In memory of my Mum

Joan Lilian Pewsey 1929 – 2012

On December 20th 2012, my Mum Joan Lilian Pewsey passed away. This post is the script from the service celebrating her life conducted by Humanist Celebrant Rebecca Vincent. We shall miss her very much.


The service took place at Kingsdown Crematorium, Swindon at 12:45 on Wednesday 2nd January 2013.

Entry music: Louis Armstrong – “wonderful world” 


Welcome – we are gathered here this afternoon for our very special ceremony, to say goodbye to Joan Lilian Pewsey, to mourn her death and to celebrate her life. My name is Rebecca Vincent, and I have been invited here from the British Humanist Association, to lead our ceremony in accordance with the family’s wishes, reflecting how Joan chose to live her life. 

A funeral ceremony has many purposes. We all feel the need to take our leave of loved ones in a way that is right for them and for ourselves, as it is a last act of love that we can perform for them. Having spent time with son Alan, daughter Jo and their partners Lynda and Alan , they asked that our ceremony should be very personal and dignified and will include  tributes and favourite music, all clearly focussed on celebrating the life of someone you all love dearly. There will not be any hymns or prayers, but during our musical tribute there will be time for reflection, personal memories, and quiet thought – if you have religious faith, you may wish to spend that time in private prayer.

Parting is always painful and inevitably this day will be a sad one, for you are saying good-bye to someone who played an important role in your lives and will be missed as a much loved Mum and Ma, Nana, sister, aunty and good and loyal friend. But Joan would not have wanted this to be a too sombre or gloomy occasion. To have lived a very full and busy life, surrounded by loving family and friends are achievements to be celebrated. The comfort of having Joan in person may be lost, but the comfort of having had her in your lives is never lost. To match the grief of losing her you have the joy of having known her – the joy of which you become especially aware as you remember some of the wonderful times you spent together and recall the personal qualities that made Joan unique.


History & memories: 

Joan was born in 1929 in Copford in Essex. She was the younger of 2 girls, and was very close to her mum and dad. Joan always spoke fondly of the idyllic childhood she had in the village – it was very safe and happy. 

It was whilst working at the Post Office that she met Maurice. She always enjoyed working there and had lots of stories to tell. They married in 1962 and Joan acquired a ready-made family – Maurice, Carole and Alison. The family was later completed with the arrivals of Alan and Jo. They were originally living in Colchester but shortly after Alan’s birth they moved to Devon due to Maurice’s work. The children had such happy childhoods as mum was always there for them. Mum was a great cook – Jo remembers that her favourite meal was liver stroganoff… whereas Alan used to fight his dad for the skin off the custard. Sunday lunches were very special – often with debates around the table followed by Gardeners Question Time. 

Once the children had left home Maurice and Joan decided to move to Swindon to be closer to their extended family. They settled into life in Swindon and made new friends. When Maurice died in 2001, Joan got on with her own life and did very well. She decided to do things Maurice would never do, including buying new furniture and a cordless phone.  She enjoyed meeting her friends for coffee, where they would have a gossip – and Joan would always have a toasted tea cake. 

Joan was very fond of Alan and Jo’s partners – Lynda and Alan, whom she nicknamed “Alan lover” to distinguish him from her son Alan.  

Sadly Joan’s own health deteriorated but she soldiered on the best she could until finally a couple of months ago she moved to be with Jo and Alan lover in Hereford. She loved being a grandmother to Megan and David and was very proud of the two of them and pleased to see them just before she passed away. 

Personality wise, Joan was very feisty with a sense of humour and was a brilliant peace keeper. She will now be missed by everyone who knows and loves her. 

Tribute from Margaret Percival:

I have known Joan since I was child – for more than 60 years.  She and her three friends Doreen, Daphne and Connie went about together and were always referred to in the village as “The Girls”. They were 9 to 10 years older than me but they took an interest and made me feel included. We all sang in the church choir and we all met up at the church youth club on Mondays and attended other village occasion. In the summer we played tennis.

They started a Girls’ Club and devised a programme of activities for us. I remember Joan providing a “willing” back for us to leapfrog over on the Rectory Lawn! They took us to London to “see the sights”. I remember being with Joan in St Paul’s Cathedral.

When they were young and unattached, they enjoyed seeing a play every week at the Colchester Repertory Company, known locally as “The Rep”.  They went on holidays together, in Britain and abroad and sent back amusing postcards, sometimes written in verse by Joan. Joan had a close bond with these friends and outlived all of them.

When I think of her I see her as being fun loving, laughing and ever cheerful. She could always see the funny side of things, was amused by her observations of other people and had an “impish” sense of humour.

Joan won the scholarship from her village school and was educated at Colchester County High school. She was bright, quick thinking, capable and very efficient . Her resourcefulness, blended with humour sometimes made for intriguing results. One summer she had “worked” on some sunflower heads as they grew, producing a row of sunflowers by the garden fence, all with faces, and each one different.

The age gap has never been a problem. Over the years she has been a good and loyal friend, always interested, always encouraging and always welcoming I have so many happy memories of letters and phone calls and time spent her.

The tribute to my Mum that I read out at the service from my sister Jo and I.

I first met Mum 2 weeks earlier than planned in 1964 when she took an unscheduled tumble down a hill that induced labour. I soon realised that being early was a Family obsession as frequently Mum and Dad would be sifting expectantly by the front door with their coats on whilst we were still getting ready. This stayed with Mum right to the end as we sat in various hospital clinic waiting rooms throughout her treatment as we had left home far too early ‘just in case’.

We both have strong memories of a happy childhood, such as a warm welcoming kitchen after playgroup and school, or sitting on her lap during Watch with Mother – Jo always remembers playing with Mum fingers – cracked and rough from a lifetime of washing up.

As a child I remember Mum taking me on regular visits to Exmouth by bus, on the train to Teignmouth and its seafront pool as well as Penzance for the lido, all by public transport as she had never learnt to drive. She did make an attempt at learning for a while but that came to an abrupt end when she drove half way home to Exeter from Bude with the handbrake on. Needless to say dad was not impressed and that was the end of that.

As I spent a large amount of my time in the outdoors, I was also frequently scraping knees and giving myself other injuries like spearing myself with a cricket stump, but returning home Mum was always there to clean me up and a comforting word. The cupboard always had a homemade cake or two in, Dutch biscuits, coffee kisses and millionaire’s shortbread were all favourites. Also time was spent in the kitchen ‘helping’ mum bake by licking out the bowl.

Mum really enjoyed a good debate but was always willing to step aside to achieve a peaceful outcome. Once, my 5 year old sister was doggedly insistent that sausages were made out of pastry, mum patiently suggested she make some pastry sausages to eat for her tea that evening. Jo can still remember cutting into the fat soggy lumps of pastry as she realised Mum had known best after all!

Christmases were often spent at Hemel when we were growing up. Uncle John and Auntie Glad’s home the venue for a large gathering with endless plates of food and party games. Spin the plate still comes to mind although I would rather block that from my memory thanks to Mick! Santa caught on cine film going up the chimney albeit with his boots on the wrong feet. And of course the anticipation of the gnomes as news reached the lounge that they were on their way down the Ml. However, suspiciously on arrival they looked remarkably familiar despite mum disguised with her red cheeks and cotton wool beard.

Musically as children we were exposed by Mum and Dad to frequent playing of Perry Como, James Last, Peters and Lee, as well as Cleo Lane among others. Mum loved jazz and Cleo was a particular favourite, so much so that Jo took Mum to see one of her concerts fairly recently which she very much enjoyed. She also enjoyed mixing comedy with music such as Flanders and Swan and Joyce Grenfell. A recent favourite of hers was this piece sung by Julia Mackenzie. 

CUE – Julie Mackenzie piece – Play an excerpt not the whole track.

Since dad died it has been wonderful to see mum blossom with her second childhood coming into the fore. Enjoying her independence, silliness was never far away as we shared laughs, giggles and silly faces. Meeting up for Christmases with Jo, mum enjoyed beating us at games on the Wii – especially 10 pin bowling and racing cows as she pretended to have no idea what she was doing as she got the third strike in a row…again.

Mum never judged us; she let us make our own mistakes and was always there with her unconditional love no matter what. Her Kirktonhill Road days on her own and initially with dad have been supported by wonderful neighbours such as Sioned, Phil and Debbie as well as friendships with Pat, Terry Irene and hairdresser Mark, among many others who have all played their part in giving her a helping hand when she needed it. That is if she would let them as she didn’t want to be a burden to anybody. Your generosity towards Mum has made it a lot easier for Jo and I, so for being there we thank you.

Mum had her birthday at Turnbow on Tuesday the 18th December where we read her her many cards and she had a small slice of birthday cake. Ally and Kim her wonderful daily visiting carers in the final weeks of her life, made a fuss of her raising her spirits before she had a difficult night and was admitted to the hospice the following day where the horrible cough that had frustrated her for months disappeared. We managed to make her smile in the afternoon before she passed away peacefully holding Jo’s hand in the morning of the 20th .

You are here today to pay your respects to Joan, a much loved friend or family member. For Jo and I she was our mum, the best mum in the world, special friend and the person who learnt the F-word at 81. So please remember mum with a smile. Don’t be sad, just be grateful that we were all fortunate enough to have her in our lives. We’ll miss you mum more than words can say. Rest in peace.

Musical Tribute & Reflection: 

You will all have your own special memories of Joan so whilst we listen to Dave Brubeck  performing “take five” you may wish to spend some of the time remembering her each in your own way. This was chosen as a week before she died, it was playing on the radio. Joan said she loved it and when Jo went to speak, she was told to “shush”.

Final Farewell: 

We are now coming towards the end of our ceremony and the time when we must formally say goodbye to Joan. The family have asked that the curtain be left open as they wish to say their personal farewells as they leave and invite you to do so if you wish.  I’m sure Joan wouldn’t wish you to be sad for too long, and she would love the final choice of music – Cleo Lane singing “you must believe in spring”.  This was chosen as we have already heard about Joan’s love of Cleo’s music and seeing her perform in concert.  And the words of this song say it all – that though you are feeling sad now, spring is on its way – Joan wouldn’t want you to mope, but to remember the good times.  After we have listened to it for a while and only when they are ready, the family will lead us outside onto the terrace. I wish you well as your own lives continue to unfold and would you please stand. We have been celebrating the life of Joan Pewsey and remembering her with great love and respect. 

The words of this poem by Henry Scott Holland were read at Maurice’s funeral and seem very appropriate to be read at this moment in time.

Death is nothing at all

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.

Nothing is past; nothing is lost

One brief moment and all will be as it was before

How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!


Now we say goodbye and in sorrow for her death, but in gladness of her life we commit her body to its natural end

Departure music:  “you must believe in spring” – Cleo Lane 


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