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Hesped for Grandma

Eulogy read at the Shiva of Grandma Jackie (Jacqueline Phillips) on 17th December 2020.

It’s been far more of a challenge than I could ever have imagined, to pick a few stories and memories to share. Listening to Aunty Carol, Dad and Rabbi Livingstone this afternoon, as well as looking at how many people are here in Zoom this evening, really made me realise just how many people Grandma had an impact upon. 

As a child, I always looked forward to spending time with Grandma, and Zaida before he passed. Every Sunday night, Grandma and Zaida would come and babysit for us. Zaida would be in charge, as ever of the TV Controls and Fish and Chips, while Grandma focussed on looking after Adam and myself. 

We particularly loved bath time, which always concluded with grandma wrapping us up in towels “like a parcel” and calling for “Postman Pat” to post us to bed. 

No Yom Tov went by without the afternoon walk to Clay Hall park or the rec behind Grandma’s house, where we would spend what felt like hours on the swings, or trying to find grandma as she wandered off to admire at the roses. 

Redbridge Lane held a lot of happy memories for me growing up. In the front room, was a small tea trolley which contained a collection of coloured coasters and strange metal tea pots. These tea pots became legendary when grandma taught us to go around the house asking anyone if they wanted “Tea or Coffee”. Zaida was not content was just two options available and much to grandma’s dislike added brandy to the menu. Adam and I can promise that tea and coffee were never the popular options. 

During the school holidays I always looked forward to sleepovers at Grandmas. Grandma would go all out in what she would openly admit was “spoiling us rotten”. From steak and home made chips for dinner to sweets and popcorn – Adam an I were always well fed! 

On one of my earlier sleepovers, I was promptly promoted to the kitchen stool while grandma cooked dinner, after grandma came into the living room to find that Zaida had me mixing his pipe tobacco. She was not impressed. 

The highlight of a sleepover at grandma’s. Was ALWAYS the day trip. We’d set out early and visited all sorts of different places. We drove out to Maldon to the beach and spent many a day out in London. We’d walk down to Redbridge tube, I would point to a place on the tube map, and off we went. I quickly learnt that pointing to somewhere on the DLR meant we could ride round  all day driving the train, and was lucky enough on one of the trips that she convinced the guard to let me press the buttons!

On a trip to Duxford War Museum, Zaida gave grandma strict instructions to take me on a flight. When we arrived at Duxford, in keeping with family traditions, we were too late and all flights had sold out that day. Not wanting to upset Zaida or let me down, Grandma thought she had found a solution. We shuffled into the simulator, and had just got comfortable when the safety barrier was secured tightly. Grandma thought she’d arranged a leisure flight simulator, however on the contrary. We took part in a 15 minute airshow with the red arrows. We both stumbled off the simulator with grandma making it clear this would… never…. happen…. again. 

No matter the circumstances, Grandma was always able to find the something funny in the situation. A trait I have discovered that I also have. While in Stanmore Orthopaedic hospital following an operation to remove cancer from her leg, she gathered us all and insisted we got chairs. We all sat round her in the large open ward where she’d held court for the last few days and with a very serious face she told us “Ive spoken with the Drs and nurses. It’s been a very hard decision for me… it’s not good news… but we’ve decided… it’s probably best… that I give up pole dancing!” The whole ward erupted laughing. 

This sense of humour stayed with her throughout her illness. When visiting grandma at the care home, we’d ask her “Grandma, how are you feeling?” She’d stop for a second, think, look back at you and say “still mainly with my hands”. 

We’re so grateful for the care Jewish Care provided to grandma while she was a resident and to Grandma’s friend Shiela Lawrence who volunteered at the home every week. She visited grandma and took her down to shul every Saturday for the shobbos services which I know she would have appreciated. 

I’m glad that we got to say goodbye to grandma and that she’s no longer suffering – I’m sure she’s already put on her dancing shoes and has already been appointed as secretary on a large number of committees organising everyone in her own inimitable way.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet – May her memory be a blessing.

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