On Thursday we farewelled Mike's grandmother, Esme Edgley, who passed away a week earlier. Despite being 92 years old, it was unexpected. I'm grateful that her whole family - daughters, grandsons, great-grandchildren, all of us - gathered together for lunch only a few days earlier.
It was a simple service, befitting someone who was not fond of funerals, with songs selected from musicals that she loved. Her daughters later commented that beginning the service with the final song of Les Misérables may not have been the wisest choice, given that half the attendees were teary after only the first few bars. People were invited to take a flower from the arrangement home to remember Esme by, which I think would have appealed as she loved a bargain.
I knew Esme as a warm, interested and generous person. She was a much loved grandmother to Mike, who will forever be grateful for the hours she spent teaching him how to read.
Her three grandsons, Mike and brothers Dan and Steve, collaborated on a letter that was read out during the service.
Dear Grandma Esme,
As each of us sits with 3 hankies in each pocket, we are grateful you sent one to us with each birthday card over the years.
When we were young, we remember you there at home; in the morning piling structurally unsound levels of honey onto toast, and in the evening doing the ironing or watching Sale of Century (sometimes with your eyes closed, snoring). With the gift of hindsight, we now know you were helping Mum and Dad by keeping three ratbags out of the way, and that you needed to warm your tea up in the microwave because we never gave you a chance to finish it.
You took two trains just to come and see us, and help us with our homework, and spoil us rotten. And as we got a little older, we got upset when we weren’t up in time to see you off when Dad took you back to the train station. We always jostled for position to see who got to stay with you over the school holidays, for some quality one-on-one spoiling.
As we grew older and vaguely more self-sufficient, more often than not we would go to visit you. Dressed in our best “Grandma” jumpers, we would make sure we made it to McDonald’s for Hotcakes, followed by a light morning tea at your house and a less light Lunch at Kelly’s Hotel or Barney Bananas. Sometimes we met Aunty Sally and went bowling, usually followed by too much of your money spent on arcade games. And then of course there was afternoon tea, because we’re growing boys don’t you know. We were introduced to classic entertainment such as The Gods Must Be Crazy and Bugs Bunny. You were always kind enough to have something for Dad to fix when he came down with us also.
We’re sure your shopping lists must have revolved around the specific items with competitions running, and we were well versed in answering the phone to whatever combination of names you’d entered the competitions under. You won a trip to Perth, and to Queensland. You won a car from Cadbury’s, and Dad went on Hey Hey It’s Saturday to get the keys from Darryl. We learned that good fortune came to those that worked for it, by collecting as many labels and barcodes as they could and mailing them to whomever would take them.
Once we started to get our own social lives, and our licenses, we were less likely to make every trip with Mum and Dad. But we still saw you at Birthdays and at Christmas, and you would still feed us too much. Even dropping in unannounced wasn’t enough to stop a cache of biscuits and party pies appearing for an instant afternoon tea.
Whenever we asked how you were doing, the answer was always dismissive and cheerfully pessimistic, but you were far more interested in what we were up to. And though Mum and Aunty Sally would complain about how stubborn you were being, you always told us (quietly) that they were the best daughters in the world.
Although you were reluctant to visit Mum’s house and conquer their steps, when invited to one of ours you couldn’t wait. Luckily Aunty Sally has always been more than willing to chauffeur you when she could. After such a special event, the hosts would usually receive a hand written thank you note telling us how much you had enjoyed yourself.
Even more recently, Great-Grand Children started arriving, and suddenly family gatherings involved sitting and watching them play and telling us how clever they clearly are. When we brought our children to see you, they too got morning or afternoon tea. Once again, there was always an extra packet of chocolate biscuits or lollies that could be found.
We used to ask why you didn’t have a Grandpa living with you like Grandma Madge did, and you told us he was flip-flopping around up in heaven. Now we know that you have done an amazing job of bringing up two daughters from when they were very young, and we owe a lot of our own good fortune to the amazing job that you did. So now I’m sure you and Grandpa Harry have got a lot of catching up to do, flip-flopping around together.
Mike, Danny and Steve
My sadness at Esme's passing has surprised me with an extra element, and that's Milly. As melodramatic as it feels to say, her life will be that little bit poorer for never having known Esme.
I want Milly to know how much she was loved. I remember Esme's delight when Mike and I told her I was pregnant, and the first time Esme held Milly she sat there with tears silently running down her face. In a room crowded with family I didn't notice, she didn't make a fuss, but Mike saw. The last time we saw Esme I sat down on the couch next to her, Milly on my knee, and the two of them just stared at each other. There was an extended period of time, the two of them just gazing at each other. Esme commented then, as she had before and since, how alert Milly seemed. How intelligent. I remember another family lunch too, Milly and I sitting at the table next to her, and Esme watching Milly, fascinated. I don't want to give the wrong impression, she was mentally fine and only moved into aged care a fortnight before her death, Esme just wanted to soak her all in. She asked me then if Milly cried a lot, recently having read and put aside an article for me on how crying is a babies way of communicating. We laughed that Milly definitely had a lot to say.
I want Milly to know what a strong, capable woman Esme was. Widowed at age 42 (I think it was) with two young girls to raise, she managed their business, their investments, fought to renew her teaching qualification to become a primary school teacher again. She was savvy with money, particularly real estate, and shopped the supermarket catalogues. During the service Julie, my mother-in-law, got a laugh when she told how they'd had to put their foot down when they started doing her weekly shopping, making her choose just two supermarkets instead of her preferred four. But Esme was also generous, with cash in cards at birthday and Christmas. If we purchased something on sale with the money, Mike always commented that we'd have to let Esme know about the bargain we'd scored. My favourite story though, is the air-conditioners. As Mike tells it, Esme had purchased a new air-conditioner for her own house. She was so impressed with it she decided to shout (heavily subsidise) the entire family air-conditioning. That's another six units!
And it wouldn't seem right not to mention the spreads of food that appeared during every visit. Regardless of time of day or how little notice we may have given her, Esme loved to feed us. We always felt so welcome and she was so interested in hearing about our lives and adventures. Although she did worry, Esme was particularly pleased about our South American honeymoon as that was somewhere she'd have loved to visit.
Esme Alice Edgley
2 June 1924 - 21 July 2016
You will be missed.