St Mary’s Easton was full of family and friends for the Thanksgiving Service for the life of Brenda Law on Tuesday 12th July 2017.
The following hymns were sung: Praise my soul the King of heaven, Love Divine All Loves Excelling, Be Still for the presence of the Lord and the King of Love my shepherd is.
Mike Hughes (Brenda’s son-in-law) read ‘She is gone’ by David Harkins and Julie Bowerman Brenda’s daughter read Philippians 4:4-9. “Sea Fever” by John Ireland was sung by Matthew Iddeson accompanied by Tim Rogerson on the organ.
Richard Gardner (Brenda’s brother) gave the following tribute:
I am sure that over the last few weeks, all our thoughts have been strongly focussed on Brenda, Ray and their family.
Do you know what? I think that most of you here today know Brenda pretty well. You will know what she did, what she stood for, how she led her life, the things she liked doing, how much pleasure she got from a loving family. A love she returned with interest…
Brenda, with Ray, had a passion for music and enjoyed going to classical concerts. From the many musical concerts that Ray organised at Leamington Hastings, Brenda made many lasting friends. She entertained in her home many prominent musicians – Tamsin Little, John Lill, Piers Lane to name but a few.
Brenda also enjoyed the simple things in life. She enjoyed walking in country lanes, picking wildflowers, flower arranging. She enjoyed feeding the birds in her garden, visiting her children and grandchildren. Brenda also enjoyed entertaining. She was an excellent hostess. She enjoyed cooking, and I believe at one time she had a training session with Mary Berry herself!
Brenda and Ray enjoyed may visits to the West Highlands of Scotland. They loved the remote parts and magnificent scenery that Scotland has to offer. They enjoyed holidays in Snowdonia and the Yorkshire Dales. I still believe, however, that North Norfolk was her favourite place…and Ray also enjoys Norfolk, not least Cromer crabs!
Brenda was born in Norfolk. Our mother and father lived in the village of Letheringsett, near Holt in North Norfolk. When Brenda was born our father was a railwayman. The Second World War had just started and he was appointed stationmaster at Corpusty, a small Norfolk village. At Corpusty we lived in the lovely mill house by the River Bure. Brenda consequently went to the village school there, as did our brother John. We were one of the fortunate families, as father was not called up into the Forces, perhaps due to his age and the importance of his railway knowledge.
From Corpusty we moved to Lincolnshire, to a remote village called Twenty. No shops, no church, not even a pub, no electricity….just farmland, and a few scattered farms. It meant that Brenda and John had to change schools, and for me to start school. We all went each day to and from school by train to Bourne Grammar School, taking packed lunches. We literally became “the railway children”! We did…living on the station in the stationmaster’s house. We had the run of all the station, and the porters, shunters and signalmen were our friends. I can remember playing many times, Hide and Seek with some of Brenda’s friends.
What a lucky childhood we had…in spite of the war. We even had summer holidays by the seaside. We would go by train to Mundesley, back in Norfolk, to stay with aunts and uncles, and to play on the beach with some of our cousins….a great time for us. The war just did not exist for us. These were truly halcyon days for us children. Brenda enjoyed these trips, as we all did, and we were sometimes accompanied by one of her school friend’s; her name was Enid. A friend she kept throughout her life.
Brenda was the perfect sister to us. She always cared for us and her friends. As time moved on, our family moved yet again to a village called Murrow, where once again we lived in one of the two railway stations situated in this village. Again we had to change schools. This time Brenda went to Wisbech High School, and brother John and I to the grammar school, again travelling daily back and forth by train. It was at this time the war came to an end, our father was promoted again and we moved to Sutton Bridge in Cambridgeshire. It meant another change of school. Brenda and John were able to continue their education in Wisbech and I went to Spalding Grammar School.
I know Brenda did well at school. She had many friends, some of which she has kept in touch with right up to the present time. She also kept in touch with our cousins in Lincolnshire throughout her life, and I am pleased to see my cousin Richard and his wife Lydia here amongst us today.
Brenda completed her education at Wisbech High School. She passed all the exams, and after leaving school, she went to teacher training college at Bishops Stortford.
From Sutton Bridge we moved back into Norfolk, to Melton Constable. A village dominated by a large railway works and railway junction. We lived by the railway, in the Stationmaster’s house. Not a particularly pleasant village, but at least it was surrounded by the North Norfolk countryside.
It was at this time that Brenda returned from teacher training college and started her teaching career at a village school in Reepham, a small market town in Norfolk, travelling daily by (you’ve guessed it) train! It seems trains were our only means of transport. It was here at Melton Constable that the railway children finally disbanded. Our brother John started work with Barclays Bank. Our parents moved for the last time, to Suffolk, and I joined the Royal Artillery for my national service.
This was also the time when Ray came into Brenda’s life. They fell in love, got engaged and were married in Holt church, where our father had been a choirboy over 100 years ago. Brenda and Ray moved to Cannon Close, in Coventry, where Ray helped to run the family business, and a few years later they moved to Draycote.
Draycote – a small village at the bottom of a hill, at the end of a narrow road. No shops, no church, no buses, a derelict chapel and railway line, not even a pub…just farmland. Seems a bit like our early days at Twenty in Lincolnshire, 80 odd years ago.
Not a bit of it, how time changes everything. It was here in Draycote that Ray provided a comfortable home with a lovely garden, surrounded by Warwickshire meadows and, to cap it all, this is where they spent many happy years and bringing up their 3 children, living amongst great friends and neighbours…and also repeated here today, in this charming little village church in Easton.
We will all have lasting memories of Brenda. The last few weeks have been very testing through this sad time. The focus of all our thoughts are with her family…and what a strong family they are. Their strength has been paramount. Believe me, I know just how good they are. And do you know what, I consider myself very lucky, and it has been a privilege to have had Brenda as my sister and to be a part of her family.
Thank you for listening to me
Shelley Hughes (Brenda’s daughter) gave the following tribute:
Our mother would be horrified to know that she was the centre of attention today….it was not her style! But she would be thrilled to know so many people had written such lovely letters about her, and had turned out to celebrate her life. A common thread runs through the letters – Mum’s warmth and kindness radiating throughout her life, and to all who came into contact with her.
Richard has spoken about Mum’s earlier years, in her beloved Norfolk. In recent weeks we have had the opportunity to reminisce about our childhood in Warwickshire. Interestingly, Julie and I have no memory of being told off by Mum. Andy however thinks there may just have been the odd occasion… possibly when his pet snake escaped at one of Mum’s many charity coffee mornings, or it may have been when she found a fox and a greylag goose in her freezer, after Andy had decided his future lay in taxidermy. I think it is safe to say we had a happy time!
Mum’s devotion to us didn’t fade as we got older. A school friend said that, strangely, it was Mum’s handwriting she remembered so well from all those years ago – no doubt because as we all eagerly anticipated the post being laid out on the bench at boarding school, us Law children could relax, safe in the knowledge there would definitely be one envelope with our name on it, in that trademark blue-black ink, as Mum wrote to us every day, without fail, for many months.
Family gatherings were always a highlight. It was often on these occasions that Mum would lapse back into her Norfolk parlance, referring to us all as “my old bewties”, and her laughter, as she revelled in the ensuing party games, was memorable! Somehow there were always delicious meals for all, beautiful flower arrangements around the house, and of course a fire burning in the grate. We have no idea when these things got done – they just seemed to happen!
A big part of Mum’s life involved her 8 cherished grandchildren. Granny Brenda was a “hands on” granny right from the early days – proudly showing them all off at every opportunity, usually whilst safely ensconced in her famous silver cross pram. Somewhat too big for such transport these days, Mum remained interested in all their lives, and was always keen to hear about their latest exploits.
Throughout all this, Dad has been by her side, as they made it to 60 years of marriage shortly before Mum passed away. We have been overwhelmed by the support from family and friends, old and new, in recent times. The phone calls, visits, not to mention freshly-baked cakes and delicious dinners (strictly roasts, of course) have all meant so much.
As another friend said, “a mother is someone who has shared all your past, shares your joys and sorrows and is just there”. Even in her latter years, as her health faltered, Mum’s love for her family never did – she was always “just there”.
Revd. Alex Pease led the service and gave the following address:
Meeting Brenda was a privilege both at CAMEO (our monthly seniors’ lunch and communion) and at her home in Easton in the last few weeks of her life but I would not say that I knew her well. So I have been very fortunate to have had a couple of long discussions with Ray and Shelley about her and to read the many kind letters of condolence sent to Ray by so many of you.
A clear picture comes to the fore of someone who really understood about love.
I recently attended a conference at which the speaker spoke of the difference between CV virtues – Curriculum Vitae virtues and Eulogy virtues.
CV virtues are the academic qualifications that you have earned: the significant deals
that you have put together and the important posts that you have held: the virtues you need to get a job in a competitive market place.
Eulogy virtues, on the other hand, are the virtues that show who you are as a human being: the love that you have shown to others, the sacrifices that you have made for them, the impact that you have had on other people’s lives.
It is Eulogy Virtues rather than CV virtues that we want to hear about at a Thanksgiving Service for someone’s life. These are the qualities which have eternal significance. Eulogy virtues are what resonate in heaven.
Brenda’s story is full of eulogy virtues and your correspondence with the family shows this in abundance. The words you have used to describe Brenda are ‘kind, caring, warm, gentle, generous, understated, hospitable, uncomplaining’. Indeed words very similar to the list of virtues given by St Paul in the reading in Philippians 4 which has just been read to us. And I know, from my own conversation with her, how important prayer every night was to her.
Brenda was the hub of her family to which she dedicated her life and the impact of that love and dedication cascades down the generations.
Something has already been said about the concerts at Leamington Hastings which were amazing and a great tribute to Ray’s powers of persuasion and organisation and for which, as many of us know, he was honoured by HM the Queen. But I detect that the hospitality and welcome of Brenda also played a major part in encouraging so many world famous musicians to perform at Leamington Hastings year after year.
Any funeral or thanksgiving service does tend to make us think about our own mortality
and reflect on our own lives. Have we spent our life focused only on CV virtues or also on Eulogy virtues? Contemplating our own death can be a scary prospect: How can we possibly do this final thing, how can we cross this final barrier, how can we do this final thing, well?
Jesus, a person whose life is referred to by non Christian, Roman and Jewish historians as well as in the gospels and new testament letters.
Jesus who lived, died and came back to life at a specific time in history; at a specific place in the world’s geography. Whose death and resurrection was attested to, by many witnesses, who went to their own deaths, refusing to deny what they had seen
Jesus, the one who has crossed that barrier from life to death and returned to speak to us.
Jesus says in John 14 ‘Don’t worry’; ‘do not let your hearts be troubled’. In other words: It’s all going to be fine because, I, Jesus am going ahead of you there is room for you all
and Jesus continues, ‘you know the way to the place that I am going’.
And wonderful St. Thomas, who may doubt, but is no fool, says, very reasonably, in the same passage, as we might say: ‘Lord we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?’ In other words ‘How can we do this well….?’
Jesus simply replies: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’
Jesus says: the way to cross this final barrier, the way to die, the way to live, is to trust in him.
We can only trust someone that we know and getting to know Jesus getting to know
what he thinks is important in life, what Eulogy virtues he would commend; getting to know Jesus is undoubtedly life’s most significant task and its greatest privilege.
And if we want to know how to do this final thing, well; if we want to get to know the way the truth and the life; then the time to start Is now