The short announcements at the end of a life: Jean Stewart

Dad’s sister-in-law died at the end of last week after quite a stay in a nursing home. Her kids have placed the usual type of announcement that you get for such things in the paper, of course:

STEWART, JEAN – August 26, 2010, peacefully, at hospital, dearly-loved mother of Muriel and Jean. Service on Tuesday 31st August 2010 at 2.00 p.m. in Kirkwoods Funeral Home, 150A Kings Road, Knock, Belfast, BT5 7EJ and afterwards to Roselawn Cemetery. Family flowers only please. Donations in lieu may be sent, if desired, for N.I. Chest, Heart and Stroke, c/o Kirkwoods Funeral Directors (address as above). Will be sadly missed by her daughters, sons-in-law Gerald and Colin, grandchildren Simon, Sarah, Jenny and John, great-grandchildren and brother George. The Lord is my Shepherd.

As in all such announcements, a full life is condensed down to just a few words of farewell and, as usual, this means that a great deal about the person is omitted.

For instance, in Jean’s case she was buried with her husband John who she spent decades and Allan, the brother of Muriel and Jean, who died when he was only six months old. Jean’s brother George lives in New Zealand and couldn’t come over to the funeral as he’s getting on a bit himself. Sadly, Jean never made it over to visit him in Auckland as John had a heart attack before he retired so they were never able to manage the months long trip that would have been needed in those days. Still, at least George was able to spend time over here with them several times over the years although perhaps not so much as they both would have liked over their 50 year separation since he emigrated. Jean was the eldest of the two being born on April 14, 1923.

She met John through her employment in a drapers shop on the Crumlin Road and they married in 1951. Between Muriel and Jean she now has four great-grandchildren Josh, Emma, Ben and Sophie as well as the grandchildren mentioned above.

Missing also is mention of the trip taken to Portrush every Easter Monday for decades along with the family above, my Dad and us, Dad’s sister Ena’s family, and their parents (four car loads at the height of it all in the 60s). And, of course, lots of other things besides, many of which I’ve forgotten and some of which were reviewed during the funeral service.

The church itself was a major part of her life and although much of her involvement with the church wasn’t known to me at the time, that she was a person who cared about her religion came across always. She was in the choir and taught in the Sunday school and was one of those relatively rare people who you just know are Christians without being told because of the things that they do and they way that they behave generally.

I can’t say that I’ll miss Jean because with John’s passing 15 years ago we weren’t as involved with her as we had been previously which is sad really. As always, there were so many people at her funeral who I should be seeing now and again but who I rarely see outside of funerals these days which is something that I’m working on changing.

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