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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A short eulogy for my aunt

Vale Mavis Watson, who passed away 27 June, 2011.

My name is Denis Wright, and Aunty Mavis was my mother’s sister. These few words are on my own behalf, though I know they will resonate with my sisters and my cousins, the Bennets, because we have had many experiences of Aunty Mavis through life shared with Michele, Pam, Peter and their families.

When I was 16, I came to Brisbane as a teacher trainee and stayed for two years with my cousins, the Watsons, at 376 South Pine Rd, Enoggera. My mother had asked Aunty Mavis if she would look after me while I was at Teacher’s College.

It was a huge ask. She was being requested to add a sixth member to her family of three growing children, to find space in their house for him and look after his washing and ironing and meals. For two whole years.

Not only that, there was an unspoken responsibility placed upon her between sisters to guide me as much as possible for those two watershed years of my life – the transition from adolescence to adulthood, from my farm background in a tiny country township to the relative sophistication of city life. That was probably not what Aunty Mavis would have bargained on.

Many of you will smile at the thought of early 1960s Brisbane as being described as sophisticated, but it surely was for a teenager who had never in his life bought a tram ticket, and regarded three cars in a line as a traffic jam.

But Aunty Mavis took on the role with wonderfully good grace. I was thinking of the adjectives that would best describe her, from my point of view, as a member of her household. I’m simply going to put these words before you, as they are not only self-explanatory but they say it all for me.

She was, to me, all of these:

warm, gentle, cheery, generous of spirit, patient, loving, clever, determined, and diplomatic.

I imagine now this task of caring for me was not easy for her. She wasn’t my mother, yet that was pretty much the role thrust upon her. That was where her quiet determination and diplomacy came in!

Mostly I remember her beautiful smile. Oh, and one other thing, last but by no means least for a growing boy – she was a wonderful cook, and her Lemon Delicious dessert was one of the culinary delights of the age. I declare that she would have had the judges of Masterchef bowing at her feet after being presented with that dish alone.

Lastly, she gave me something that changed my life. She urged me to study at the University of Queensland, doing evening courses towards my degree while at Teacher’s College. If she had not done that and not given me a base from which to study, I may not have stayed the distance. She was more pivotal than I could have imagined in giving me the career and the life I have had ever since.

Her influence on me was subtly powerful and she meant a great deal to me. I feel her passing keenly and I thank her for everything she did for me. I’m very glad I’ve had the opportunity to do it publicly here today.

Denis Wright

Tuesday, 28 June 2011
(Special thanks to Aunty Mavis's son, Peter Watson, for reading this speech on my behalf.)

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