I thought to make the title “Always look on the bright side of life”, a comedy song that first featured in the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian and has gone on to become a common sing along at public events. I decided not to do so out of respect and people who don’t care for these things might miss out reading about something (or rather someone) they do care about. This was the final piece played at a funeral service I attended today, that could be associated with the one whose funeral it was, not least concerning his attitude to life.
One of the signs of getting old is you find increasingly people you have a lot to do with dying and you get to attend their funeral service, soberly realizing your turn may well be next. So it was today that I attended the funeral service of Terry Whitman, who died having fought a long battle with cancer. There was a good turn out from Terry’s large family, who he was close to, and people he was associated with over the years, representing as they did various interests, all of us united in wanting to pay our respects to Terry.
I first got to know Terry some ten years ago when we were among the founder members of the Cluny Residents Association. I have to admit we didn’t always see eye to eye, which is unsurprising given we were chalk and cheese, but over the years I came to recognize many fine qualities in Terry. In those early days, it was such things as loyalty, fairness and sticking up for the underdog. An area of common ground we found was we both wanted to improve our community, something Terry was outstanding in doing.
In his opening remarks at today’s service, the Vicar quoted the saying “manners makes a man”, and this was about being respectful, treating others how you want to be treated, and using proper etiquette and is what makes a man a real man, something we both agree applied to Terry. One of his children, in his tribute, made a comment that Terry’s driving, jokes and singing, which he did a lot of, left a lot to be desired, but he was also honest, calm and reliable. There are many other suitable adjectives that could describe Terry but if I was to sum him up in a word: he was a true gentleman, and there are not many I can say that about. As for his legacy, the diverse turn out at the funeral bears witness to this. And as a member of the same community as Terry, I know the work he did in trying to support the community was phenomenal. Putting on events was his forte and helping young people was his passion. He did so without ostentation and when opposed (and he was) he remained cheerful and determined, and he was without rancor and malice.
I can only say to Rita (his wife), his children, grand children and great grandchildren, that you are in my thoughts and prayers. It was a privilege to know and work with Terry. I was glad I could pay my respects in this small way today and a couple of months ago, when along with other members of the community, realizing Terry did not have long to live, we presented him with an award acknowledging his outstanding contribution to the community. Perhaps my best tribute to Terry is to keep alive his legacy as a community activist.