said it, is shit you just made up.
- She had nicknames when she was a kid, they were Sheila the Peeler, Spud Bate, and the Happy Slapper
- She once held down a boy, knelt on him, and carved her initials into his stomach with a switchblade.
- She was the leader of a local street gang, like the Bash Street Kids but far more deformed.
- Speaking of the bash Street Kids she once told me that when Simon was born he looked like Pug. She stapled his ears to his head until he was five.
- She told me I looked like Brad Pitt, I’m lying she said I looked like Ru Paul’s ball sack.
- Her youngest sister (Edie) was sent out each night to tell her to come inside and stop sucking on the boys heads, mum’s mouth was big enough to put the whole face of a boy inside it. The girls would draw straws to see who had to tell her, but they made sure Edie always lost.
- She murdered one of my childhood friends in a ritualistic burning incident. My whole family gathered round to watch. I was distraught, crying my eyes out at the kitchen window as they exploded in the back yard.
- In order to make her beehive hair stand up she would mix sugar and water and then apply a ton of sweet smelling hairspray. Curiously, it attracted bees. They would follow her around thinking that their queen had lost her wings and grown stilettos. She used to make honey from her head and often fermented mead from her right ear.
- She was asymptomatic with most childhood illnesses, but she did enjoy passing infections on to everyone else while not getting sick herself. In fact she never told people that she gave them licky end, even though you only get it if you’re a sheep.
- She stole my Auntie Dot’s best dress so she could impress her first husband’s parents. She brazenly didn’t care that she had done it as it was a good reason. She thought he was loaded.
- She loved Elvis so much she cried for days when he died. She pretty much ignored one of her own children’s birthdays. Mine, he died on the 16th August 1977, 2 days before my 9th birthday. Obviously I am not bitter, I remember it with joy, real, real, joy.
- She told me to never leave Liam alone with fruit, he has a dangerous look when he sees an orange, licks his lips in a weird way, and never let him stroke a banana.
- Once she was pranked by a family member calling at midnight, they quickly ordered a pizza for delivery and hung up. She returned the favour by calling back at four in the morning to say it was ready for collection.
- She threw a slipper at Grandpa Bill when he was shouting at her, she always regretted throwing it, but she was happy she didn’t miss. She once told me that the real problem was that she hadn’t used steel toe cap boots as then he would have taken her a lot more seriously.
- She once painted the house purple, she didn’t just paint the walls, but the hinges on the doors – she liked painting hinges, in fact hinges, light switches, crockery, furniture, nothing escaped the brush. If it didn’t move it was fair game to be painted, it’s why we were never still as kids.
- She invented the knee. Before she was born people had incredible trouble lifting heavy weights. Back injuries were rife. And running was impossible without spring boots.
- She told me that we shouldn’t let Lesley drink Stella in Southport again, we can’t afford to be banned in another seaside town as a family especially not since her Budweiser binge in Newport, they still haven’t found all those steel workers, or the marrow
- Mum, and her sisters, had a laugh when they went to view my Nan in an open casket because of the make-up the funeral parlour used. Nan’s daughters were wetting themselves at how she looked.
- While on a family holiday in Scotland mum decided to rudely moon a family member through a window after an argument. We had arrived late the day before. Everyone was stressed. The next morning she was still annoyed about it. She thought they were alone in the garden, Also, she thought the high wall was at the edge of the garden, only glimpsed in the late evening the night before when we arrived. It was actually on the other side of the road. So she opened the curtains, bent over with a laugh, and a very naughty word. She flashed several cars and a tour bus along with most of the family.
- A neighbour once refused to give her a ball back, she asked politely but they said it was theirs as it was on their property. So mum took, what can only be thought of as a mighty steamer onto a paper and mailed her own faeces through the letterbox and said they could bloody well keep that as well.
- When one of her children was banned from a certain supermarket in the whole of the country her only words to the police were, ‘can I belt them stupid here or do I have to wait until I drag them home so you don’t see me’.
- In her later years she kept a scorecard of people she outlived. Every time I saw her she would remind me of another one that had died. Sometimes with a look in her eye that suggested she had made sure of it. Her favourite phrase was always, you’ll never guess who’s dead.
That was my mother. It was never straight or ordinary, she was colourful and loved life and people. She married twice. She was a Bate, a Keating and a Schofield. In her heart she was always a Bate. She honestly shared so much with my nan, but she never stopped being Bill’s oldest daughter.
She married very badly. The first one had to have been good at kissing, she sucked his face enough. I truly think she married him just to annoy her parents. She was a rebel without a clue. The second one was the worst rebound decision ever. She had a good choice in words, and a terrible choice in husbands.
My mum was our cheerleader. Our audience. Our friend. Our support. We could do no wrong.
She was not a perfect person. She could be a shouty bugger. She had four children who were, for the most part, boisterous and often complete sods as we ran riot occasionally. At times in her life she raised four children on her own, those times felt like the majority.
My mother loved all her family, and her children. She loved all her grandchildren and had such a special place in her heart for her great grandchildren. They were her life. Her joy. For her, we were the best thing she did.
My last words were to her, when I saw her in the hospital was to tell her I love you, she said she ‘I love you’ and, ‘look after yourself cocker’.
And she wanted me to tell you one thing, “Life’s not so serious, fucking arses to it, remember to smile.”
When Writing a Eulogy, as with writing anything, there are lines that you write and then take out. Some of this is because they just don’t fit; it might be that the text is too long; they may not match the tone of the eulogy; or you just took a story too far, were too revealing or crude. I have included them here as I think they serve as further illustration, they are out of context to where they appeared in the original but you should get a sense of where they may have been.
- She was known for calling people inappropriate names. If she was annoyed you’d be lucky if you were just called shitbag, or dickhead, if she was really roused she would descend to what she called a ‘fucking few choice words’.
- When she worked at Barr Bottle factory she re-invigorated the entire industry by suggesting a deposit on bottles. She was never credited but her line manager received shares.
- She used to say ‘but that Kathy’, she knew we’d be confused as she had three daughters called Kathy and each one she loved enough to make you wonder which one she was talking about.
- In later years she never drank that much. But I recall as a child she would have a glass of what she called Brandycham – it was Brandy and Babycham. A lethal combination. Her saying was. One would make you want to kiss someone, two would make you kiss anyone, but if you had three then you’d end up kissing everyone.
In fact when he was a child there was an incident with a fruit bowl, I don’t actually know what occurred but the FBI were involved and they don’t have jurisdiction in the UK.
They all laughed about how she was displayed, as they put it, ‘as a whore’.
Often she’d say, remember Jackie who used to live down near the school, she’s dead now. With a look that told you why she thought that Jackie had to be dead.
Okay we shouldn’t go there as it is the past, but we have to as it is her life. She really married arseholes. I mean absolute pieces of shit. It took some beating to match that bastard my father was, but my stepfather really rose to the challenge and was a total shite. But I am just quoting mum here. She called him fang, I called him wanker.
She’d want you all to know she knew that. She’d want you to remember. What she’d want you to remember the most is that she finally managed to divorce them. She never stopped regretting. She never felt she had paid enough for their failure.
Honestly though, I like to think it was a subtle plan for her male progeny, don’t be as much of a piece of shit as these two I married. It was a clever lesson. I hope as her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren we can learn itIf you have to marry badle, marry arseholes so that your kids eventually learn not to be like them. It’s not the best plan, but it is at least a plan.
Because, you know, they have a mother who would sacrifice everything for them. Which is what she did.
I think it was clever, my mum was often subtly clever. I am thinking of an example of this. The Name of the Rose. The first time I saw this movie I saw it with my mum. About halfway, maybe two thirds through, my mum said, I know how they are being killed. I said I know why and who (those two are pretty much intrinsically linked, once you know one you know the other). So we told each other our deductions. And I won’t spoil it, but we were both right. My mum saw the steps leading to a decision even if she didn’t change the outcome knowing it.
Sometimes my mother worked things out, she might not have the whole picture, she had the whole of a corner and it made her dig. I know I share that, I know my brother and sister do. It is why we are also bloody annoying. We keep digging to see what else is down there. But it is not the best gift she gave us.
She held grudges, I think it is a trait from her side of the family and not one I am that upset about. But her disagreements were not from spite but because of how much they hurt, how far could people fall. She rarely gave up on people, no matter the cost. She was always there. She was always on your side, even if she occasionally murdered your childhood friends.
My Mother was ill for a very long time. If the truth is told we started to lose her some time ago. She was a shadow of her former self in the final days of her life, but one thing held true. She cared about you. She cared what you did. What you felt. What you knew. She was always your cheerleader, you were always her champion. Her love was blind, because it was unconditional.
Her later years she became less like my mother, our sister, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother. Age and ill health overtook her and stole some of her mirth.
Her failing in partners was a failure of all blind belief. She believed in people. She believed them even if she could see the lies. She believed they wanted to be better. She believed they could be more. She had faith in people.
She would have said ‘our Mark is just itching for me to die so he can get away with saying “cunt” at a funeral’