Yesterday was my Dad’s funeral and I wrote and delivered the eulogy. Some people have asked for it to be available online so they can read it again, so……
I sat staring at the computer screen for what seemed like hours with the biggest case of writers’ block I’ve ever experienced while trying to decide how to start this eulogy. I mean, how do I begin to talk about someone whom I love so much and whom I will miss every day of my life? And then I heard my dad’s voice in my head, “Just bloody well get on with it!!!” So, here goes….
My Dad, Frank, was born in Glasgow and, although he moved down to England with his parents when he was just 4 years old, he was always a very proud Scotsman. He was born at a whopping 13lb 11oz (my poor Nan) and by the age of 18 months old looked like he was ready to start school!!!! To say, he was a bit of a naughty boy when he was younger would be an understatement…he would hit the trams with big sticks; swear at the rag and bone man; at the tender age of 2 he was the proud owner of a smoking pipe because he had such a major tantrum in a shop that his grandmother bought him it just to shut him up; he filled a pea shooter with grit and dirt and blew it into the face of the baby next door as a surrogate for his younger sister whom had arrived and taken the attention away. One day, my Nan and Grandad had taken my Dad, aged around 3 and my Auntie San, as a baby in her pram, to the park. My Dad fell into the lake and had to be pushed home in my aunt’s pram to which he indignantly said “Don’t let my pals see me!!!!” My Dad was, what polite people would call, a challenging child, but regardless, he was always his Mummy’s Little Soldier but also her rock and continued to be so until my Nan passed away only 2 years ago, in fact I’m sure she’s looking after her little soldier right now, feeding him his favourite home-made tatty soup and Empire biscuits.
The things that got my Dad onto the straight and narrow and stopped him being a delinquent was the love and support of wonderful parents, his love of drama and his love of sport, or should I say his passion/borderline obsession with sport. He discovered early on in his school days at Saltley Grammar School that he was talented at sport and could turn his hand to most of them and excelled in several – football, table tennis, swimming, gymnastics, darts, basketball, cricket, and of course, rugby, even playing for Birmingham. He played with passion and was loyal to his team, sometimes a little too loyal…when Mum went into labour with me, she had to be taken to the hospital in my Uncle Harvey’s clothes van because Dad had to go to football as, and I quote, he couldn’t “let the lads down”. His love of sport never waned even when his body gave up on him and he watched avidly and, in later years, became Lilibeth’s personal gymnastics coach, teaching her more in our front room than she ever learned at gymnastics club. In fact, when I asked Lilibeth to describe her Grumpy she said, “He was my gymnastics teacher and my best friend.” His final sporting performance was less than 12 months ago when, combining his competitive nature with his enjoyment at making people laugh, he entered the Dad’s race at Lilibeth’s final sports’ day at her primary school. Frail and undergoing chemotherapy, he took part on his walking frame and got the biggest cheer of the day, and made Lilibeth very proud indeed.
Dad was a lifelong Leicester Tigers fan and season ticket holder. He loved going to the matches, meeting his friends, and cheering on his team. He introduced Lilibeth to rugby at an early age and took her with him to Welford Road on many occasions. He even managed to go when he was undergoing his chemotherapy treatment. His love of the Tigers was undeniable and I have spent many hours on holiday either trying to track down a pub that was showing a Tigers match or setting him up with my iPad to watch it. One of the hardest things he had to do was to give up his season ticket when he became too ill to travel to Leicester but he continued to watch them on TV or listen to them on the radio which is why we chose the music that we did at the start of the service…Tigers always come on to the pitch at Welford Road to that song and it seemed fitting that my Dad made his entrance today in the same manner as his favourite team.
Another talent that he discovered at school was drama, he loved acting and performing, and was so convincing in his portrayal of Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, that during the death scene when he popped a blood capsule in his mouth, my poor Nan nearly had breakdown thinking he had really been stabbed.
After school, he went on to college where he trained to be a teacher, a career that he would excel at throughout his entire working life. He never took the easy route in his career – for a short while he worked as a mental welfare officer. Then he worked at an approved school for delinquent boys where he truly made a difference in so many lives, giving these boys hope and respect and dignity. Some of the old boys would come and visit for many years after they left the school, even bringing their own children to meet the man who saved them. Once that school closed down, he went into special education and saw out the rest of his career teaching children with profound mental and physical disabilities. I remember going to my Dad for some careers advice and I said to him, “Dad, I’m thinking about teaching or social work, which would you recommend?” and in his usual no nonsense manner, he replied, “Do you have a third option?” Well, I did follow my dad into teaching and he was a very proud man when he came to my graduation ceremony. I have even followed the family tradition of being a trade unionist as was my Dad and Grandad before me, something else that made my Dad proud.
Not long after leaving college, Dad met my Mum. They had a very unconventional way of meeting…Dad was in a pub with one of his friends and Mum was there with one of hers and they were at either end of a table. Mum’s friend said something funny just as Mum had taken a huge swig of beer; she laughed so hard that she spat the beer straight into my Dad’s face, and the rest, as they say is history. He was quite the romantic and sent Mum letters when she was on holiday in Majorca and even bought her the single (which for younger viewers is how us old folk listened to music back in the day) “This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert. They were married in 1972 at St Peter’s Church and from day one my Dad became part of my Mum’s large and loving family and Mum was welcomed into the Hubble clan with open arms. Mum and Dad were happily married for nearly 46 years. It wasn’t perfect, they certainly knew how to push each other’s buttons and occasionally there could be some pretty awesome rows but underneath all of that it was obvious to anyone who saw them that they loved each other deeply and would do anything for each other and for other people too. Together, they created a loving home where anyone was welcome regardless of age, gender, race, colour, sexual orientation, where everyone was judged on their own merits. If my Dad liked you, you would be insulted and given a silly nickname which you would then be called forever. My parents opened their home to so many people over the years – exchange students from Spain, Greece, France, Italy and America, lots of them are still in touch today and who still call Mum and Dad their second parents. I grew up in a house with an ever open door and an endless supply of food, drink and friendship for anyone who came knocking.
I arrived in 1974 and feel so blessed to have had the Dad that I did. He would have given me the shirt off his back and, although he kept his own counsel a lot of the time, he would worry and fret about me and would always be thinking of ways he could help me and support me. The memory I will cherish forever is my Dad and I walking to church together on the day of my wedding and walking me down the aisle. My Dad taught me things, encouraged me, leant me money, was the taxi service for me and my friends, he made me laugh, he infuriated me at times, he was my biggest cheerleader and above all he loved me unconditionally, which was a good job as I was a pretty horrible teenager! And he never stopped loving me even when I made some questionable decisions nor when I returned to live at home bringing a new addition in the form of a baby bump.
Now, my Dad wasn’t one to moan…..much…..but when I was pregnant he was having a particularly moany day and I said that he would be known as grumpy instead of grampy, and it stuck. He wore the name like a badge of honour, wherever he went he was known as Grumpy, by all Lilibeth’s friends at school, the parents, and even the staff. He loved being Grumpy to Lilibeth – when she was young, he would take her out with my Nan and when she was a baby and it came time for me to cook dinner, I would give her to Dad to hold and within minutes the two of them would be fast asleep; Dad in his chair and Lilibeth looking so tiny in his big, strong, safe arms. As she grew, and once I went to work, Dad became the master of the school run – he got to know all the parents and staff, went to every concert, play, and assembly, and helped her with projects. He was elated that Lilibeth is an exceptional artist and gymnast, both traits that she shared with him and that totally bypassed me. Every bit of love and worry that he felt for me and Mum expanded to encompass Lilibeth and he was fiercely protective and immensely proud of her. He was the father figure in Lilibeth’s life and will leave a big gap – he taught her to climb, how to use a swing, how to recognise bad drivers and say rude things to them, to do gymnastics (which he continued to do right up to the week before he died), and to appreciate country music and songs from the shows.
Music played a huge part in my Dad’s life – he tortured my grandparents by repeatedly playing “It’s Over” by Roy Orbison and singing along, leaving them wishing it would be over. He loved his music with a particular fondness for country music, Pavarotti, the three tenors, songs from musicals, and Barry Manilow – and thanks to my parents, I have the mortification of having to admit that the first ever gig I went to was to see Barry Manilow when I was 7. He also loved live shows and theatre, and we went to see so many musicals from Mamma Mia to Mary Poppins, from the Lion King to Blood Brothers, but his absolute favourite, was Les Misérables. He went to see it at the theatre numerous times, the last time being just after Christmas and one of the last times he actually went out anywhere; he watched the movie endlessly, and it will always remind me of my Dad. No matter how many times he saw it, he cried every time, and no doubt there will be a few tears when we hear Bring Him Home at the end of the service.
Mum and Dad loved to dance too, and have cleared many dance floors when they started to rock and roll, it was brilliant to watch and I was always very proud; I was, however, slightly less proud, when they insisted, when slightly tipsy, on doing the tango across the reception of a 5 star hotel where I worked as a holiday rep.
Holidays were always important to Dad; he loved going away and having fun, whether it was in 5 star luxury or a £9.50 Sun caravan holiday in Cornwall. Dad would always be the person who organised swimming galas, water polo matches, lilo races etc. for all the children and some adults. Wherever we went you could guarantee Dad would be the entertainment; always prepared to make a fool of himself to make people smile. Our last holiday together was to Disney World in Florida where my lasting memory will be of Dad on his mobility scooter with Lilibeth hitching a lift.
Charity, community and social justice were also very important to my Dad, something he has passed on to me and Lilibeth. In his younger days, he completed the Lyke Wake Walk and the Three Peaks challenges to raise money for Mencap. He took groups of young boys from care homes and approved schools on holidays to France and Belgium and on activity holidays. Later in life, he was involved in schemes to help people with special needs. He organised trips for a club for children and young adults with Down’s Syndrome. He was an active member of the Round Table and one of my favourite Christmas memories was the annual Santa sleigh charity collection. My friend’s dad, Mike, would hook the sleigh to the back of his Land Rover and he would drive it around the streets of Harborne and Edgbaston, playing carols with my Dad sat on the back dressed as Santa while lots of us went round with buckets collecting for charity. It was truly magical. Dad was also an examiner for Girl Guides and Brownie badges and helped so many of my friends and his and Mum’s friends with assignments, references, projects etc. And he was also a charity collector for Midlands Air Ambualnce. He went through life trying to help others and make life better for everyone.
Finally I want to say a few thank yous…firstly, I want to thank everyone that is here today; it means so much to us as a family and is a wonderful testament to my Dad and the person that he was. Thank you too to everyone who has written, sent cards and shared memories. It has been a great comfort and a wonderful reminder about who my Dad was. Anyone who has cared for someone with cancer or any other terminal illness will know that it can be all-consuming and quickly becomes the focus of your entire existence. You can easily lose sight of what that person was like before the illness and it was so incredible reading and hearing other people’s memories as it brought my Dad back to life for all of us in our memory, dispelling a lot of the less happy memories of recent years.
Finally, I want to thank my Mum for being the glue that has held our family together during the last three years as we have all journeyed with cancer, you are my rock and were also Dad’s rock. When he was in the hospice, he would mither and fret if Mum wasn’t there and he would ask for her. He relied on her, as we all have, and she has never once let him or us down. Thank you Mum, I love you.
I want to leave you with a poem:
You can shed tears that they are gone
Or you can smile because they have lived
You can close your eyes and pray that they will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that they have left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember them and only that they are gone
Or you can cherish their memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what they would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.