My old Mum passed away, aged 97, on January 29th, 2015
The following is my eulogy, but somewhat filled out to make it more readable.
Bournemouth, March 3rd, 2015.
Philippa is unable to be here today but I want to recognize her generosity to her Mum in innumerable ways, finally making possible this gathering today.
Each of you knew my Mum from your own unique perspective. You have memories that are yours and yours alone. My task is to honor her and help you write the last chapter in your own memory book. We can’t reduce people to few anecdotes and tell the story of a life. But we can look for the scaffolding that holds the stories together, that give sense and structure to who we are.
Born at the end of WW1, Patsy grew up in the great depression, though the impact of this will have been muted because she lived in a privileged home. She married a handsome young soldier at the start of WW2. Moving from pillar to post during the war, dodging the bombs, you learned to be resilient. That word, that resilience, characterized her whole life.
In the post-war years of the 40s and 50s in Nottingham and Derby, we can remember her stitching, darning, scrimping, saving, putting food on the table with no money on the table, warming our clothes by the fire on icy mornings. These were very hard years for most young parents. As a committed Conservative she and Dad went canvassing for the party and loved to assist in “the count” when the votes were all in. Mum always maintained a lively interest in current affairs to the very end.
In time the relationship with the Tank Regiment Major began to crumble. It took resilience to hold her family together as the father slowly withdrew. It took resilience to carve out a new life in London; finding work, finding apartments, making new friends. Yet we never heard her complain. Love never knocked on her door again, though at times opportunity seemed to be in the air!
As the years took their toll, the resilience that characterized her life bore her along as she faced diminished strength, eyesight, hearing, etc. In her retirement she moved to Bournemouth: Mum had always wanted to live by the sea. She was courageous with her travel plans, even making it to the States to help with Philippa’s young children, and where years later she danced at Mike and Becky’s wedding and flew another five hours to California to visit me. She shone with pride at her “Big O” 90th birthday party. But as the world moved on with its technology and complexity her frail body became a prison. It became increasingly hard to keep up with her growing family and current affairs.
The words “I love you” were not easy words to say in our family, probably because neither she nor Robert heard them very often when they were children. But that is not to say that Mum did not feel that love. She was devoted to her children and all the families that grew therefrom.
I once asked Mum which were the best times of her life. She thought for a few moments and replied: My childhood, and having my children.
Childhood. I got the impression that Patsy’s childhood was well nigh idyllic even though her mother could be somewhat formidable. Her father was knighted for services to the Food Office during WWI and became Brigadier General Sir Julian Young, KCB, which automatically made Pat’s mother, Gwendoline, a Lady. Patsy and her older sister, Audrey were devoted to each other. It was from Mum’s time living at Repton, Derbyshire, where Sir Julian was Bursar and servants helped care for the girls, that Mum asked what was in the trifle, to which she received the oft repeated reply “Stale cakes, Miss Patsy.” Miss Patsy was sent to the beautifully rural Ryton boarding school, Shropshire, and subsequently for a while to finishing school in Switzerland where everyone was expected to speak French during mealtimes. As kids we knew from Mum’s nostalgic delight at visiting Repton and looking at the house where she lived, and staying near her parents in Milford-onSea when she herself now had a family, that her childhood was very special.
Children. You can’t intuit this when you are one of the children, but in fact bearing kids was a huge fulfillment of life’s purpose for our mother. Philippa and I were born during the war years. Later, in Nottingham, Robin joined the family. It was a happy family. Some years later when we all lived in Derby, things began to change. The marriage was under huge strain while I was in my mid-teens, and suddenly Richard came along - and there was another baby to love! Mum could not drive, had no car and was never taken anywhere with father unless it was a family outing or vacation. So everywhere she went she used public transport: to get to the school play, to visit Richard in Ipswich, to attend my graduation. And through all of this she showed her devotion to her kids. She gave unfailing support to us when we all screwed up, as we did from time to time.
Selflessness is a large part of love. Mum always put other before herself. However tough life became, teetering to the kitchen on tired old legs, she would insist on making a coffee and sandwiches for her guests. She would push pound notes into your hands to make sure you were not out of pocket for any kindness you had done for her. You wanted to decline, but sometimes you let her, because she needed to show her gratitude. Her handwriting became almost unreadable and she became so apologetic the year she sent no Christmas cards. Hello! You’re 94!
Mum never wanted to inconvenience others. She would rather put up with the sun in her eyes then get in a man to fix the new blinds! She would rather give than receive. That was part of her loving nature. She was so friendly — and so everybody loved her.
Goodness was the third quality that seems the characterize Pat Buss. Her attitude could occasionally sound off-hand, but she bore no grudges, she had no malice, not even against her husband, Robert, whom sister Audrey always called Robert The Tank! I once asked Mum how she felt after the marriage breakup to which she replied, “Oh, he was so boring”.
Pat always stayed close to her Anglican roots. That was understandable. Both her brother-in-law and father-in-law were parish priests. In her belongings we found simple prayers and Bible verses which she had kept for many years. And while at Horseshoe and Pegasus Courts she continued to receive communion from whoever was the incumbent at St Peter’s Parish Church.
Mum had a few eccentricities — but don’t we all! They were part of who she was. Please note, for the record, that the word sandwich is pronounced SAMWIDGE. And if you were in on her secret language you would know the true meaning of “put the switch on”, “go to the place”, and “pull the plug.”
I think it is high praise to say that our mum was a resilient, loving, and a good woman.
It takes a family, a community, to care for the elderly.
THANK YOU, everyone here today, for the part you played in looking after Mum. Words will not suffice to say how grateful I am.
When we all were children our mothers first invested in us,3 giving us life and love and setting us on our way. All of us here (and many others besides) have been touched, affected, shaped, moulded by Patricia Buss. A quick look at her family listed on the back of the service sheet gives a glimpse of the extent of her influence. And that’s merely a beginning.
I think, considering her wishes for today’s Bible readings and the hymn she chose, with the tune Repton, that her word to us today would be, “Live life simply - with a smile.”
My mum did not get jokes, not really. She was, however, easily amused and in turn amused many others. Her sense of humor was in evidence as we sat round the radio listening to Archie Andrews, or laughing at Steptoe and Son on TV.
She was forever amused that when working in the pet department at Harrods the King and Queen called by, and young Princess Elizabeth who was talking with young Patsy, held and then dropped one or two of the canaries. Patsy had to scurry round on the floor to get the birds back in their cage. The family has always felt that Mum sounded like the Queen when she spoke. And you know what? If you were ever to ask what is the Queen like? I might have to say that (apart from the money) she is like my Mum!
And since Mum amused us all with her endless fund of limericks there is no better way to close than this:
There was a dear lady called Pat;
Wherever she went she’d just chat;
She had children four
And family much more;
She was loved by us all - and that’s that!
Santa Ana, California