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The top of the path through the grounds of Berkshire Agricultural College in Burchetts Green. In January 1996 my sister Ann and I scattered daddy's ashes in the woods at the top of Prospect Hill - where mummy's ashes had been scattered seven years earlier.
Mummy’s Encomium*

Grace Lilian Florence Hipsey born Finnie 12 January 1907 – 17 January 1989

Our Mother Grace Lilian Florence Hipsey was born on 12 January 1907 in Sheffield. She was the eldest of a family of 3 children: Auntie Gert was born in 1908; Uncle Alec was born in 1909.

My sister Ann had been visiting our parents in January 1989. On January 16th Mummy had been taken by our Father in a wheel chair - to be admitted to St Mark’s Hospital, just round the corner - for respite care. My sister was shortly due to return to her home in Germany. However, Ann phoned me at 5.00am the following morning to say that the Staff at St Marks Hospital had just telephoned to tell Daddy that his wife of 53 years had died without too much distress - after just telling the nursing staff that she felt strange and hot. Perhaps she knew, who can tell: but Mummy had filled a tube with one pound coins for Ann to give to the grandchildren - my sister had been saying for years that it was time England had coins instead of one pound notes! I was given compassionate leave by my employer who at that time was Plymouth Polytechnic.

As I drove to my parents’ home in Maidenhead I had a sense of immense relief that my mother had been released from her aching body and frightening cerebral ischaemic attacks. I also had immense personal relief that I was released from this overwhelming emotional relationship. A number of my parents friends {and mine}, and my contemporary school friends, did realise that my mother ‘favoured’ her younger daughter to the extent of wishing to keep me ‘tied to her apron stings’ [for wont of another way of putting it]. My mother actually told a neighbour, Miss Taylor, who had been a district nurse and knew Ann and I from when we were children, that ‘I don’t want to die yet and leave my darling Jeanette!’

Daddy had a conversation with me about asking for Mummy’s ashes to be analysed to find the gold from her wedding ring – to be sure that any items of jewellery on her body were not stolen in the Undertaker’s premises. I said to daddy that I doubted that this was a very practical proposition and suggested, instead, that Mummy’s rings be removed and her wedding ring be given to grand-daughter Stefanie, and her engagement ring be given to me. So the matter was decided.

Shortly before our mother’s funeral, my sister Ann and I were discussing the arrangements – when daddy returned from an errand on his bicycle. He asked me if I could record the service on a cassette recorder – to which request my sister tentatively said that ‘Jeanette does not wish to attend the religious service’. To this Daddy replied that he was, indeed, of the same opinion as his youngest daughter but that ‘. . . I think it is right for Grace.’

I was walking with my Father near the Undertakers’ Office in Maidenhead, when a friend took off his hat and expressed his condolences to Daddy about Mummy’s death. With a lump in his throat, Daddy was able to express his thanks and added ‘Grace no longer had any Joy in her life’.

A year or so ago, Mr Hall - a long time friend of my parents - had woken up one morning to find his wife dead in bed. My Mother said more than once to me ‘what a wonderful way to go!’ I collected Mr Hall and took him to St Peter's Church to attend my Mother’s funeral service. I then went to Winter Hill, a ridge from which there is a glorious view over the Thames Valley to the East of Marlow.

As I did not attend Mummy’s religious funeral service, I do not know if a member of the family gave an account of Mummy’s life, or if an Encomium was written down in celebration of her life. I do recollect being asked by the family to ring the Daily Telegraph to insert a death announcement; and of course a death announcement was inserted in the Maidenhead Advertiser: my parents had lived in the environs of Maidenhead since early in the 1930s and could not avoid being known by everybody - or everybody could not avoid knowing Mr and Mrs Hipsey!

Our Mother was cremated at Slough Crematorium. An entry was made in the Book of Remembrance in which daddy described her as ‘a dedicated wife and mother’. Some weeks later, my Father said to me that he wished he had used the word ‘committed’ rather than ‘dedicated’.

At the Tea Party {What time was it?} at 35a Belmont Crescent after Mummy’s cremation, Daddy sat in his armchair, and partook of the sandwiches and cakes. I seem to remember spending time making the sandwiches; and I seem to remember that Ann had brought cakes over from Germany, in particular to eat on Mummy’s 82nd Birthday on 12th January – four days before her death - which had not all got eaten; furthermore I seem to remember eating fruit cake - over from Christmas. I’m sure our Father much appreciated the condolences and courtesies extended to him by the assembled company: his friends of any long standing would know that he would be quite exhausted by the events of the day, and also knew that he would not be a very voluble conversationalist. Daddy slept peacefully whilst the stragglers {not a pejorative sobriquet} chatted on and on with his two daughters, and Walter, and Stefanie, and Johannes. Johannes – aged 13 at the time – kept endeavouring to attract his garrulous mother’s attention until the latter said ‘Also, vierlleicht du im ihrer Bett steige auf!’ - which Johannes did. Martin had been doing an educational course (or some such) and so had not been able to come over to England.

During the Tea Party, Estelle Radford – a much valued and long-time family friend – said to me ‘Wouldn’t Grace have enjoyed this!’ How true. Her younger daughter cannot, now, reprise her sadnesses about the relationship between us: it is too late and inappropriate. My Mother said to me, more than once, that it is the minor irritations in life which can constantly cause distress in the relationship between spouses, and relationships with children, and with just getting on . . .. On the other hand, if a ‘big thing’ happened, it was coped with there and then and, unlike a minor irritation, did not constantly happen again and again {hopefully}. Mummy recounted the story to me about a policeman knocking on the door to explain:– ‘Mrs Hipsey, please don’t be too alarmed but your husband has been knocked off his bike (which surprised nobody) and is in Maidenhead Hospital at the moment’ to which Mummy replied – ‘Oh well, I suppose I had just better get on my bike and cycle down to see him’. And she did!

Our parents undoubtedly had Joy in their life together: this is what should be remembered – and not the ‘minor irritations’. Was it during my Mother’s last visit to Plymouth in July 1988 that Mummy regaled me with a compendium of all Daddy’s misdemeanours – concluding with ‘Now, Charles is not the man I married!’ At this moment my Mother was a passenger in my Morris Minor; we were just passing Camel’s Head – ‘I remember it well’. I hope I replied without too much ‘major irritation’ that she was, now, no longer the woman whom Daddy had married 53 years ago. And . . . I wonder how many parents might think to themselves that their children are not quite like the daughters {and sons – but I did not have a brother} whom they wished they had had.

*Encomium is a Latin word deriving from the Classical Greek 'encomion' meaning the praise of a person or thing. "Encomium" also refers to several distinct aspects of rhetoric.

Dam-burst Of Dreams

WRITINGS. A collection of the unique writings of Christy Nolan, who has never been able to speak or totally control his movements. This volume consists of his verse, short stories and plays, including the autobiography, A Mammy Encomium, for which he won the British Spastics Society literary award for 1979. "He is aware of the vast ambition before him: 'to find a voice for the voiceless.' After all, 'century upon century saw crass crippled man dashed, branded and treated as dross in a world offended by their appearance.' Mr. Nolan has a sense of his historical importance; he maintains his sly, appealing good humor as he makes his contract with the able-bodied: 'Accept me for what I am and I'll accept you for what you're accepted as.'" - The New York Times Book Review.