My blog has transitioned once again. From patient, to carer, to what I am now: someone who is neither of those things. My husband of 27 and a half years died on 27th March 2019. Now that the funeral is over and the family gone home, I am left to look through the sympathy cards and admire the flowers we brought home from the funeral – and plan the next stage of my life.
I thought it would be a fitting tribute to Bob to place on this blog an edited version of the eulogy I gave at the funeral.
Before I spoke, Bob’s brother Laurie regaled mourners with stories of their youth and the kind of child Bob was. He was followed by a work colleague who spoke for many people who had worked with him during his 50-year career. Working with Bob was always fun, but he was always highly professional. Personally I was in awe of his skill as the editor of many industrial and trade journals.
Then, after a few moments of reflection I took the lectern. Here’s what I said:
“When Bob and I first moved into our house in 1993, he said ‘This’ll do. They can take me out of here feet first.’ I’m happy to say that they did. In other words, he died at home. It was peaceful and I was there. I asked Alexa (home assistant) to play his favourite tune, “Stardust” by Hoagy Carmichael, followed by Classic FM, which obliged by not having any ad breaks.
“Many people remember him for his wit and his banter, and for the famous finger – if you don’t know what that is, here is a sample of the sillinesses, curious names, and misprints he gathered from many sources over a period of 40 years and in the early days pasted onto a huge cut-out downward-pointing finger affixed to the wall behind his desk.
- 6:00 pm: Spanish Football – Rangers v. Aberdeen
- Mark de Mann – a Dutch football defender
- Bargain basement: upstairs – seen in a Worthing store
“Nowadays these gems are in electronic form because the actual finger disintegrated many years ago.
“Bob never forgot things! My niece came to stay with us when she was 18. Although bilingual Spanish-English, at 18 she didn’t have every single English word quite at her fingertips and didn’t know how to say “shoulderblade”. Bob never ever let her forget that and teased her every time we met up. Our next-door neighbour was never allowed to forget that he once got the time zone wrong when he was on holiday and called us at 2:30 in the morning to see if his cat was OK.”
[Friends from across the world sent tributes to me and I used a couple of them in the eulogy. I have edited them out because they are so personal. After the funeral, attendees talked of the many anecdotes he used to tell.]
“His sayings live on in many places where Bob was known. For example at least one small child in Australia loves the one that goes: “I’ve told you a million times not to exaggerate.”
“There was another story from a friend from New York days involving a spoof ‘wanted’ poster, 25 copies of which somehow “fell” from a 24th floor window in Madison Avenue.
“In our 27 and a half years together Bob and I travelled a lot. He introduced me to Scotland, which I’d never visited, having mostly been to Europe when I’d travelled before. We visited pretty well every English, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish county and also dozens of European countries including the Baltic states, Scandinavia, Hungary, and Croatia, as well as Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria and many more. Later, when he became blind, we took to cruising and went to the US, Iceland, the Middle and the Far East, including Singapore.
“He loved his vegetable garden, he loved to write, he loved trad jazz, he loved to catalogue things: books, photographs, mementoes. And he wrote two books. The first one was published several years ago, but the second lies unpublished on his computer. His cataloguing skills and his memory came to the fore when he took part in quizzes – the occasional local quiz, or during cruises. His knowledge of US Presidents and State capitals always surprised fellow passengers from the US.
“He loved our annual garden and Christmas parties. I don’t know why but friends came from far and wide to be insulted when they got here. We always had a good laugh over lunch in the garden, or over cottage pie in Christmas week.
“Bob loved cricket and was never happier than when watching England test matches – even when the team did poorly. He also loved traditional jazz, swing, the Goons and Skiffle. Lonnie Donegan was a particular favourite and he was thrilled to meet him once.
“He was also Gillingham FC’s most faithful and loyal fan. From the age of about 10 he supported this third division team through their travels up and down the divisions (mostly down).
“On our travels, if we were visiting a town and split up to look at different things, I knew I would always find him because he would either be in a book shop, or he would simply shout “Up the Gills” at intervals until I appeared. It usually worked! He even wrote it once in the dust on a car windscreen in Tarragona – ever the naughty boy!
“Goodbye Bob. You made us laugh, you were generous to a fault, you were funny, you had a store of anecdotes to entertain your many, many friends. And I think I know most of them off by heart by now.
“I and the rest of Bob’s family will never forget him. He lives on in our hearts.”
Edited version of eulogy given at Bob’s funeral on 10th April 2019.
Bob Brooks 1937-2019. Rest in Peace