A suitable farewell

A letter Mum wrote to her church when she knew she was dying
A letter Mum wrote to her church when she knew she was dying

I am not sure I had realised how popular Mum was (and I am positive she didn’t either). The church at her funeral was packed and overflowing and there were many people who couldn’t even get there. On the day and after, we (my siblings and I) have all been asked for copies of our eulogies and to be able to listen the Mum’s funeral service.

So, without further ado, here are the eulogies in the order they were read, and her service.

Eulogies by:

From John Nightingale, Mum’s brother

My sister & I

Pattie’s early training in looking after people, of considering others before herself came with my birth, just over 4 years after hers.

Our mother was a shopkeeper along with dad, housewife and mother, always under the fierce (as I remember it) inspectorate of her mother-in-law, Martha, our grandma who lived with us until her death in 1951. So any help in keeping order in the home behind the little shop was welcomed, and Pattie strove to fulfill the implicit, if not explicit, need for help in keeping me under control.

That stage seemed to last forever, but really, it can’t have been too long before Pattie had her own interests outside of the home. After-school care was represented by the beach and friends’ houses around our home at Balmoral Beach. As she approached high school her radius increased. As did mine,– but I think Pattie was more gregarious and adventurous than I ever was, a trait that stood her in good stead with her career and travels.

Before mum & dad bought the land for our weekender at Kurrajong we had a holiday at Weenie Creek Guest House, our first and my only horse ride (at age 5 or less!), and the Hokey Cokey, Maise Doats and Dosey Doats, etc in the lounge after tea. Presumably mum and dad were looking at the land, but we kids had a great time in the country, little knowing it would be our country until they died.

Our weekly winter weekend journeys to Kurrajong, from the early 1950s, gave Pattie another life, another Sunday School, more gardening, helping as always with whatever had to be done. It was at Kurrajong, with old Bill and Mrs Hemming and their goats just down the road, with young families on both sides, that we actually did things together. Milking the Hemming’s goats was fun, but no, neither of us had a taste for goats’ milk. This caused a conundrum because she declared the milk we brought with us from our shop, packed in the esky in the car for the hour long journey, to be “travelled” milk and would not touch it!

Kurrajong was where we were most a family, doing things together that we rarely did at Balmoral Beach where we each had our own friends and interests.

Brownies and Guides began her commitment to social groups and institutions promoting learning and personal growth, and then in teenage years at St Clements, Mosman and the 1959 Billy Graham Crusade, when church and her faith was confirmed as the guiding light for her life, right to the end. The intense social life of St Clements, Mosman defined her long after she had spread her wings as a teacher, first in far-away Graman, somewhere north west of Inverell.

While still at Balmain Teachers College she had met Tony Morgan, her first and only boyfriend, whom I hero-worshipped, as I watched him wooing Pattie. They began at their early age that life’s journey that we are here to celebrate, a journey that continues in all their children and grandchildren. After a short time in Sydney they suddenly disappeared to Melbourne, never to return. The die was cast, not merely about where they lived but the way they lived, beginning as they both ended: family, church, friends, waifs and strays, always coming ahead of themselves. How did their special way of life come about? It was more than simple faith – so many of their St Clements friends remain good churchgoers but so, so conventional. It was the dynamics of their relationship that powered their commitment to their principles. This is something that most of us can only look at in wonderment. But for Pattie’s, and Tony’s, children, this is something they know and value and live. This is their legacy, and a legacy that Pattie enhanced in the 15 years since Tony left us.

In Pattie’s later years she was always up for an adventure and Leslie and I were able to share experiences with her, in Stockholm (where she stopped in the middle of a blizzard to photograph a preschool playground), and in the Arctic Circle, chasing the northern lights, then, last year, at Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

A wonderful life, giving her all to the end.

From Sally Darlison, Eldest child

How to sum up a life, a life well lived. Mum never wanted to be considered old, in fact, she used say “I’m not old” on a regular basis and in many ways she was not old. She was a contemporary woman, embracing new ideas, a life of learning.

Learning was something she was passionate about, she considered every experience a learning one and strove to find new ways of doing things and adapting the old. This was particularly evident in her professional life as a kindergarten teacher, teacher educator, play and playground expert but also evident in her interests in art and design, gardening, ceramics, sustainability, music and Christian faith.

I will miss her wise counsel and her encouragement of me to be a better teacher through her ability to listen and question, to help me to see teaching from the child’s point of view.

Mum taught us to really look around us, to care for the world God had created, she exhorted us to “See how the vegetation is changing”. She had an amazing ability to remember the names of so many Australian plants and birds that a walk in the bush with her involved many big words! This knowledge of course was very useful when designing gardens.

Her ability to combine her love of children and their learning through play with her love of the natural environment is evident in the many playgrounds she has designed for kindergartens, early learning centres and schools.

She instilled in us all a love of quality picture story books, books with rhythm and beautiful illustrations. Her ability to read aloud was one that captured you and drew you into the story.

She was an encourager, someone who helped people to be the best they can be, to not give up, but to learn from difficult situations. She encouraged our creative pursuits and I will miss her enthusiastically wanting to see what it was I was working on in my studio.

Mum lived by two main tenets Love God with all your heart soul and mind and Love your neighbor as yourself. This is what governed the way she related to others. It was how she and Dad ran their home, a home that welcomed the stranger to the table, that offered a listening ear, that welcomed the homeless and the traveller alike. Her ability to make a meal extend to unexpected guests was legendary.

Her life was a life of service and integrity. Her joy was to be with people, working together with others.

Mum was someone who sought to love people, to model Jesus’ teaching in all aspects of her life and in whom the fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control were evident.

Many of you will know her infectious laugh, I am fortunate to have as my inheritance that same laugh. So if you are missing hearing it, just tell me something funny and I will help you to remember.

From Ric Morgan, second child

Throughout their lives my parents gave me good examples of how to live.  After my father’s death, mum’s vital role came to the fore. There can be no doubt that, for mum, these ways of living were intimately connected with her Christianity but the influence of those ideas reached beyond those beliefs and remain relevant to those living outside them.

She thought about family more broadly than most—perhaps because she moved away from her direct relatives to be in Melbourne.  All were accepted as family in our house.  She loved and was loved in return.  For us this seemed normal and has become part of who we have become.

She placed great importance on maintaining relationships across generations.  This meant her mindset did not age as much as others seem to and that she rarely suffered from the alienation from youth that often occurs as you age.

She took great joy in this beautiful planet we live on—in particular the sea (and the sea in a storm), perhaps a result of growing up on Balmoral Beach.

She lived in a sustainable way before it was a way—repairing, reusing and recycling (before they had bins for it). I suspect my distaste of branded goods and advertising are her fault. In the 70s it was “live simply so others can simply live”. But that 70s phrase has broader import.  It also embodied a way of thinking that meant that the needs of others are more important that our own.

She reconciled many irreconcilable things—while only scratching the surface, examples included:

  • maintaining friendships that lasted almost all her life while feeling like maintaining friendships was hard and something she was not good at.
  • living simply but with an eye (and taste) for great design.
  • her need to be doing (perhaps a protestant work ethic) and an insistence that play was vital (perhaps why she always prodded at me to do something creative).
  • a distaste for urban sprawl and a desire for homes with space for veggies, chooks and outside play.

With Mum everything was a learning experience as Sally has said; on long car trips we watched the vegetation changing—and talked about why. This was her approach to teaching and, at least for me, her way of admonishing me.  Not lectures but observation and discussion. It is an extension of the learning of children—that of curiosity and wonder. She did not lose it as others do as they age. Instead she maintained both a curious nature—essential for her to keep gaining knowledge—and an ability to provoke curiosity in others of all ages.

Continuing with this thought, and acknowledging her responsibility for my long-term love of kids books (a persistent obsession from childhood, to childless and now parenthood), I want to finish with a quote from Time of Wonder, the one I love the most.

Take a farewell look at the waves and the sky. Take a farewell sniff of the salty sea. A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going. It is a time of quiet wonder—for wondering, for instance: Where do hummingbirds go in a hurricane?

When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled. Already, we miss mum and my boys Harry and Sam (or as they call themselves Harra and Samma) miss their Granna, including how everything, yes everything, could be turned into a song.

From Becca Allchin, third child

Pattie Morgan (nee Nightingale) Eulogy

Mum was a busy, can do person. It was hard to rest around mum as she was always busy making, growing, creating, learning, exploring, all the while teaching in situ. While busy she was also people oriented. She gave people the gift of time, always genuinely interested in their life. Using each opportunity to teach and encourage them to be the best they could be, even if at times this could be delivered in fairly tactless ways. She had porous boundaries allowing space for others to belong.

Mum was a thinking woman who had her own ideas and an independent stubborn streak that allowed her to make things happen. She had infectious big ideas and had a vision of the way things should be. Not from a selfish motivation but about making the world a better place. It was a God given yearning for his coming kingdom.

This lead to a restlessness with the ways things were as she always saw things to improve, which at times this made her tricky to live with. One story stands out in our memories:

My siblings and I returned home from my birthday outing to Luna Park with a family friend to find mum not home and Dad amongst plaster fragments and a wall stripped bare. In answer to the questions that arose Dad declared that mum had told him that he didn’t ever do anything so he was turning the wall around.

This same trait of seeing how things could be improved, combined with her pragmatic nature and her underlying faith that shaped all she did also resulted in her pursuit of new edgy undertakings. Not all of these ideas we appreciated at the time like packing us salad for school lunch when we’d rather have white bread vegemite sandwiches or insisting on simplistic lifestyle and living by the principles of reuse, recycle and homemade before it was common.

Some of these ideas we didn’t know were unusual such as opening our home and her heart to young people from the local area, setting up Christian Camp Caterers from our basement and running adventure camping for young people.

Pushing the boundaries led her to being involved in ground-breaking ideas like running a kindergarten from the back of a truck visiting families in caravan parks in the west, advocating for children’s right to taking risks in play and setting up a flying fox in the kindergarten she was working in.

I am proud to be called her daughter. I feel honoured to have been encouraged to think deeply and act with integrity to what I believe. I feel privileged to have seen how Christian faith deeply lived can influence all of a person life and brings life to others. I am deeply thankful for all she has invested in me.

Meg Dunley, fourth child

Pattie Morgan 27 July 1940 to 8 April 2015

It is so hard to sum up Mum in words when all I want to do is run down my street to her place and give her just one more hug.

She was so many things to so many people, and her legacy lives on. She never stopped giving of herself, her gifts and knowledge, and her faithfulness. It has been overwhelming, but not surprising, to hear of how she touched so many lives.

There are many things I need to thank Mum for, so many that I don’t have enough time to go through them all. There is so much she taught me how to appreciate: gardening, music, reading, writing, sewing, loving, parenting, partnering, sharing, caring, friendships and much more.

I haven’t been able to listen to much music in the last eight weeks as it makes me crumble. Mum gave me the gift of feeling music to the point where it now bares my heart. She taught me to really hear it, and to understand the music and the story it told.

My love of stories and books began with Mum too. I have very fond memories of nestling in her lap, my siblings clustered around, as we sat in the bean bag for our nightly story. Her voice brought the pages to life – and there began my deep love of story. Here she was my greatest champion: laughing at my comedic tales, listening to my long winded stories, and encouraging me on my pursuit of writing. Her investment in us with continually correcting our pronunciation, grammar and syntax provided me with a wonderful appreciation of words.

When I was seven Mum, the ever inclusive person, asked us all if she could go back to study. From there she pursued her passion: children and play. Mum was a brilliant educator – not just teaching children, but also peers. She was continually on the lookout for new ideas and learnings and had a great passion for incorporating nature and play. She is well respected in this field. In retirement Mum became busier than ever: consulting, volunteering, designing and influencing children’s play. Today at an international conference a presentation about children’s play, bush kinder and the scene in Australia is being dedicated to her.

She never stopped learning, desiring to know more, and sharing what she knew.

She could rattle off the correct names of most Australian natives, and while this annoyed the pants off me as a teen, I too developed a love and understanding of the local native plants with those ridiculously long names. I followed her example with using the land to provide a nurturing environment, as well as a productive one. I must have been two or three in my earliest memory of gardening with Mum. We were weeding, and she said, “Don’t leave any roots in the ground or we’ll have horseradish growing everywhere.” I was petrified for many years that any roots of any plant would inflict a horseradish infestation on the land.

I was blessed with the honour of journalising her time to death. It was one of the hardest things I may ever have to write (other than this), yet it really was a blessing to see how she had lived a life without regret, to the full, and was ready, without fear, to meet her true love and maker. She was a true and faithful servant.

My boys miss granny-down-the-road and I miss my brilliant role model and pragmatic confidant, Mum. I know that will never go.

Now there is a hole at the end of my street where my beautiful mum lived. I stand on my street and look down, to check her car is there, if she’s okay, and then remember.

My siblings and I now take on the responsibility of our great family with deep sadness in our hearts, yet peace in knowing what Mum and Dad gave us, and a wonderful safety net of friendships.

Thank you Mum.

2 thoughts on “A suitable farewell”

    1. It is my pleasure to sharing these. It is a strange thing to not have her around. There have been (and will be) so many moments that I have picked up the phone to talk to her, to mull things over with her. So many moments I have walked past her (old) house and wanted to run down the path and have a cuppa with her. I think there will always be a sad hole in my life from not having Mum and Dad around, but I am truly grateful for so so much that I learnt from them. I’m so glad that she can still fill you with happiness.
      x Meg

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