She could be stubborn, even infuriating, but if you knew her she was deeply sincere, loyal and a wonderful friend. Her tongue was one of the sharpest I have ever known – I always dreaded being on the wrong side of it – but when you needed her she would be the kindest and best of friends. She kept her life simple, living to a few basic rules, two of which I try to follow myself. The first: “if you can’t do someone a good turn, don’t do them a bad one!” was what made her so completely honest. Her candour could at times be absolutely cutting, even humiliating if she thought you were wrong. She never denied that she would tell you to your face what she thought, even if sometimes her caustic words seemed cruel – it was not meant.
The second rule: “as long as you’ve got your health and strength...” kept her going right to the very end of her life. She died as she lived: quietly, efficiently and in her own time. I honestly think she had made up her mind that it was time to go – and so she went.
In writing this I cannot omit the one quality which drew people to her: a wonderful dry sense of humour. How many of us have fallen about laughing at one of her chance remarks dropped innocently into a conversation or story, followed with a little smile?
It is a long time now since Michael and I were married at Morchard Bishop, but she played quite a part in the events leading up to it, and loved to reminisce about that time. She hosted the groom, best man, bride’s aunt uncle and cousin, as well as a host of people crowding in and out of her warm kitchen – never once flustered by it all. She always laughed at the episode of the day before, when she and I were making sure my wedding dress fitted properly when Michael turned up at the door. She was horrified, highly superstitious that the groom must not see the dress, and rushed out to tell him in no uncertain terms to keep out!
Her absence from my life, after thirty two years of her indomitable presence, will be a huge, gaping hole which only time will ease. I will adapt, and she would scold me for writing this and tell me to get on with my work. I will, Mrs Snell. But first I’ll have a cup of tea. And sit for a little while...
E.D.S. 29.11.21 - 05.01.15