Death of a godmother

Today I attended a funeral. Nothing unusual in that and like all funerals it was special. Mercifully, it all went smoothly, respects were paid to the deceased and it was a good opportunity to meet with old friends after a long time and celebrate a life on such a sad occasion, yet with happy memories. The funeral happened to be of my godmother: Violet Elizabeth ‘Pat’ Nimmo (28 March 1921 – 11 February 2016). While not a blood relative, she was referred to throughout my life as Auntie Violet and was the only person, who along with her husband Fred, in my parents’ book, were those people outside of their family, qualified to be an aunt or uncle.

It was a salutary occasion because she was the last of my parents’ generation to depart from this world, now elevating mine as the oldest of the existing generations. She was also an object of affection throughout my life. While I reckon her input as godmother on my spiritual welfare was limited, she showed much kindness throughout my life. I recall she was a real character in the nicest sense and one of the most generous people I have ever come across. As children, we looked forward to her visits for she was fun to be with and the sort of person you can say more or less anything, without reproach. I recall her as one not having airs or graces, able to maintain a good grace even in difficult situations, with an infectious laugh, someone devoted to her family – wanting the very best for and spoiling them, an animal lover, and one up for most things even when defying convention (I learned she undertook challenging DIY tasks, even into her eighties). Along with Aunt Violet’s family, I have lost someone who has been an important presence throughout my life.

The reason for Aunt Violet playing a significant part in my life was she was a close, lifelong friend of my own mother, also called Violet, who always referred to her friend as Violet, never Pat. They both grew up in the East End of London, children of parents of modest means. They left school at 14, at the same time and worked in a laundry. Soon after they worked as nurses and then joined the Army upon the outbreak of World War 2. While my mother drove large lorries, Aunt Violet operated searchlights spotting enemy planes coming over, the experience of which resolved her to not fly when later she had the chance. Like many of their generation, their extraordinary experiences having served during the War, including holding values like loyalty and a sense of duty and prudence, affected them for the rest of their lives. Both married soon after the War was over, and while living apart, Aunt Violet around London, my mother in Southend, they still kept close contact. When they both became widows, they went on holiday together, including on sea cruises, one of which was around the world, while in their 70’s.

In the last few years I have not been in much contact with Auntie Violet or her family (toward her end she had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease). I regret the one time we do get together are on occasions like these. I mourn her passing and am happy to offer this modest tribute to a wonderful lady. As the vicar said in her sermon, God gave her to us for a season and now we give her back to Him. Life goes on and hopefully some of her values, like kindness, generosity and humour, will rub off on those of us left behind.

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