Eulogy for Iris Wilson - Page 1
My mother did many things and touched a lot of people with her life. And whilst I don’t think I can do justice to her life in just a few minutes, I do hope that at least some of my words will strike a chord with you.
As you may know, my mother died on Friday 12th September in Whipps Cross hospital, where she had been for over 3 months. Her death was unexpected. She caught a severe chest infection just when she should have been coming out. Everything was ready for her home-coming, but she was never to see it. The chest infection turned into bronchopneumonia, which caused her to have a heart attack and she died five days later.
My mothers life was not an easy one. She was a young teenager when she was diagnosed with varicose veins and that affliction and the pain that came with it shaped the rest of her life, even to her death. She also lost all her teeth when she was sixteen, after she caught Scarlet Fever.
She was an only child, but made friends easily and enjoyed her early life in the Cranbourne Road area of Leyton. In January 1941 her grandparents house, across the road from where she lived, was destroyed by a bomb. Her parents house was also damaged and in March 1941 she moved with her parents and grandparents to the house she was to call her home for the rest of her life. It was in September of that year she started going to St. John’s.
Although mum knew dad from her youth, because he only lived in the next street, it wasn’t until a couple of years after the war had finished that they started going out together. My mother and father married at St John’s on 22nd July 1950 and spent nearly 57 years of happily married life together before my father passed away in June 2007.
Mum started work when she was 14. She worked as a sales assistant until she fell pregnant with my sister Jean, when, as was the custom in those days, she left work. When money was tight for the family mum went back to work part-time as the cashier to the local butcher’s. She enjoyed her time at work, as you’ll hear later.
St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for 180 years
Eulogy for Iris Wilson - Page 2
My mother and father were not well off, but they did try to take us on holiday when they could. If they couldn’t afford a holiday, then they would make use of the free tickets dad got through working on the railway and take us on days out. I have many good memories of those days out and holidays by train. Both mum and dad loved train travel. We had holidays and days out in Sandown, Hemsby, York, Edinburgh, Coventry, Southend, Walton-on-the Naze, Camber Sands, Torquay, Dawlish, Brighton, Margate and Norwich, just to name but a few. We also visited many of the museums and attractions in and around London.
My earliest memory of those holidays was running for the steam train on Ryde Pierhead and being beckoned into the Guards van. But perhaps one of the most memorable was when some of the family took mum and dad on holiday to Scotland in 1981. This was the first time mum had been outside of England. We went by sleeper to Inverness, which was a first for both of them. The excitement of the journey kept mum up most of the night. She wanted to be awake when we crossed the Scottish border. Unfortunately, she didn’t see Nessie, although I think I did.
The extended family also meant a lot to mum, possibly because she was an only child. She talked a lot about her relatives in Suffolk and visited them many times, particularly in her youth. I remember visiting the farm in my youth too. I have a painting hanging on the wall at home, titled “Forgotten Corner”. It is a reminder for me of those days.
Mum was also close to her cousin Beryl and her family and we enjoyed many happy times together. When mum married dad, she embraced and gained a larger family. I can remember her having many happy times visiting dad’s family too. Family was everything to her, which I think was partly why she embraced the family of the church so readily.
My mother had 73 happy years at St John’s, making many friends. She enjoyed helping with refreshments and coffee mornings because she loved to bake. Although for those of us at home “baking day” could be a bit traumatic as mum was not very organised in her baking. Every inch of space would be covered with something and there was no order to any of it.
Eulogy for Iris Wilson - Page 3
Earlier this year, when she heard there was to be an “interview” day to select the new vicar of St. John’s, she wanted to be part of it. She had organised the refreshments at the previous one, but her health wouldn’t allow that this time. Even so she was there to support the church and the four candidates.
She loved the church and she also loved the Mothers’ Union, in which she was a member for many years. In later life she became Enrolling Member of the St John’s branch of the Mothers’ Union and it saddened her that she couldn’t continue to carry out that role in the last few years of her life. She spoke to me often about trying to restart it.
After my father died in 2007 my mother and I helped each other though the grief. We did many things together, going to the theatre, to tennis at the O2, the Olympics and Paralympics, on holidays and days out, and we had plans for this year. Some of the things we did were done to deliberately bring back memories of our time with dad, like the train trips and the holidays in the Isle of Wight and Cornwall, but, I think the two things that stood out for her the most during those years were London 2012 and our holiday in 2008.
In 2008 we went back to Canada to see mum’s childhood friend, Jean. Because of mum’s health it was a risk, but she insisted on going - it was Jean’s 80th birthday year. Mum and Dad had visited Jean 16 years earlier - that was the first time they had flown anywhere and they were overwhelmed by the experience of flying across the atlantic, particularly on the way back when they saw the sun rise. This time we went via the USA. Mum couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay on top of a deep gorge with a river running through it, but like me she was awestruck at the sight of the Grand Canyon. Mum loved nature and in places like Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls mum saw God’s handiwork.
Sometimes it is too easy to get wrapped up in the detail and 'hidden meaning' of a work of art and miss the beauty of the artwork itself. Both my parents were simple people and I don't mean that in a derogatory sense. I mean they had no hidden agendas in life and saw the beauty in it. Mum, in particular, saw the best in people and often welcomed with open arms those who others saw as difficult.
Eulogy for Iris Wilson - Page 4
My mother had a reputation for being a “lovely lady” for many people, and she maintained that right up to the day she died. But don’t be fooled. In childhood, she and her friends were known to get up to mischief. With her friend Jean she used to tie door knockers together, knock on one door then hide as the opening and closing of one door made the knocker on the other door go. As a teenager she was thrown out of the “Band of Hope”, a church organisation she belonged to, for flirting with the boys. Whilst working for the Co-op (where the Walnut Tree pub is now) she dropped water bombs on people from upstairs windows. She was also a willing participant in the underground poultry hoax. I think she probably got this streak of mischief from her father and uncle who once when servers at Holy Trinity substituted the water at Holy Communion with gin.
But she was a lovely lady and a wonderful mother. Her family meant so much to her. She brought up each of her five children with love and sacrificed much for us. She was proud of us. Proud of our achievements and what we did with our lives, and never more so than when my brother and sisters married and started families of their own. She loved each of her five children and her eleven grandchildren, and she was so happy when I told her the day before she went into hospital that she had a great-granddaughter. It is a great sadness for me that she didn’t live to see her.
When a major rift divided the family nearly three years ago it made her extremely sad. But even through the deep bouts of depression that she suffered, she could not help but to continue to love each one of us. It is another great sadness for me that the rift could not be healed before she died.
I will miss my mother very much, but my memories of her will live on in the things that she loved, the places she had been to, the people she met, the organisations she was part of, the church and her family and friends.
I love you and I will miss you mum.