Friday 24 August 2012: Nancy
"No man is an island, entire of itself: every man is a piece of a continent, a part of the main....any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne
The bell of StEdith's tolled for Nancy early on Sunday morning, marking her passing from this life on Saturday evening. The bell tolled 84 times, the first two because she was a woman, the rest to mark her age of 82.
Nancy was my mother-in-law, the mother of my wife, Caroline and her three brothers Andrew, Thomas, and Edward, and grandmother of Matthew, Jamie, Stephen and Isaac.
After a short illness at home, Nancy was admitted to York General Hospital on Tuesday 21 August. On Wednesday, the diagnosis was made, she was weakening rapidly and her doctor told us she was not expected to survive the night. That she survived that night, and two more nights was testament to her enormous strength of will.
We have always had a joke that daughters turn into their mothers, and that before you propose to your beloved, you should study her mother carefully. If we accept there is more than a grain of truth in this, then I chose wisely indeed. Nancy has been a wonderful mother-in-law, she treated me as if I was her fourth son, and I have loved her as if she was my own mother. We had a connection, an understanding that transcended words. She supported me through the grief of losing my own mother, she was there for me when I was not well. Best of all, she trusted me to marry her lovely daughter.
There is so much I could say about her, but there are not enough words, and I cannot find them to do her justice.
Nancy showed us by example how a life should be led. She knew that the things that mattered most were those on which no price can be put: such as integrity, trust, friendship, love, family, community. She didn't aspire to material things, she sought only comfort, not luxury. She was never wealthy in material terms, from an early age she learned to be resourceful, and yet she was the kindest, most generous person I have ever known. Life wasn't always easy for her, yet she harboured no bitterness, no envy of others, she was so gracious, so courteous, so positive in outlook, so forgiving the failings of the rest of us. And she had a good sense of humour, and it remained intact throughout her last few days in hospital.
Nancy was almost miraculously spared much pain and discomfort despite the nature of her illness. She died surrounded by her loving family, and tended to by a remarkable team of staff from the NHS.
With her passing, a bright and vital light has gone out. Her life's journey is complete, a life that was well lived, a life that has left a rich legacy for her family and friends. We are all poorer for her loss, but richer for having known her. Her light will always burn brightly in our hearts.
Posted as a back blip on Monday evening, on Friday I took this photograph of the picture of Nancy when she was a schoolgirl. Her family didn't own a camera at that time, and it is one of the few photos that survives of this time in her life. There is another school photo of her and all the other boys and girls in the village school when she was a little older. When our nephew Matthew first saw it when he was about 7, he picked Nancy out from her classmates and said "there's Auntie Caroline," the likeness is indeed remarkable.