My Aunty Margot asked me to share my Eulogy. As I did for my Dad.
But, I wrote two Eulogies. The first, in the church was really my sisters’, the second, my own.
I include both.
One thing I’d like to say about my Holy Cross eulogy is that if you agree with my point about governments going to the ends of the earth to find a solution to Covid 19 (the economy virus) but don’t really care about Alzheimers (the affliction of the economic worthless) then rise up, speak up.
(I feel this may be a mission of mine now. )
What is dying?
A ship sails and I stand watching
till she fades on the horizon,
and someone at my side
says, “She is gone”.
Gone where? Gone from my sight,
that is all; she is just as
large as when I saw her…
the diminished size and total
loss of sight is in me, not in her,
and just at the moment
when someone at my side
says “she is gone”, there are others
who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up the glad shout,
“there she comes!” …and that is dying.
I hope you will forgive me for saving my personal reflections on my Mum’s life for Warriston, instead, here, I have chosen a few words from the writings of people I admire or people I know she loved to capture something of our Mum’s life. I also have the thoughts of Jane and Emily to share with you.
I’ll start with Emily
What do I think about when I think about my mum?
But most of all love.
We never had money as everybody knows, and is plain to see in the photos from our childhood. Guileless Gormans in their hand-me-down flares and kagools, on their camping holidays in the rain.
But they were fun! And filled with love from the never-ending source that was my mother.
She spent her life supporting me, quietly, sagely.
Every hair-brained idea I came up with, be it travelling on an expedition to Indonesia at a time when things like that weren’t really the norm, or working in China with bears, she was right behind me, egging me on, when other people would have thought me daft or make me think it wasn’t possible.
Not my mum. She was behind me all the way and then by my side on many of my adventures!
I had been volunteering in China for 3 months when she came out to join me, solo.
Only 9 months after Dad had died.
She was present for our bear rescue and I have never, before or since, seen compassion so evident on someone’s face, as she watched these beautiful, battered creatures arrive.
Afterwards we travelled together through China, on our own against the world, armed only with a phrase book and a few snatched words I’d learned during my stay.
We treated ourselves to a fancy stay to visit the Great Wall of China, as the hotel had access to a private, unrestored section of the wall. The trek was long and steep, through fairly thick bush, but mum, 71 with angina, would not be deterred!!
My enduring memory of her is her reaction when we reached the top.
We were met with an eerie mist, shrouding the wall in beauty, the only two people in the whole wide world, or so it seemed to us.
She raised both her walking poles in the air, and shouted ‘YES!’ to the heavens. Such an incredible moment, such utter beauty and her, there with me, and her quiet strength, resilience, compassion, fortitude., adventure!
But most of all love.
Night, night mum, God bless, sweet dreams.
In eight short months the world’s governments have thrown money at research into the plague we are enduring. Covid 19 will be, if not defeated, then massively suppressed – because we made it a priority.
Dr Alois Alzheimer discovered his eponymous disease in 1906, yes 1906, but it took until 1983 for a drug to be developed, and since then, what? Steady, modest progress, stymied by funding. It may not be a plague, but it’s a pestilence. It robs people of their dignity and it makes them very, very ill.
If we can make so much progress on Covid 19 in under a year, is it too much to ask our governments to prioritise this living hell that affects so many of us?
This song is about Alzheimers, and was written by Lucy Spraggan. It was performed quite recently by Hannah Scott.
Jane and my Mum were there at her performance and it impacted both of them profoundly.
There she sat with her tea in the garden,
Didn’t remember why we were arguing.
The point had been lost, she forgot where it was,
So she told me the story again.
She had told me to look in the kitchen,
She said some of her things had gone missing.
They all had been stored where she kept them before.
It was only her mind that had changed.
She asked me
‘Where do you go, when your mind doesn’t work with your soul?
I have memories made.
Now I can’t put a face to a name.
Do you know who I am?
Where did I go?
And where have I been?
Do you know who I am?
All that I’ve loved and all that I’ve seen seems to go.’
I wanted to gift The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen to my Mum, I knew she’d have loved it, we shared a similiar taste in contemporary literature and this would have been a favourite, as it is to me.
But it was too much. The central character is suffering from Alzheimers and I decided it wasn’t fair to gift her a vision of a future that she would not welcome. But this passage, for me, captures the essence of the novel and of the disease.
“By now it was too late to call St. Jude. He didn’t understand what had happened to him. He felt like a piece of paper that had once had coherent writing on it but had been through the wash. He felt roughened, bleached and worn out along the fold lines. He’d lost track of what he wanted, and since who a person was, was what a person wanted, you could say that he’d lost track of himself.”
And from my hero, Nick Cave
I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms
And lastly from Jane…
Mrs Gorman, mum, grandma, Jean.
By whatever name you knew my mum…
Anyone who had the pleasure to know my mum knows of her extraordinary sense of style.
None of it was to do with money or high end price tags. That was not what she was about.
She was the most individual of individuals .
Her manner, elegance, flare, grace, panache, sophistication, self expression, and appearance spoke volumes to anyone who ever saw her.
Typically understated, never attention grabbing, never high fashion; however she was to me the living epitome of elegance and style.
I was mum’s right hand man when it came to new threads – we regularly shopped – most weekends – and we had a ball. Every time.
Her bible was the Sunday Times Style Magazine which she read every week right to the end. She would clip out pictures and bring them when we shopped (normally we had a wee lunch first which somehow I always seemed to pay for – good skills mum) and then we would browse, feel, touch, decide.
If I lost mum at the shops I just had to look for a stand with shiny things and there she would be – she loved a sparkle …I used to say she was a magpie.
Mum never left the house without her lippy on and her earrings in . Her beloved Geraldine made so many beautiful pairs of earrings and did lots of repairs for mum – thank you Geraldine for helping add to the bucket loads of style.
As Yves Saint Lauren quoted “Fashions fade – style is eternal.”
Thank you mum for being the coolest, most sytlish, chic, elegant woman I will ever have the pleasure of knowing and thank you for letting me be your stylist. I loved every single second of it.
Good night mum, God bless, sweet dreams …..
At Warriston Crematorium I took the opportunity to take a more personal reflection on my own relationship with my mum.
Some say beauty is only skin deep. I beg to differ.
I only have a few minutes to sum up my mum’s life, so I don’t intend to waste them telling you where she came in her home economics class, or how much she enjoyed her first job in the coal board.
The details of her life, anyone’s life, don’t really matter. Instead, I want to try to paint a picture of her inner beauty, the bit that touched so many people’s lives, simply by caring.
Apart from the deep love she had for her Mum, and especially her Dad, Bert, you only need to know one word to sum up her early years.
The sister she never had. Her best pal ever. The constant in her life.
From their ice cream sundaes in Dunbar to double dating at the Palais, to toasting the Royal Wedding, to joining me, in singing Edelweis, as Mum slept away her last few days; she was always there.
Not only did Mum love Claire with all her heart, we do too.
Mum’s stick thin allure predated the Shrimpton’s and the Twiggys of the 60s. A vision astride her Vespa, almost androgynous.
She was to marry into a very different world to her own; a solid middle class family home, where both parents, unusually for the time, worked. That meant there was a bit of money for a single girl like my mum to visit the local dressmaker, Miss Gourlay, and run up her latest ‘idea’.
Peter, by contrast, was of rock solid working class stock.
One of six, the Gormans ‘got’ being Catholic and answered the call.
His Hudson to her Hepburn.
My Dad’s eyes must have been out on stalks the first time she walked into the joint at some Catholic Youth Club in the wild west of the city.
My vision of this moment is pure Hollywood.
A room turns silent, the jukebox needle bouncing and scratching across vinyl. A turning of heads, clearing of throats as Pepsi bottles are laid down and Peter walks over to her.
“So, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”
She turns her head, looks at him through half closed, coquettish eyes.
Motions to the dance floor.
He pulls her to his chest as they thrill the throng with a jive of surprising dexterity.
Cut to the end credits, rolling over images of a grand cathedral and the couple walking down the aisle to cascading Bach (the Phantom just visible in the eaves looking down approvingly.)
(Hitchcock might even have cheekily added a train scene.)
They married in 61 and delivered in 62, 65, 68 and 71. Like clockwork. All through the swinging sixties they brought us into being.
And so began my mum’s second stage of life.
Not just a mother to me, Jane, Sara and Emily; she welcomed into her arms with equal conviction and love; first Nik, then Jeana, then James.
Grandchilden followed; Emma, Jack, Amy, Tom and Ria, then Denny.
Chris and Keir were embraced just as warmly, before her Great Grandchildren Woody and Bonny made their enthusiastic voices heard.
Once again, her eyes shone with adoration.
She had class.
It was she who prepared the way, 20 years before me, for my love of French new wave cinema.
She loved a subtitle. I love a subtitle.
It was she who stood for eight hours in pouring rain to see Tutankhamen, 20 years before I did the same with my young bride, in the sweltering heat of the Cairo Museum.
It was she who bought me Gunter Grass’s Tin Drum, when everyone else was reading Adrian Mole.
It was she who argued, till blue in the face, that if she’d has some ham she’d have ham and eggs if she’d had some eggs, but Chris insisted if he had some eggs he’d have eggs and ham if he’d had some ham.
It was she who scraped up a few bob to take me to sit in the cheap seats, in fact not even the seats, for The Proms.
It was she who was my first stand-in for Jeana at The Lyceum, The Traverse, The Festival Theatre.
While my dad may have appealed to my inner Barnum and Bailey, it was my mum who stoked the Ibsen fire.
It was she who sat beside me in the Usher Hall as The Blue Nile entranced the world in one of their very rare live appearances.
It was she who sat beside me in a restaurant in La Manga, Spain, the day the infamous White Trouser ‘happening’ soiled my legacy.
It was she who was at both of my daughter’s graduations and who taught Amy, Ria, Tom and Keir how to smoke massive stogies afterwards. Soused, all of us, in too much champagne, red wine and whisky.
It was she who read us Tolkein as our bedtime stories – she couldn’t get everything right.
At FCT, she was never the impresario, never the speech maker, but she was often the subject of their thanks: As costume maker, as make up artist, as wine server, as author no less. But you want to know a secret?
As much as she loved what she had helped to create, there was a corollary too, because, for many years this veritable institution had made her a part time widow, long before she actually was.
It was my Dad’s thing really.
The truth is, she was happier in the audience than in the limelight.
That’s also why her renowned fundraisers may have been orchestrated by her, but it was my dad, and then me, that took to the spotlight. She was in the counting house, counting out the money.
At her legendary January the First parties, that were like walking through the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, it was my father who was upstairs providing the pomp, while my mum was downstairs delivering the circumstance in the kitchen.
Unseen, she was much happier when she was out and about, visiting those she felt were isolated and forgotten. Endlessly trudging through stairwells and closes to visit elderly men and ladies, gifting them her time, her care, her chat.
Attending St Vincent de Paul meetings, planning the next Caravan clean up with my dad.
Leaving a few things for a poor family.
Signing her endless direct debit forms to Animals in Asia, Osteoparotics in Oswestry and Water Diviners in Western Sudan.
It’s a real sadness for me, then, that the reason she finally agreed to give up her latchkey and move into care was that she was just felt so damned lonely.
The parties were over.
Maybe, we thought, she’d find them again in the communal areas of her new place.
But no, not really.
For many though, it was the third stage of Mum’s life that caught their eyes, her age of elegance.
Thrift shop bought, but elegance nonetheless.
Silver haired, the boyish 60’s cut was back.
It was, as Emily shared with us at Holy Cross, particularly notable for her exploration. Her fridge door a magnetic cornucopia of memories of her travels to every continent in the world except South America (she conveniently didn’t seem to count the Arctics as continents) mostly with my Dad but sometimes with Emily, most notably to China, Liz and Bob too, for which I am extraordinarily grateful, and even alone.
Before I conclude I have a few people I’d like to thank, firstly Jeana who did so much for my sisters and me.
When we were all working she was there, looking after my Mum, caring for her like she was her own. It meant so much to all of us that you could lift some of that insidious blanket of guilt that we weren’t doing enough ourselves. And it meant so much to my Mum to see your patient, smiling face alongside the Grinch on the other sofa.
I’d like to thank Karen, Rosemary and Gus, all three, friends from different walks of life touching this horrible experience with creative beauty, giving of their time freely and unreservedly to make today so special.
And lastly I’d like to thank the many people who showed her loving professional care in her last year, the team at Northcare, the council care team and Cathy Jamieson, “Cathy Upstairs” who always had mum’s back.
I’ll end on this prayer that my friend Pauline sent me.
It seems a propos.
“The beautiful times are yours for always.
For it is life that takes away, changes and spoils so often,
not death, which is really rather the warden – and not the thief – of our treasures.”