The death of my Grandmother has been a moment of deep personal sadness for both myself and my family.
I have been deeply touched by the many kind messages of support from friends around the world that have contacted us to share their condolences.
The past few weeks have been a period of mourning for me, but also one of celebration, as I have shared in the love and affection held for my Grandmother throughout her life.
As a small tribute to my Grandmother, it was my privilege to write and deliver her Eulogy, published below.
Eulogy to Mrs Jean Hardwick
Our hearts break and our hearts scar. But our hearts should never stop loving.
My earliest memories of my Grandmother are of someone soft and warm hugging me. Of feeling loved. Of feeling strength tempered with age and kindness and sadness. My earliest memories are of losing one Mother and gaining another before I could ever even comprehend what that would mean for me.
When I was young, my friends would celebrate Mother’s Day, but I would always celebrate my Grandmother. Over time, she came to represent safety, stability, and irrepressible fortitude. She taught me to speak properly, to stand up for what is right, and to always do things correctly, or not at all.
I knew Mrs Jean Hardwick as my Grandmother – but over 95 years she was also a Daughter, a Sister, a Wife, an Aunt, a Mother, a Mother-in-Law, and a friend. Known to all a lady of elegance, determination and reliability.
Being the one left to sum up those 95 years is one of the biggest challenges that I have ever faced. To really do justice to a lady who was such an integral part of so many lives is no small thing, but as Gran always used to tell me, the best thing to do is try a little at a time. So bear with me while I do.
First, I want to pay tribute to my Grandmother’s care for me. She was my oldest and wisest teacher, that over the course of the last thirty years has been a living inspiration and example of strength, courage and kindness.
At no point in my thirty years have I wanted for care, or hope, or love because in my Grandmother I received all three in abundance. To stand before you all today is to carry a legacy that began almost a century ago, a legacy of overcoming hardship, winning love, and building a life with a family that loved her in return.
My Grandmother always kept her promises. When she said that something would be done, you could be sure it was going to happen.
That independence of spirit came from a life of facing down the challenges of the world with a sheer determination to overcome the most dire of tragedies. Having lost her Father at the tender age of 15, she would go on to outlive her Mother, her Granddaughter, Daughter, Son-in-Law, Husband and both of her Sisters, suffering from a rare blood cancer, breast cancer and a severe stroke in her 70s in a family history that we used to joke about sounding a little like the plot of a Charles Dickens novel. But in facing and overcoming those challenges, my Grandmother also came to grow a character of strength, confidence and resilience which would be an irreplaceable example to me during my own times of hardship.
My Grandmother’s life was also not all one of strife, however. Those of you that have been to her house will recognise the description of a comfortable, well-presented home of warmth and plenty, filled with the many photos of those she loved and decorated with a tasteful style born of her innate elegance.
My Grandmother loved good food, good music, elegant clothes and elegant manners. Having faced so much hardship in her life, she believed in doing what she could to make her surroundings comfortable and pleasant, and to surround herself with friends that were equally as comfortable and pleasant to be around. She wanted to share that comfort, and frequently did, as a warm and generous hostess to all.
That warmth of spirit was one which attracted so many wonderful friends to her, many of whom are here today to share their support and remember her. The love and care we have received from all of you has been a warm blanket of affection for as long as I have been alive.
I am, as I know my Grandmother was, deeply grateful to the many people that cared and supported her when I moved to Oxford and latterly London. Frank, who visited every Saturday morning, Elaine, Sue and Bernie who ferried her to appointments and sat with her when she was unwell. Jayne, who visited with fish and chips. And of course, Rita, supported both my Grandmother and I for over 12 years with unrivalled compassion and an unflinching dedication and duty. Knowing that they were just a phone call away gave me the confidence to live life knowing that our friends were never far away to help Gran when she needed it.
When I first started courting my wife, Verity, my Grandmother immediately set about welcoming her to the family. Within two days of me telling her, Grandmother suddenly decided that it was time for my Great Aunt Barbara and her to pay me a visit in Oxford to see a play. It was one of our favourite shows and I was so excited that they were coming to visit that I was caught completely off-guard when she casually announced “I would also like to meet this young lady of yours – please see to it.” I was then left in the unenviable position of calling Verity to ask her out on our third date and casually mentioning that my Grandmother and Great Aunt would be joining us!
Thankfully Verity was as much of a hit with Jean and Barbara as she had been with me, and so after Verity left at the end of the weekend, I was told that “she seems absolutely lovely. Very well presented and so well spoken. You had better make sure you hold onto her”.
Needless to say, I did.
Her determination to thrive also gave my Grandmother one of her most well-recognised qualities; that of being a singer. From before I could even croak out my first words, I remember my Grandmother singing – and not just a reedy tremulous warble but the full-throated soaring melodies of an opera soprano. I have lost count of the number of friends and family that commented on her ability to sing. She would sing on the stage, she would sing in the car, she would sing in the lounge, she would sing wherever and whenever she could.
More than any time in my life, I hold those songs in my heart. My Grandmother’s story is one of strength and courage and kindness – a story which I am blessed to have been a part of.
My heart breaks for the pain of losing her. But as long as it beats, it will never stop loving her.