This is the eulogy I gave at the church service after my mother’s funeral – I’m posting it here to ensure there’s a digital copy for her children and grandchildren. The funeral was held on Friday, 11th November 2022, at Margam Crematorium, and the church service was at Skewen Methodist Church – the church that was a big part of her life for the last ten years.
Brenda Ford, formerly Sharples, nee Hawkridge
May 25th 1942 – October 19th 2022
Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a decent amount of time thinking about who my mother was. While that may sound strange, as I’ve known her all my life, we only get to reflect on the full life of someone at a time like this. I’m sure we all have stories, memories, and ideas of who Brenda Ford, formerly Sharples, née Hawkridge, was, and I would love to hear yours, but first, let me take a few moments to share mine.
My mother was born in the small town of Elland in West Yorkshire in 1942 – right bang in the middle of the second world war. Her father (Ernie) was in the Royal Engineers and absent for much of her early life repairing bridges in Holland. She was a proud Yorkshire lass from the day she was born until the day she died. She liked her tea strong, was very down to earth, and would never shy away from sharing her honest opinion, and despite her diminutive frame, she could more than hold her own. Working the Friday night shift in Manchester Royal Infirmary was good preparation for dealing with a couple of unruly teenagers like me and my brother Rob. And I’m speaking from personal experience here – she would not hesitate to give us a good “clattering” if we stepped too far out of line.
In 1963 at the age of 21, my mother married my father, James Sharples, and a year later, she became a registered nurse and, a year after that – a mother for the first time. Over the next 40 years, she worked in large busy hospitals in Manchester, Oldham, and Lincoln and small family practices all over the country – wherever my Father’s Royal Air Force postings took us.
As well as working full-time – she was often a single mother of two young kids, as my Father’s work frequently took him away from home for long periods. Then, every four years or so, we would get uprooted and redeployed – we lived all over the country and overseas several times. Despite that constant upheaval and disruption – my mother’s resilience, genuine warmth, and easy-going nature always meant friends surrounded us. Engaging with people came easily, and she quickly turned strangers into friends.
At the end of the 1970s, after living in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Berkshire, Malta, Cyprus, Berkshire again, and then Norfolk – my parents finally settled in Wiltshire. This move was an opportunity to be close to my mother’s family – brother Graham, his wife Beryl, their kids Pip and Anthony and my mother’s parents. We even lived in the same street for several years – demonstrating how important family was to my mother. I still remember the 1977 Queen’s Jubilee – like many of you, we had a street party, and all 3 generations of my entire family were there – we were very fortunate kids.
My other endearing memory from my childhood was the family holidays and day trips – camping in the lake district during the hottest summer on record and arranging family lunch in Cardiff on the same day as an international rugby game. The intent was good – the planning, not so much. She also made it out to California twice and North Carolina to visit my family and me. She was never one to shy away from an adventure.
As well as a long career as a professional nurse – my mother was always willing to care for those around her. She nursed my brother and me through countless illnesses, bumps, bruises, and breakages. Later in life – she looked after my paternal grandfather (Thomas) and maternal grandparents (Ernie and Ivy), then later – my father when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and more recently, her second husband, John Ford, when he succumbed to dementia.
My mother married John Ford in 2013, having moved to Skewen in 2012. They both enjoyed being part of this community and church and gave up some of their time to make it the welcoming place it is today. I would try and call my mother once a week – though admittedly, I didn’t always manage that, but when I did, she would, no doubt, mention her various church groups and friends, so it was clearly a huge part of her life.
So, in the coming days, weeks, and months when you remember my mother, Brenda, don’t be sad. Instead, remember the young girl from a small town in West Yorkshire who never could have imagined the long life before her. The places she’d live and visit, the things she would do, the adventures she’d embark on, and the friends she would make along the way. Remember the woman who lived an honest and long life of service to others as a nurse, carer, wife, mother, grandmother, and church member. A long life with no regrets and countless fond memories spent with friends and family is probably the most any of us could hope for.
Finally, I would like to thank you all, on behalf of our family, for being here today and for being an essential part of her life.