Patricia Wimberley – Second Memorial Service
St. George's, Puente don Manuel, Viñuela, 22 June 2009
For a genuinely modest person, Pat left me a positively baroque series of funerary rites to organise : a Catholic cremation funeral in Brighton, an Anglican memorial service in Strasbourg, the committal of her ashes to the Mediterranean, which we carried out privately and non-denominationally last night, and this last event, another Anglican memorial service here in Spain. You see, she did not want a memorial to be visited once a year, but to be remembered in the different sense that good memories of her should be woven into the ongoing lives of her family and her many friends. It has worked out very well: she was always wiser than me in matters of the heart. But what is there left for me to say tonight? Rather than repeating my praises of her, I think I will simply try to show you, who knew her only at the end of her rich life, some landmarks in her journey to becoming the impressive matron and courageous victim of cancer you knew. Sue Thurgood, a close college friend, and Ollie Cordell, our good neighbour in Caleta de Vélez, will cover part of the ground.
Most of us are children or grandchildren of the great wars in which our forebears fought and came together. Pat was no exception, but her story was more romantic than most. Her father Ron Morris escaped his father's life as a miner by becoming an apprentice grocer: but then he upped sticks and volunteered as soon as he reached 18 before being called up. As a tinkerer with motorbikes, the RAF sensibly made him a front-line mechanic for Spitfires. He was sent out with his squadron to Algeria in 1942; and there he met, fell in love with, and married Pat's mother Paule, an orphan with her own reasons to rebel. Back in the Derbyshire mining village of Clowne, they and their baby daughter no longer really fit in. At the age of three, Pat came back from a single trip with her mother back to Algeria speaking fluent French, to the alarm of the closeknit but at times suffocating mining community. Literally suffocating: a year later, her Grandpa Morris became a hero during the Cresswell Colliery disaster, leading his gang to safety from a mile underground. Eighty of his workmates did not make it. She had a very high example to follow.
Pat was a clever and outwardly dutiful only child, and her parents saw and encouraged her talents, from cookery to languages. They moved to Leicester, where she met Spanish at school and excelled at it; and formed an ambition to become a doctor, sadly never to be fulfilled. The talent for languages took her to Oxford, where I hand her over to her friend Susan Thurgood, who has come down from Madrid today to be with us.
At the end of her Oxford years Pat met me: engineered by a previous girlfriend of mine who wanted to dump me elegantly. Well done, Hilaryanne. So we fell in love and married. She propped me up in my floundering career and pushed me into applying for a job at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, where we moved in 1973 and stayed for 32 years. A terrific life you might think: it was worthwhile, challenging, and well-paid work for me, and we enjoyed a very nice environment. But there are no free lunches; and the package included constant stress and overwork for me in a dysfunctional and unhappy bureaucracy, so our three children saw me as little more than a breadwinner; and the loss of professional opportunities for spouses like Pat. So we set up, in the 70s and 80s, a curiously Victorian household, in a house with a garden and cat. Pat accepted the antique role of full-time mother and housewife, and made a three-star performance of it. She had no time though for the trivial social round of Kaffeeklatsch; her long conversations with her many friends were real and probing ones. However, the finest testimony to her at the memorial service in Strasbourg was I thought not so much the church packed with these friends, but the fact that five of the congregation were friends not so much of her as of our children: young people she had invariably welcomed into our house with respect, courtesy and her excellent improvisational cooking.
When the time came to look for a holiday home, there was no question of anywhere but the Andalucía she had loved for even longer than me. Tragically our retirement here was shadowed by the cancer diagnosed and operated on five years ago: but they were still five good years, in which she saw our first grandchild Cassie born and grow into the radiant little girl who is with us today, and established yet another circle of deep friendships. I'll now ask one of these friends, our neighbour Ollie Cordell, to read a poem in Pat's memory.
Finally, on behalf of Pat's mother Paule, her children Sarah, Jonathan and Lucy, and myself, I would like to express our gratitude to you all for coming here tonight. En nombre de la madre de Patricia Paule-Hélène, sus hijos Sarah, Jonathan, y Lucy, y de mi mismo, tengo a dar nuestras gracias sinceros a todos y a todas que han venido acqui por esta tarde. The kindness, practical help, and prayers poured out by her friends in all three of Pat's homelands, during her last illness and since her death, have been quite stupefying and humbling in their depth and abundance. Through our tears, you have helped us see in a small way what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like. Thank you all. Muchas gracias.