Saying farewell to a special lady

A few days ago I attended the funeral of a special lady.  Her name is Yvonne and she is the mother-in-law of my husband’s brother and grandmother to two of my many nephews and nieces.  She was 88.

I didn’t know Yvonne as well as the many others who came to offer their last respects, but I do remember her fondly, and apart from wanting to pay my own respects, I also wanted to be there to support my husband and our family.

A few years ago, like me, Yvonne was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And, like me I believe, she was a fighter.  She didn’t make a fuss, she just wanted to get on with her full life, while at the same time handling the diagnosis and her subsequent treatment with dignity.  I think that word sums her up.  She epitomised dignity.  The treatment at the time went well, but sadly, other health complications took their toll.

Yvonne Wheeler

RIP Yvonne

When we met Yvonne on family occasions, she would always make a point of asking me how I was feeling, and how I was getting on, during and post treatment.  She loved our kids too, always asking after them.  And of course she loved her own kids and their kids.  She loved life and devoted a lot of it to helping other people.

And in a fitting tribute to Yvonne, the funeral service was as dignified as she was.  The words.  The music.

The words

Yvonne’s grandchildren were brave enough to contribute words for their nan at the service.  My nephew had put together a poem in tribute.  He took his place and began to read the words.  He took deep breaths and pauses, but he was starting to get choked with emotion.  We all felt for him, it was a very emotional occasion.  With no fuss, the celebrant took over the reading of the poem, and we all shared in the moving tribute, tinged with humour.

My niece also found the occasion overwhelming and after a confident start reading Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott Holland, the celebrant completed the poem.

I admired both of them for what they did – it’s not easy to speak in front of people at the best of times, let alone at a funeral gathering.  But their reaction kind of transcended the words they were each meant to speak.  The emotion and the meaning was there for all to feel and witness.

The music

Apart from the suitably beautiful hymns, The Day Thou Gavest Lord is Ended, and Amazing Grace, Yvonne’s family chose pieces of music that either meant a lot to her or perfectly summed up her life and the occasion. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler and The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand captured the mood and emotion of the proceedings, and Beethoven’s Fur Elise added a fitting finale to the tributes.

The celebrant gave us some insight into Yvonne’s life.  She was born into a fairly affluent family but her parents separating in the early part of her life meant a time of great change.  She embraced the changes and later on her new family, and when war broke out she not only volunteered to become an army dispatch motorbike rider, she also met her husband to be.  Within a few months she was married, and soon bringing up children of her own, a very traditional family set up.  Sadly Yvonne’s husband passed away far too early in his life, but her determination meant that her children didn’t suffer as a result.  In later life she loved to meet her children and grandchildren, often for lunch.  One of her favourite treats being Mr Kipling’s French Fancies, which went on to become forever known as Nanny Cakes!

Mr Kipling's French Fancies, make exceedingly good Nanny Cakes

Nanny cakes

Yvonne was known for her beautifully refined diction, and this led to her becoming the voice behind speaking newsletters for the blind in her home area of Wandsworth.  She had a full social life, and enjoyed organising events for the many clubs she belonged to.

The day was rounded off by raising a glass at a nearby pub, sharing memories and indulging in a wonderful feast, suitably completed with Nanny Cakes!

She will be missed. RIP Yvonne.


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