Marie: a Eulogy

Mum Cars
Mum loved sporty Cars
Mum died on January 9th 2014. She was in Portsmouth. I was in York. We cremated my mother in Porchester on January 24th. I laid her ashes next to my father’s grave in Twyford, Hampshire on Februay 1st. At her funeral I made the Eulogy. Here it is.

“Marie Theresa Murphy then Smith and finally Chamberlain lead a life of adventures, change, contrariness, service, loyalty and love.

Simon, Toby and I grew up with tales of the Wrens and Earl Mountbatten in Malta. We heard of her military driving courses, and of rally driving. Mum’s imagination and verve would make something exciting and interesting to entertain and inform her sons even in the darkest of times.

At her core Mum was a very, very capable woman. She was certainly never a woman to hold back on getting her own way, as my grandfather, father and stepfather would, I’m sure, attest.

She was fierce in her loyalty to her family. Dad’s illness was a long, drawn out affair during which Mum brought up three boys: a pre-teen, a sullen teen and a university student (the first in the family) as a single-mother in all but name.

To this day I have no idea how she achieved this feat without going bonkers.

In Twyford – an hour or so train journey from London – she would get up at the crack of sparrow in order to ensure we were fed before she headed off to work. She worked in Winchester with the likes of Margaret Rule at Fishbourne Roman Palace – or later she would head to Marylebone and British Railways – returning from work after 7pm again to ensure we, her sons, were looked after and nurtured.

The Smith home was always full of music (I still can’t help but associate Wagner, The Beatles, and during mum’s short but fascinating career as a hospital radio DJ called ‘Marie Ashley’ in Southampton, the James Last Orchestra with Sunday mornings).

There were books everywhere and we were encouraged to read them or at least look at the pictures. Mum introduced us to films as diverse as Ice Cold in Alex and West Side Story. She took us to theatres, cinemas, safari parks, museums and galleries. My god that woman did her damnedest to get some culture into us.

And all this as one, single working woman. She may not have left us as the most culturally elegant of offspring but she certainly left us both loving and respecting a remarkable mother and friend.

Mum was involved with life. Even going so far as to swap what she called, “The most god-awful, boring car” a Honda Jazz for a sporty, two-seater MX5; a car modelled along the same lines as her beloved Triumph Stags and – as Toby reminded me – the MG Spitfire.

Sadly, she managed to drive her bright new MX5 into the back of a bus in Portsmouth because she refused to acknowledge failing eyesight, hearing and what should have been a debilitating case of diabetes that, rather than succumb to, she attempted to ride out with courage, dignity, grace and bloody-mindedness.

MTM Early photo
MTM Early photo
She was fully in favour of living life not contemplating death. The ‘D’ word was quite simply not one she cared to give any respect to. It was only after this, the second major bus-to-car prang in her life, that she slowed down… a bit.

Mum’s life saw two husbands: Ken and then Alan. Both very different and both of whom she loved fiercely and loyally.

But we must also recall how mum treasured her privacy. This was not ‘her own space’ in which she would hide. This was where, she read her books and maintained her intellect. This was where, after the death of her second husband, and in her 70s, she manage to get one degree in Art History and another in the law. Two university degrees in her 70s. Amazing.

There are many other amazing aspects to the life of Aunt Patsy’s sister, Simon, Toby and my mother, Gavin and Kay’s step-mother, and grandmother to Daniel and Grace. Her friends – and thank you so much for making it to this ceremony – will also cherish the memory of this wilful, humour-filled, loyal, self-made woman. I know that I have left out so much of this incredible lady’s life, that’s the big problem of Marie Therese. So please, please do add your memories to the book of remembrance or send them to me directly later.

Looking at Mum’s life I – and I know my brothers agree – count myself incredibly fortunate to have known her let alone have been brought into life by her. Bye bye Mum.”

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