Jordan Andrew Devine, Fleetwood Beach, at age 12

Younger than Springtime.mp3

Edna May Bailey 1927- 2010, Fleetwood Beach in the 1980's


Edna May Bailey 1927 - 2010, her Grandson Marcel Leon Bailey and great grandaughter Seona Bailey

The Humanist Reading at Edna's Funeral Service

We meet today to pay tribute to the life of Edna; to express love and admiration for her and to bring consolation and comfort to her family and friends who have been hurt by her death.

A humanist funeral is of course an opportunity to join in taking leave of someone we have loved, but it is more than that. It is a celebration of the life and personality they have been; and in Edna’s case that has been a long and full life; and a greatly loved personality. It’s my hope that this ceremony will help you make your farewell to Edna and perhaps find some ease from the welter of confused feelings it’s in the nature of death to bring. For those of us who believe that death brings the end of individual existence, it is the recognition of our responsibilities for, and dependence on, each other that gives life its purpose; its significance. The concept of an individual life as an event in a natural cycle answers our search for a pattern of which we are part. And, it is in our personal achievements and in the minds of those who have known us that the continuance of ourselves rests . . . I think it’s the fact of death that gives such great value to human life.

Our acts wouldn’t matter so very much were we to live forever; perhaps we would not be so careful of making mistakes, or causing harm to others if we could endlessly correct it. What we look for in life is the consciousness that it is shared with others, that our acts do matter here and now; that we gain as well as give happiness by seeking to do good.

 The world is a community and Edna has been part of that community; consequently, we are all concerned, directly or indirectly with the death of any individual, for we are all members of that one human community. Though some of the links between us are strong, and some are tenuous, each of us is joined to all the others; by links of kinship, love or friendship; by living in the same neighbourhood, town or country; or simply by our shared common humanity. And it is part of our humanity that, when a tragedy occurs, we have an irrepressible need to be with each other; to share our grief and our concerns.

It is partly than need that brings you here today. Accept and embrace those feelings. They are the first threads of the healing process.

Edna life began in Birmingham in 1927.

Frank and Hilda Beason were living in Alum Rock there with their son Fred when, on 15th May that year their second child, and first daughter, Edna May Beason announced her arrival to the world … Later still they were joined by their little sister Linda whose arrival completed their family.

So Edna spent her formative years growing up in and around the Alum Rock area of Birmingham where, as far as we are able to know, she was fortunate enough to have enjoyed a happy childhood. Being born in 1927 meant that she was just 12 when World War II started and Edna talked about how she was evacuated to the country to get away from Birmingham which was a significant target for German bombs.

But even there she enjoyed going to school and soon proved herself to be a very intelligent child; despite the fact that she was plagued with early health problems. Whilst still a child she underwent surgery to correct a thyroid problem and through that missed a lot of school, but Edna worked hard to catch up consequently her education didn’t suffer.

Leaving school at what nowadays seems to us to be the ridiculously young age of 14 Edna embarked on her full time working life.

Jimmy Bailey served in the RAF during the war and he & Edna’s brother Fred became close friends. So, when they were allowed home on leave Fred would invite Jimmy to come and stay with his family in Birmingham, rather than travel all they way up to Blackburn where his family were from … And that was how Jimmy and Edna came to know each other.

Soon they were courting and after the war had ended they married.

Edna & Jimmy had one child, their son Ian and when I met Ian a few days ago I asked him to tell me something about his own childhood, and growing up with Edna for his mum.

And the very first word he used to describe her was ‘Great!’

I heard about how his mum always gave him lots of encouragement as he was growing up and all the time she spent helping him with his school-work. Ian owes his competence with his ‘times-tables’ – which have stayed with him all his life – to the hard work Edna invested in him in those days.

Ian vividly recalls how he would have to recite those tables his mum chose before he was able to go out to play. But that is not in  any way an unhappy memory!

Edna provided Ian with a very happy childhood indeed and they spent lots of time together.

They were without doubt great friends and Edna provided Ian with a great deal of guidance which has stood him in good stead throughout his life and did all she could to provide him with everything he needed: so much so that when they were unhappy with the Community School the local authority allocated for Ian they paid for him to have private education.

Ian also talked about the family holidays he enjoyed with his mum & dad when he was growing up; they were going to Spain long before such destinations became popular. The first time they went was 1959 and in those days it involved flying to Majorca on a four-engine [propeller powered] plane; then, from Majorca to Ibiza was on a twin-engine Dakota.

When Ian grew older Edna and Jimmy were able to pursue their own interests.

Jimmy was an engineer and had a responsible job which frequently took him abroad – sometimes for months at a time. Consequently Edna spent a lot of time alone so decided to try out Ballroom Dancing and soon developed a keen interest in it. In fact she soon became extremely good at it and began accumulating very many medals and trophies.

Later still, Edna got Jimmy interested in dancing and quickly brought him up to her own very high level … they were particularly good at Latin American and excelled at ‘Jiving’.

Edna & Jimmy were frequently to be found at Lyons dancing club on the border of Blackburn & Darwen.

When Ian made Edna a Grandma she could not have been more pleased.

During his summer holidays from school Marcel would come and stay at his Grandma’s for a couple of weeks. Edna would hire one of the beach huts that used to be on the sea-front and prepare enough of a picnic to last them all day then he and his Grandma & Granddad would spend the whole day on the beach; providing him with countless happy memories which will remain with him for the rest of his life.

Barbara was telling me that from the first moment she and Ian got together Edna has treated Barbara as nothing less then her own daughter … for over 20 years.

So when Jordan arrived it was very much a case of history repeating itself and Edna soon became such a big part of his life providing Jordan with so many good and happy memories; memories which (who knows) may even inform him about how he should be a grandparent if and when that event occurs much later in his life.

And although Edna was ‘Aunty Edna’ to Mavis the two of them have always been more like best buddies rather then Aunty & Niece. Mavis was automatically included in everything Edna’s family were doing.

Edna & Jimmy came to live in Fleetwood around about 1975 – and that was such a good move; they loved living here. Edna was a naturally friendly person and made friends easily – in fact it was difficult to dislike her. And Edna had an infallible detection system when it came to assessing people. If she decided she liked you then you had a friend for life. However; if she decided she didn’t like you – you never got a second chance!

for the last ten years of his Life Jimmy suffered from emphysema and as a consequence of that his health deteriorated steadily; but Edna cared for him throughout that time.

And when Edna’s mother died and her Dad found it increasingly difficult to care for Linda Edna didn’t hesitate in insisting that she came to live with her and so cared for her too.

Yet again proving just what a caring, loyal and family oriented person she undoubtedly was.

'Family’ was a very important part of Edna’s life but she was also motivated by the needs of others too. If she could help someone else she would go out of her way to do so – and the mere fact that she had helped was reward enough for her.

If we were able to ask Edna to sum up her own life she would without doubt say that she has been fortunate enough to have had a good life; one that she has enjoyed as much as she has been able to.

If we were to ask that same question of people who have known Edna they would all say that has been an experience which has undeniably enriched their lives.

But of course, we knew before we started that we would never have time to say everything there is to say about Edna’s life and what she has meant to so many people.

And so I’m going to invite you to sit quietly for few moments.

The purpose of this is to allow you to dwell on your own thoughts and memories.

We’ll listen to another favourite song and whilst it plays I want you to try to conjure up a time you spent in Edna’s company. Those of you who do have religious beliefs, whatever they maybe, are invited to use this time in your own way.

Or perhaps, as we are here confronting the inevitability of death, maybe this is a time when we should reflect on our own lives and reassess  some of our priorities.

And so we come to that part of our ceremony when you must say your formal goodbye.

Can I ask you to stand please?

In sorrow for her death, but in gratitude for her life we have been remembering

Edna Bailey; celebrating her life and acknowledging the privilege of sharing it with her, but we also remind ourselves that the dead do not reside in an urn; they live on in the hearts and in the minds of those they have loved.

There is a traditional Native American Indian prayer which says:

When I am dead, cry for me a little.

Think of me sometimes, but not too much;

Remember me now and again as I was in life

At some moments it’s pleasant to recall

But not for too long. Leave me in peace,

And I shall be at peace as I leave you

And while you live

Let your thoughts be with the living

On behalf of Edna’s family I would like to thank everybody for attending here today and participating in this celebration of her life and remind you that you are invited to join them for refreshments immediately after leaving here where you'll be able to share many more memories … and in far less formal surroundings than these.

I’d also like to pass on their heartfelt thanks for your messages of sympathy and support which have proved to be a real comfort during this dreadful time; and if anybody is considering making a charitable donation in Edna’s memory you are invited to make those gifts to the charity MENCAP in the knowledge that every penny you send will be put to good use benefiting the lives of [who knows how many] other people.

In love you will keep your memories of Edna and in gratitude you will recall the human image she has left you … And now? … Well now you have each other.

That is all you have but that is all you need.

We are all subject to natural law and to chance, but our humanity gives us the power to stand over and against them. We have a measure of understanding and so we gain some control. We share our thoughts and our feelings and so we support each other.

It is by our living and by our loving that we create the value of this world.

It is the uniqueness of each human life that is the basis of our grief in bereavement.

Look through the whole world, there is no one like the one you have lost.

But Edna still lives on - in your memories and in the sharing of those memories with others and so; even though she is no longer a visible part of your lives, she will always remain a member of your family, or of your circle, through the influence she has had on you and through the special part she’s played in your lives.

Through living Edna gave life to her son Ian; he will certainly carry with him some aspect of his relationship to Edna. We’ve also heard something of the significant part Edna has played in the lives of Jordan, Marcel and Barbara … and that can’t fail but to influence how they deal with all the people they’ll meet throughout their lives in ways we’ll never comprehend.

It is also very clear that Edna’s life has touched on the lives of a great many other people too; not just family and friends but uncountable, unknowable people and, in many cases, that will have left an indelible mark on their lives, and who knows, perhaps influence how they deal with the people they will meet. And so we begin to see how the ripples created by her life will continue to spread. Hold on to Edna in your thoughts, there is no need to part from her too hastily. Talk about her often; repeat the words and sayings she used. Recall the kind of person she has been. Enjoy your memories of her, just as we have been doing today.

Remember the small details. But above everything else, remember her life!

The most positive antidote to death is the wholehearted affirmation of life.

So when you leave here, and return to the normality of your lives; please, you must not go remembering only that Edna has died.

Rather, you should remember that she has lived!

You should remember how much her long life has been enjoyed; and that life has not only been enjoyed by her but also by those people who should count themselves fortunate to have been given the opportunity to share even a small part of it.

You should remember how Edna’s life has undoubtedly benefited the lives of others.

As we leave we’ll hear our final song from the musical ‘South Pacific’ which will be familiar to many of you and now, if ever you hear this in the future, as I’m sure you will, let it remind you of Edna. And, whenever you think of her remember some happy moments from her long life and remind yourselves of all the benefits that have flowed, and will yet flow from the fact that Edna has lived.