On 14 Feb 2018, my mother passed away.
Following are excerpts from the Eulogy I delivered at her funeral.
Everyone knows that Mum, or Mam as some of us called her, was a Pommie. Born and bred in Birkenhead, Mam survived many horrors such as Nazi bombs and a Catholic upbringing. And if you find that comment offensive, then you probably weren’t evacuated and lived in fear of unusually cruel Catholic Nuns. Or you’re a Nazi.
The only thing more terrifying that Nuns and Nazis was Gwynnie Itchell, the local bully on the streets when Mam was a kid. My imagination would run wild with stories of the toughest hard-core dyke this side of the Mersey. Mam told a story where she bravely faced off against Gwynnie, jumping down from a great height, startling the usually unshakeable Gwynnie. And another time where Mam chose to run off saying “Don’t hit me I’m a cripple!”, faking a limp as she bolted down the street. I always imagined that Gwynnie grew up to be a prison warden like The Freak (for those old enough to remember Prisoner).
It’s in Birkenhead that Mam met the dapper cradle snatcher, Billy Bovill. Dad managed to lure Mam away from England citing never ending blue skies. Finally settling in sunny Newcastle, Mam gave birth to Jim, Chrissie, Carole and myself, albeit over a long period of time. Mam said that having children gave her a new unexpected confidence, and she recounted an old lady poking toddler Jim with a walking stick for some cranky old lady reason – to which Mam snatched the walking stick from her and threatened to poke her back. Who’d have thought someone from Merseyside could be so violent. I think we all inherited a bit of Mam’s toughness, and her distain for injustice.
Funnily enough, Mam always had this irrational fear of going to jail. Which we always thought was hilariously ridiculous, given that Mam was quite the goodie two shoes. But then I remembered we did run off from a restaurant without paying that one time. Terrible service does not go unpunished in our family.
Mam and Dad were married for approximately 25 years, before Dad unexpectedly died in 1978. Mam used to say that she had three main phases of her life. Life before Dad, life with Dad, and life after Dad. While clearly Dad’s death was a traumatic and tragic experience, I think the new-found independence Mam got after Dad died, made for some of the best days of her life. Many of us have various wooden creations that Mam made with her bare hands from scrap wood in her garage. The wood was mostly acquired from a local hardware shop, for free. To get this wood, she had done her best “little-old-lady” impression and told the guy at the hardware shop it was for firewood, and subsequently he would save it for her each week. Unfortunately, he started even cutting it up for her into small pieces, which was less useful to building things. However, she couldn’t ask him not to, as it would give the game away.
A little-known fact is that Mam also went to uni in her 50s and studied Sociology, and had a love/hate relationship with the lecturer whom she had multiple intellectual arguments with. And it wasn’t until writing this that I remembered that Mam also had a career delivering flowers where she developed some new friendships, and got to know every street in Newcastle and could have passed the taxi exam.
Mam loved animals and nature. All of the Bovill kids owe their love of animals to Mam. Although she would strongly deny this love. “Animals are neither use nor ornament”, she would say. But we know better as we’ve seen her love and care for multitudes of chooks, magpies, dogs, pigeons, lizards and other strays. Mam loved fishing, and many of my fondest childhood memories were fishing with Mam on Lake Macquarie. It’s fitting that Mam on several occasions said that she wants her ashes to be cast onto the lake, where she can “give back” to the fish.
Mam liked people too. Mam taught us, with mixed success, to not judge others too harshly. Even as a kid, I remember Carole coming back from working at the butchers shop and saying “This old lady was so rude today.” And Mam would say “Don’t be too harsh, she might have some terrible things going on in her life, like her husband might have just died, you never know.” I learned something from that. I think Carole just thought “Yeah, still a f‑ing bitch though’.
I guess the less fun part of Mam’s life was when she had her stroke in 2001 – which may have been the fourth phase of her life. I remember just being a mess and not knowing how to deal with it at the time. This is when I have to say that my sister Carole shined. Carole took charge and looked after Mam in her house for 10 years, and subsequently when Mam moved to Cameron Park Aged Care continued in that caring role. I know this is Mam’s eulogy, but I want to acknowledge how much Carole devoted herself to Mam’s welfare, particularly for the last 17 years of her life. And I also want to acknowledge Bill Fitz who had his “not undemanding” Mother-in-Law living with him for this significant length of time. And Zoe, who I know was such a light in Mam’s life.
And while I’ve got the thank you’s going:
Jim – no-one made Mam laugh like you did, and you could always get her up for a dance – you were clearly a favourite.
Chrissie – Mam was always inspired by you being such a dreamer, but also as a strong independent woman. Thank you for being by Mam’s side in her last days.
And Carole, you were both Mam and Dad’s dancing queen, and I just can’t thank you enough for taking care of her. Enough said.
Thank you also to those who came and visited her, particularly in the last couple of weeks.
As I said Mam was a great mother, and a wonderful grandmother. She cared deeply for all the grandkids, and for those of you lucky enough to have spent time with her, I know she will live on in your hearts and minds. I think from the wonderful video that Chrissie and Carole put together, it will be a reminder what a genuinely loving and beautiful woman Marcy Bovill really was, and we will all deeply miss her.