How well do we ever know our family and friends? Everyone here will have known a different aspect of the character of Una Beryl Willmot. And no two assessments will be the same. Even her children have different impressions of her. This is very likely because we see other people through our own eyes, which are coloured by our personality, and our own experiences both with, and apart from, Beryl the mother, sister, grandmother, great grandmother, aunt, great-aunt, friend or acquaintance.
I started thinking along these lines because whilst looking through her papers this week I found out something about her that no-one knew and she had probably long forgotten.
She was christened Una Beryl but didn't like either name. She would rather have been called Barbara, but obviously not enough to insist people did so. She was called Betsy as a child by her family and later on Beryl. It was only the medical profession who called her Una.
She spent her early years in the beautiful village of Whatstandwell on the river Derwent in Derbyshire where she recalls many happy days either looking at, or being with, nature. Her family then had to move to the Wirral in Cheshire due to her father's workplace burning down. And she lived there until she married, apart from a short time spent in North Wales as an evacuee to have a respite from the nightly air raids and continue her education.
She was of an age where on the whole she had an enjoyable war, a vivacious and attractive girl with her different male friends on leave at different times.
But it's rare to go through a world war without tragedy touching and Beryl's fiancé, Bill was shot down and killed in 1944 when she was 17 years old.
I came across a book of verse she had compiled starting in 1945 and in it she reveals that she was still mourning him 3 years later in May 1947. Most of the poems in this little book she either copied or stuck in a cutting from a magazine. She liked Longfellow and Patience Strong. Under a verse by Patience she wrote "I dedicate this to my Bill with all my love. This verse is very true when one loves as I loved and still love Bill."
I was surprised to find in this book some delightful poems with the initials UBD and then in a later hand UBW underneath. As most of the poems she copied had the poets name at the bottom I infer from this that she wrote her own verse during 1947! I have never heard her mention this and neither had her sister Margaret.
Anyway they are worth reading so I want to read a few. In October 1947 she wrote a poem called Thoughts.
I heard you say you needed me,
One day when the lights were low,
I heard you say you loved me,
One night in the firelight glow.
Your voice was ever soft and low,
Filled with your love for me,
You found it hard to let me go,
And vowed forever close you'd be.
I tried to answer as I felt
Your dreams were in your eyes,
Then I forgot and began to melt
My heart in the starry skies.
You asked me if I needed you,
That day when the lights were low.
You asked me if I loved you true
That night in the firelight glow.
My answer dear I cannot say
For this I do not know,
With all my heart I hope one day
That my love for you will grow.
And if my answer should be no,
Please think me not unkind,
It will I think be better so,
Then you'll find peace of mind.
Peter and Beryl were married in December 1948 so her answer was obviously yes in the end.
If you knew her well, especially when she was younger you will know that occasionally she would get a prophetic vision.
This poem is entitled the Cottage and in a later hand she has written Lower Hardwick, which was the first real home she shared with Peter, my father. She wrote it just before the Thoughts poem.
Peeping through the trees one day,
I saw a cottage old, but gay.
It's lattice windows shining bright
In the morning's early light.
I wondered who could live within
This lovely cottage, so proud and trim.
The walls a sturdy black and white
Weathering many a blustering night.
The chimneystack so tall and straight
Where the pidgeon calls his mate.
Peter and Beryl had a very close relationship because not only were they husband and wife, they were also best friends and on the same wavelength, especially spiritually. They would have their 'Quite Time' early every morning before we four children got up.
However after Dad passed away 14 years ago Mum lost her faith. I actually don't think she really lost it - just misplaced it somewhere. She would tell me so often that she didn't think there was a God when I visited her but you cannot discuss these things on a mental level during a few day's visit. It needs to be lived and experienced. So during these last two years when I had occasion to stay with her for two months last year and 7 months this, she started to ask me about my own faith and lost her doubts and as a result felt happier and more at peace.
She told me she that although she would not want to hasten death unduly she was ready to go whenever the time came and in fact was looking forward to it so she could be with her beloved Peter again.
Those who have been with her recently can attest to her breathing becoming more and more difficult and on her last evening it was very difficult. She kept asking me to help her to relax because when she could not get her breath she became fearful. I used the technique (called EFT) of tapping on the meridian end points on the face, torso and hand, which she would often ask me to do because it relaxed her.
However it wasn't working as well as usual so I prayed and asked how I could help her and repeated the following mantra. "Peace, be still and know that I AM God." I AM, of course, is the name God said was his name forevermore when he spoke to Moses from the burning bush.
As I repeated it, Mum joined in as best she could whenever she had breath to do so. And this is what calmed her and gave her peace and enabled her to "Let go and Let God" as the saying goes. And so she passed away.
I wonder if you would like to join me in saying that mantra a few times so we can all feel the peace of God that passeth all understanding.
"Peace, be still and know that I AM God" (x3)