Eulogy Example – Grandchild to Grandparent

Born on a ship in heaving seas, to Peter and Emma Thornley, a ship’s captain and schoolmistress turned wife, Penny was never going to live an ordinary life. As her grandson, I was fortunate enough to experience her generosity, nurturing of independence and her wisdom, as did my own mother, her daughter, Jane.

Living most of her childhood aboard her father’s ship, Penny had travelled much of the globe by the age of 12. Schooled by her mother through these years, boarding school in England was inevitable through her teens. It wasn’t an experience she enjoyed, with tough, strict mistresses and being landlocked for so long. Perhaps it was here she developed her healthy challenge to authority.

As a young woman, her streak for adventure and excitement hadn’t waned. Trained as a Nursing Sister in the Royal Navy (just don’t call her a nurse!), she served in Britain through the second world war. I used to love listening to tales of near misses and her escapades of flaunting regulations. At times her eyes would mist over as if other memories untold were passing through her mind as she spoke. Hanging on every word, hers was a life of excitement I could only imagine, growing up in comfortable suburban in Perth through the ’80s.

She belonged to a time where values and loyalty really meant something and believed upholding your own values was the true measure of who you were. Separated from her husband, my grandfather, her relationship with Leonard remained strong throughout her life until his passing. Haunted by his horrific experiences in the war, it was difficult to live with him, but she still stood by him as a friend.

Penny held the belief, that a woman can anything a man can do, only better. She was supposed to be a doctor, rather than a nursing sister, as anyone who’s been her doctor over the years will tell you. Dissatisfied and I think regretful of the inequality that prevented this, she stood up against it anywhere and everywhere she encountered it. For women, animals, or any group of people dispossessed of their ability to do what they wanted.

Emigrating to Australia in the ’50s, Penny set about travelling the entire country by car, twice! Typical of her independence and tendency to take the road less travelled, quite literally, in this case, she drove a bombed out car across the Nullabor, through Alice Springs, the Kimberly, Far North Queensland, down to Tasmania, to countless towns unknown and unseen at the time. It was never the destination with Penny, but the journey. Not satisfied with seeing the country once, she did it again, this time in a better car and with a friend.

In all the years I knew her, she lived a simple, almost frugal lifestyle, always grateful for what she had. And among that, the most treasured was her animals and her garden, the passionfruit was incredible.

Penny absolutely loved animals, particularly dogs. I would even say above other people. She gave much of her time in retirement volunteering for associations to help and protect animals, including the Perth Dog’s Home, the RSPCA and the Anti-Vivisection society. She was deeply committed to and involved in these groups.

A close friend to my mother and a pilot to her own independence and self-belief, I do believe Penny was also a friend to her, through her adult life. She certainly was that to me. I guess some would call it a mentor. I most enjoyed our time alone together. She was so interested in me and had the ability to listen. She nurtured talent where she saw it, inspired the care of craft and quality and encouraged rebellion against boundaries and limitations, whoever applied them.

Looking back, so much of my life was impacted by her views or wisdom. It was almost a rite of passage in our family to become Penny’s garden hand on a Saturday morning. My older brother Michael started it, then it was my turn and after me was my younger brother Steven. Through this, I learned the importance of quality, care, effort, responsibility, autonomy, self-determination and importantly, commerce. The $5 I earned was worth at least $10! Steven even went on to pursue a career in the field of horticultural science, so perhaps she inspired him in this too.

While there was plenty of hard work in this job, it was really the 45 minutes of ‘Smoko’, sitting at the kitchen table, talking and listening that most of these lessons were learned.

So, while it is sad we’ve lost Penny, I am so grateful for not only the life she lived but that she included me in it and shared so much of what she learned with me. The world is no poorer for Penny’s passing because, in us, she is still very much alive.

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