On February 2nd, 2022, my beloved Grandma passed away. I wrote a eulogy for her, which I read at her funeral. I've since recorded it for this video, along with a lovely photo slideshow, so we can all celebrate what an incredible woman Thelma Dalton was.
This is the video I've made, reading my eulogy out again over dozens of wonderful pictures of an incredible woman. If you would prefer to read it, the words are below.
Thelma Dalton was so many things to so many people. She was a nurse to her patients, a mother to her children, a wife to her husband and a confidante to her friends. She was the foundation upon which so many lives were built and the sun around which so many worlds revolve, with three generations of offspring looking up to her as the figurehead of the family, the one to whom we all owe our existence. To me, Thelma Dalton was Grandma, and though Grandma has left this world, our memories of her will ensure she never leaves us.
I remember her taking my brother and me for walks in the woods, wrapped up in our big coats, and her pointing out the first snowdrops of spring. I remember her taking us to the beach, having competitions to see who could see the sea first, and her telling us to take in deep breaths of the salty air, ‘in through the nose, out through the mouth.’ I remember her taking me to catch the bus for school, and how she’d try and dance with me and I’d get all embarrassed. Now, I’m thirty years older, and the people I was too embarrassed to dance in front of have faded from memory. All I remember is the beaming smile on my Grandma’s face, the smile we must remember today.
When people think of grandmothers, they always think of food, and Grandma is no exception. Boiled egg and soldiers, lemon curd, Extra Strong mints and the magical Christmas cake only she could make all come to mind. The other food I'll always associate with Grandma is something so very simple, and that is bread and butter. Or, more specifically, toast and Lurpak. We'd go around to her house and the first thing she'd do would be put her special bread in the toaster, put the butter dish on the table and get the side plates out. Then the toast rack would be filled, and while the next batch toasted, we'd all tuck in. She used to do this thing where she'd hold her toast up, get her knife and cut into her slice lengthways from the end, then butter the inside of the slice of toast. I've never known anyone do that before, but then, in my 37 years, I've never known anyone like Grandma. There were times we'd go through a whole loaf of bread or more before we'd go out for dinner, and wherever we went, it was never quite as good as toast at Grandma’s.
I feel like I don’t have enough memories of doing things with Grandma, but the main reason for that is that Grandma loved stories, and so much of our time together was spent sharing stories with her. I think nothing really made Grandma happier than hearing the stories of our lives, celebrating our achievements and successes and commiserating with our heartbreaks and disappointments. She loved just talking with her friends and family, reminiscing about experiences shared and setting the world to rights. When you gave her a ring, you could hear the joy in her voice when she heard yours, and she could get settled in her phone chair for a good conversation – as long as you weren’t interrupting the soaps!
My favourite memory of Grandma will always be from when I was a child, all tucked up in the big double bed in the spare bedroom, the one with the comfiest pillows you could imagine, and listening to her tell the stories she’d created to lull us to sleep. The best stories were the ones of how Roland Rat and his pals would save the Metro Centre from disaster, before vanishing through the big mirrored doors up to the roof and flying off in a helicopter, leaving the humans inside unaware there was ever any danger at all. Now, she has passed into the stories of legend herself, and all we have to keep her alive are our memories, shared with each other in a way that Grandma would have loved most of all.
When my Granda died, I thought Grandma would follow him. She gave us twenty more years. When she was taken into hospital, the doctors told us it was her last day. She gave us another ten. She gave, and she gave, and she gave some more. She never stopped giving, because to her, loving someone was giving them whatever you could, and she gave us everything. When we needed an ear, she was there to listen. When we scraped our knees, she was there with the Dettol. When we felt lost or unsafe in the world, she was our sanctuary. Her house was our home. Her heart was our strength. Her love was our light.
On the third of February, we woke up into a world that has never existed for us before. We woke up into a world that feels a little colder, a world in which everything seems different, a world from which our beloved Thelma has departed. We don’t yet know how to go on, how to understand the world as it is without her in it. In time, we will find a way, because of the lessons she imparted unto us; the lessons about loving each other, helping each other, and being there for each other. She made David wait for twenty years, so she could show us how to react to the loss of someone so monumental; to learn to live again, to laugh again and to find joy again. Now, Thelma has been reunited with David, and we must put those lessons into practice.
Though our lives feel diminished by her absence, we are the blessed, for it is us who knew her, and it is us who were loved by her. And, though she is gone, her presence will always remain. When I smell the Lurpak melting on my toast, my Grandma will be with me. When the snowdrops break through the soil, signalling the resurrection of life in the first days of spring, my Grandma will be with me. When I look at my brother, my nieces, my cousins, aunties and my mother, my Grandma will be with me.
For as long as her name is spoken, Thelma Dalton will be with us, her love will guide us, and her life will inspire us. So speak her name; for yourself, for each other, and most importantly, for Thelma.
I will finish by reading a poem by Maya Angelou, called ‘When Great Trees Fall.’ I hope it brings you as much solace as it does me.
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down in tall grasses,
and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes light,
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words unsaid,
promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality,
bound to them,
takes leave of us.
dependent upon their nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
formed and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be.
Be and be better.
For they existed.
I love you, Grandma. Thank you for loving me.
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