In her last years Ellen had an illness, which took away a lot of things from her. It gradually eroded her memory, took away her independence, and made her less able to cope with the smallest of tasks. It was heart-breaking for the family to see her so diminished as the years passed by from what she had previously been. Actions and deeds which were incomprehensible and inexplicable, all arising from the illness. But despite this she seemed physically strong up until recently when things moved with great speed. In the end she died very peacefully at Hairmyers hospital. As mentioned yesterday evening over the course of her illness she was kept safe, comfortable and well looked after – this was a great comfort to the family knowing that everything was provided for.
There are many illnesses that afflict human beings but surely one of the worst was what Ellen had in the last years of her life. Our dream is that those last years of a person’s life are spent in serenity and tranquility, but for some a fog of confusion descends which brings a mental paralysis. I have noticed in that thick fog that descends many of our older people stretch out their hands to be supported by others, to lead them, to help them. They are caught very often with willing hands by family members and by many caring people along the way. So it has been for Ellen. Stretching out her hands they were caught by family members and carers that she met along the way. She was surrounded by love and care which we would hope everyone can have in the end.
At the funeral Mass we are reminded of God who does not leave us alone. From the moment of our conception to our last breath and beyond. He walks with us, he accompanies us, he is our companion along the road. When we fall down he lifts us up, when we are lost he takes us back to the road, when we are alone and cast down he gives us comfort, when we are struck down with illness he gives us strength to carry the burden. We are reminded over and over again he does not leave us alone. And the great sign of this he comes in his son into the world to be as us, to share our burdens, to live this life, to show us how much he cares for us.
All through her life Ellen had a strong faith that she drew great strength from. Looking back on her life it was always an important part of her life. It was the baptismal graces that she drew from all her life. And maybe in those days when she had no strength in these final years, as that cloud descended it was as if it carried her through to the end. She was never alone because the Lord was comforting her with his presence, she had great reserves to draw from.
Ellen was born on 13th April 1937, her parents were Josephine & Anthony Keenan, she had a sister and brother Isobel and Thomas. Having left school she was a clippie on the buses, on her buses no one I imagine skipped their fares. But on these buses she was also to meet her future husband Leslie Hart. They married in 1959 and settled to life in Govanhill – 2 children were to follow Stuart and Lesley. Sadness was to come only 7 years after marriage, Leslie, her husband, died at the age of 35 leaving Ellen a widow at 29 – a great sadness that she carried with her thereafter. Always good with her hands she was employed in factories sewing and making things – a kilt factory at one time, a clothes factory at another. Ever enterprising when the factory closed she took jobs cleaning and also as a home help. She was to have a second marriage, which again was very happy, this time to George Pullam – they married in 1976. Their life was full of holidays and social occasions. In time both children Stuart and Leslie were married and Ellen and George gladly lent a hand with baby-sitting duties. Late in life Ellen learned to drive, we should say she applied her own rules to the road. Sadly Ellen was to be widowed again in 2001 and George’s death was a great sadness for her. She was to be very involved in the grandchildren’s lives and they not only had great respect but great love for her. Later in life she was moved here, but was ill soon after it with the illness that would take her life. But it was as slow process and she was able to do much over the time - she travelled extensively on holidays with the family to Ireland France and England. She was to reach beyond her 79 birthday but illness and infections which she couldn’t resist were to overcome her, she died peacefully at Hairmyres on 29th April 2016.
Its clear speaking to the family to her daughter and son and to their spouses and the grandchildren and her brother that Ellen was a much loved person. An important and essential part of their family’s life. A person who gave so much to each of them and was greatly loved. I am sure as time passes that sense in which they miss her from their presence will deepen but I am hope in its place will come that feeling of having a cherished person in your life who has brought much strength, grace and joy to your lives.
Looking back how many moments of joy has their been. How many shared confidences. How much wise counsel given. How much support freely given. So many good things to look back it. So many blessings received.
Today is a day for sadness but a day of joy and thanksgiving for all that has been received. We speak of the fact that God opens his hand and generously gives us all our hearts desires. In the simple life of those around us is not easy to see it with the eyes of faith. He opens his hand and grants the desires of our heart for that special, unique person in our life who will love us like no other and whom we will love like no other.
We pray for the blessings of eternal life for Ellen. For grace and peace to her at the end of her life. For the promised reward for a good life. To her grant the joys of opening her eyes to the new life in heaven where she meets again those that she has loved in this life.