Revd Jan Brookshaw – Eulogy

Eulogy given by David Poole at the funeral of Revd Jan Brookshaw on 31 March 2022

“This eulogy in praise of Jan’s life, has several sections. Her happy childhood and schooling, early careers, including a year working in Abu Dhabi and 6 years in Australia, interspersed with extensive travelling, then employments back in the UK which involved high levels of responsibility, her call to serve the Lord as a priest. And then how she dealt with her decline over her last 5 years

There will be many occasions during this eulogy for us to thank the Lord that our paths in life took us towards friendships with Jan

I’m obviously not a person with knowledge of Jan’s childhood, schooling, further education and early careers. Also her extensive travelling; with much romance. And you might be thinking, those are the bits you really want to hear. But talking to her brother Oliver this week, it is clear that those were all happy stages of Jan’s life. If you particularly want more information of the romantic interludes, Oliver is the man to grill for details afterwards! It was in her early life that Jan became irrevocably committed to, and immensely proud, of her family. Those situations continued for the rest of her life, in fact her commitment and pride in family increased over the years which followed   

I’m only qualified to tell of later sections of her life. It arises from when I moved into Easton, not long after Jan, and we were close neighbours. She was then in her late 30s we were to remain friends for the next 30 years. Then for the last 3 years, most of my information about Jan has she been gathered from those who were able to maintain contact with her. They know more of the most wretched of times she had to endure

I want to start my praise relating to sections of Jan’s life with the most recent times leading up to her death. On hearing of her death, my first response was the comfort that now she is resting in peace. I’d prayed to the Lord, not every day but certainly every week over the last 3 years, that he would give to her strength to endure the accumulated limitations to her quality of life. In your own ways, it is likely your hopes for her will have been along similar lines. So my first objective of this Eulogy is to thank the Lord that Jan has at last attained release from enduring those wretched situations

As regards my links with Jan, over the last 3 years, there has been little contact. I tell you this, since I know that most of us grieving here today have been in a similar situation. I worked hard to keep contact and I worked hard to find explanation for the isolation she sought. But the best I got was advice from her neighbour, David Swinstead, who said to me ‘we have to respect her decisions and let things take their course’. We have all had to acknowledge that it was Jan’s choice to attain as much social separation as possible. She did this over a period, so we must assume, that she had convinced herself this was the best way for her to cope with her dwindling physical and mental faculties. It was as well that the Lord continued to extend his grace to her, because she applied it to underpin most elements of those dreadful years. We thank you Lord for that

Whilst Jan rigorously sought self isolation, she had potential support around her throughout that time. In particular, from neighbours in The Old Dairy and Goules who lives across the road. Actually my description of this as ‘potential support’, in reality is far from accurate. Over recent years they have grasped opportunities to get gifts of food into her house, bring shopping (including essentials in bottles), mow her lawn, put bins out and deal with arrivals of Emergency Services. In summary, they have continued to be the same kind friendly people who welcomed her, when she moved back into the village. Lord we thank you so much for their sustained inputs

Lord, we also thank you for Rose, who since Jan returned in 2014, has come every week to do most of the house cleaning

More recently, there have been  live-in carers, who provided physical supports for Jan’s frail body. Specifically, we give thanks for Dan from Romania, who provided home care for her last  months. What a blessing for Jan he was. His sound judgements providing a bedrock, which facilitated her continuing to live in her home, surrounded by her possessions. And because in Jan’s case, many possessions had direct links with her family or earlier sections of her life, those possessions were especially precious to her

For the middle period of her life, Jan sustained more knocks and setbacks than most of us. To start with there were 3 car accidents. The first was not bad, and caused some bemusement; since it involved an inattentive police driver coming from a side road. The next two were serious. I know more of the one of these, when her car rolled on black ice and she was trapped, upside down, smothered by air bags in a crushed car. Still, the Lord test her beyond her endurance. The first person on the scene was John Hayes, before 6am, on his way to milk cows. Someone she knew, and someone who provided re-assurance

Jan’s career, when I first knew her, was with Allders International at Eastleigh. With a good brain and capacity for hard work, as well as always being on time and always being smartly dressed; it was no surprise that she advanced within the company. In fact, she advanced to be the UK Personnel & Training Manager and then advanced further to lead such work for Worldwide Operations. Quite rightly, she prided herself in what she had achieved. And in turn, her success engendered immense pride for her family. From 1984 to 1993, that career contributed to a happy period in her life. Seemingly, it came naturally to her to ‘go the extra mile’ to further successful growth of that company. Lord, we thank and praise you for her committed work in the commercial sector

I’ve already referred to knocks which Jan sustained. Even her glittering career at Allders ended in a knock; when a change of Managing Director resulted in all the existing directors being sacked

Not long before that, in 1990, her younger sibling Rupert died of stomach cancer. A heart aching loss for Jan and one which remained with her for the rest of her life

Jan was not out of a job for long after Allders, but that job had been her ideal employment, so none of a series of middle management jobs which followed, was ever likely to match the fulfilment she had derived from being part of top level of management at Allders

Once no longer in the high pressure job at Allders, Jan had more time to enjoy village activities. There was membership of the pub quiz team and parts in the panto. And then there were Jan’s dinners parties, always posh occasions. I imagined them to be like regimental dinners……….the dates fixed weeks in advance, drink offered before eating, throughout eating and then port at the end. Additionally, because Jan was a good cook, the food was remembered for long afterwards. Perhaps also influenced by her military connections, most things Jan did were not random but had specific objectives. For example, village newcomers would be invited to a proposed dinner party weeks in advance. Once their acceptance of her invitation had been landed, other guests would be picked according to their suitability to assist assimilation of such newcomers into our ‘village gang’. And that is how I became a gang member

Jan was a natural leader. At that time she and I ran (with unbridled success) The White Elephant stall at the fête. If I tell you my responsibility was logistics (that being business code for fetching, carrying and making coffee). You will correctly conclude that such success was the result of Jan having assumed leadership of pricing, staff training and staff management (also business code for generally keeping us in order and focused on the need to raise money)

Alec Knight, the rector at that time, spotted Jan’s natural leadership and she agreed to become a Church Warden. Soon after, at a Church Wardens Training weekend, the Lord’s call for her to join the priesthood began. And another prolonged, happy and fulfilling period of Jan’s life began

In 1996, she moved to Ripon College, Cuddeston, near Oxford, to train for  priesthood. It must have been a big ask for Jan to go to college as a mature student; not least because, as most of us know from experience, with maturity can come reduced brain speed and most definitely a less reliable memory. However, just as with the saying goes, and this could well be an Army saying, ‘when the going gets tough the tough get going’, and so did Jan. And she did well at college. Not just completing basic training, but subsequently as an external student, completing an MA course in Theology

Jan needed to do well at College to be well recommended for the jobs afterwards. She needed paid employment and rural parishes at that time seldom had ‘single woman’ and ‘over 50 years of age’ as tick boxes towards the top of their selection lists. But 4 years curacy within Beaconsfield team ministry had added to her reputation, and in 2002 she was appointed Rector of the Stoddon churches in Bedfordshire. A more rural parish than this parish, with 6 churches. So began 11 very happy years for Jan. She found absolute fulfilment in the work the Lord had called her to. She appeared to work endlessly. As with many rural parishes, ‘great was the harvest but few the  workers’ and as so often the case, many of the workers were elderly and had already worked for years supporting their village church. But Jan lead by example. There appeared to be an endless requirement for her pastoral support, but that was her gift. The people of Stoddon were much blessed for the years she served their communities

I think Jan drove herself too hard during her ministry in Bedfordshire. When she returned to this community she was physically worn out. She hadn’t the energy to move her furniture around or hang curtains or pictures. And had insufficient energy to create the garden she had planned. I think her greatest disappointment was she hadn’t the energy to be fair to a puppy. The puppy was her ‘gift to self’ on retirement. Dog walking is always a good plan to meet others and to enjoy the countryside around here. Jan was an experienced dog owner. Over many years had provided replacement homes for elderly Cavalier King Charles spaniels. Each of these had just two gears; one of which was ‘sit and wait’, the other being ‘trundle forward’. Well, the puppy was a cavapoo, a genetic hybrid, in which the trundle gene has been replaced by the turbo gene. The puppy had levels of unconditional love and physical energy way above what Jan had anticipated or what she could cope with. However, there was an acceptable conclusion, when after a some weeks of boarding with Frances Gray, a replacement home was found

When Jan returned to again live in the village, she had been away 18 years. That span including the period she was training and 4 years curacy at Beaconsfield. Once back, she was disappointed not to have been absorbed readily back into the work in this parish. But the parish had changed extensively during the years she had been away. There were obvious changes like the parish had expanded from 2 to 4 churches and clergy had reduced from 2 working full time to one clergy working part-time. For Christians, the hymns we sing are an abundant source of prompts, as regards how we can serve the Lord. I’m minded of a prompt from the hymn ‘take it to the Lord in prayer’. No doubt, Jan did this, and a place to serve the Lord arose. With encouragement from Jenni Black, Jan was licensed as an Associate priest in the Upper Itchen Valley benefice. That is even more ‘Upper Itchen’ that we are, with churches in Bramdean, Cheriton, Hinton Ampner and Kilmeston

Jan was also called to serve as a volunteer Chaplain at Winchester Prison   

Over the years when Jan was away training, being prepared for priesthood at Beaconsfield or working in her parish in Bedfordshire, she would plan visits back to Easton, to join us for our Friday supper nights in one of the village pubs. Not easy, for it was hard for her to get away. However, she ‘retained’ a bedroom in my house for such occasions. I would be advised weeks in advance of a planned visit, often already linked to a dental appointment, hair appointments or pre-supper drinks with the Dees. Her arrival would be late, so late she wouldn’t notice my grumpiness that a dog, 20 cigarettes and a radio which would be played long into the night, had also arrived. I tell you this, because one of many legacies I have from Jan is her example of how she packed so much into her life, to serve the Lord in other areas. So it was a small ask from the Lord of me, to do my best to ensure her stays at my house topped up her batteries……….and not to indulge myself with grumpiness

I assure you, that Jan immensely appreciated the support she received from family or friends. Much of that support being manifest by their kindnesses towards her. An immense achievement of Jan’s life, was her commitment to others. It would wonderful if each of us, from this day, aspired to get closer to her example. In my case, that remains work in progress, but further progress will be made; as consequences of occasions in my years to come, when I recall her life     

Within her family, Jan took the lead for supporting each of her parents when elderly. Her inputs resulted in good situations for each of them, at the end of their lives. She ensured situations which facilitated them living as long as possible in their home. Jan died at home.  She so much had wanted that. Praise the Lord for that.

May Jan now rest in peace. And may each of us, thank the Lord for the times when she was with us.”

This entry was posted in Funerals. Bookmark the permalink.