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I've done a fair bit of public and professional speaking, but this was the most difficult speech I have ever had to deliver.
Kathleen Joan Bowditch
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
Today is a time for weeping and mourning, but it is also a time for laughter (but maybe not dancing) as we celebrate a life. Mum would not want us to stop laughing.
The words I started with were written many generations before any of us were born, but they were taken by someone of Mum's generation, a man born just two years before Mum in 1919, and turned into a song of inspiration for many of my generation. What I want to talk about today is how one generation lives on by inspiring the next.
I don't believe in a spiritual afterlife, but I do believe that there are ways in which we do continue on beyond our earthly lives.
There is the cliché that we live on in the memories of those who knew us and loved us, and the evidence of this is here in this room today. We survive in the genetics of our descendants, and everyone here carries with them undeniable evidence of who their ancestors were. Another cliché is that to get good genes you need to choose your parents well. I was lucky in the parents I chose for another reason, because another way we live on is in the values and principles that pass between generations.
A song which is quintessentially of my generation is Teach Your Children by Graham Nash, which instructs members of both generations to teach the other well and feed them on their respective dreams, but what many people don't hear in that song is the very faint counter melody to the second verse which contains the words:
Teach your children what you believe in.
Mum and Dad taught me what they believed in. They built a world that I could live in.
I was taught from an early age that there are people who don't look like me, aren't the same colour as me, don't speak like me, don't eat the food I eat, but are just like me.
I was taught that women are no different to men except in physical strength. (A woman can't lift a bag of potatoes.)
I was taught that religion and spirituality are matters of personal choice and should not be predetermined by the family or society into which you happen to be born.
I was taught that books are to be read, not banned or censored.
I was taught that people should be treated with respect, fairness, compassion and equity.
I was taught that education is important.
I was taught that you can be broke and still be happy.
But most of all I was taught that love can be unconditional and can survive through hardship and trial.
Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
Mum lives on in the things she taught me about how to live my life.
I would like to finish with another song, one definitely of Mum's generation, which describes love better than I ever could. This is not just any old song, but was played at Mum and Dad's wedding. It's I'll Walk Beside You by Alan Murray and Edward Lockton. I have the words here and I could read them out to you, but I won't because I couldn't, and I think you can understand what I mean by that.
As the song plays I would invite you to reflect on your memories of Mum, and perhaps to join me in saying goodbye by placing a flower on the casket.
Goodbye, Mum. I'll walk beside you through the land of dreams.
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