By Sr Isabel Kelly FMSJ
“True friendship is a special gift – one to be treasured. Like a diamond, it is rare, tough, durable and it shines for all to see. When true friends meet, they too sparkle like diamonds.”
This is true of Margot, myself and Iris. We all joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) in 1951, 1952 & 1953 respectively. After training attachments in various locations I was drafted back to HMS Dauntless (near Reading) as ship’s company: that, for many of the girls, was a great drawback because there were no sailors there!!
Soon after my arrival, Margot appeared and the following year Iris turned up. I was the one who showed Iris the ropes – naturally I led her astray!! Because I hailed from Scotland and Margo from Rugby, we occasionally, on our time off, went with Iris to her sister, Doris, in Ealing. Once we went for a long weekend without warning Doris; when Iris opened the door and was welcomed with open arms, we sneaked round behind her squealing “Hello Doris!” We all loved those visits!
I went to many army & navy dances but my two friends stayed behind. I even went to Sandhurst once! Iris & Margot didn’t join me; I was always on the lookout for Mr Right but he never turned up!
Our friendship blossomed naturally like trees and flowers do. However our bond never withered or lost its leaves. Even when I was drafted to the Solent, on the English south coast, we met up half way. Margot was the only one who married.
When I joined the convent, I was only permitted to write to my parents once a month and to no one else. However Iris and Margot could write to me and they did. Before I rang the convent door bell, the last thing I did was ask the taxi driver to post a letter I had written to Margot on the train. Iris already had hers.
They came to see me after my first profession. During my more than 33 years on foreign missions, they kept in touch and whenever I came home on leave we met up in either Cornwall, Plymouth or London. Once, when returning to an overseas mission in Ecuador, my flight left from Heathrow and they came to wave me off!
Sixty-six years of friendship is a long time. Sadly Iris died very suddenly two years ago. Shortly afterwards Margot had a very bad fall which has affected her mobility greatly. She misses the weekly phone call from Iris. Now each time I have a meeting near London, I make a point of paying her a visit at her son’s house. On her 90th birthday last year, we so missed Iris’ company and her snorting laugh. But I believe she was with us in spirit.
I thank God for our long friendship. So to all good friends, I say to them:
“ FRIENDS ARE LIKE STARS
YOU DON’T ALWAYS SEE THEM
BUT YOU KNOW WHERE THEY ARE! “
An extract from the eulogy I gave at Iris’ funeral in 2017:
Margot was the lady of our trio!! She smoked when she was young – but would she hold a cigarette in her hand? Not she! She had a cigarette holder!! Iris and I laughed over this and teased Margot no end. When I was 21 we all arranged to meet half way in Guildford. Iris and I had a plan. When Margot produced her cigarette, Iris and I (who didn’t smoke) would get out our prepared cigarettes in cigarette holders and ask Margot for a light. You can imagine the laughter that ensued. On another occasion (sorry about this Margot!!), we all met in London. One of us produced something to read and what do you think Margot did? She went into her handbag and brought out nothing less than a monacle!! Well, Iris and I doubled up laughing! Of course, Margot laughed with us on all these occasions. On another occasion, without Margot, Iris and I were going for the weekend to Dot’s in Middlesex. While we were on the bus, an alarm started ringing. It came from the alarm clock in my bag! We both did our best to pretend it was nothing to do with us but we failed miserably as you can imagine. Finally, Iris came to stay with me in Glasgow. When we went on the tram car, aged 20, the driver gave us childrens’s tickets!!!! He wouldn’t believe we were over 18!! Those were the days!
……None of us expected to be here today to say our final goodbye to a friend or neighbour. Family members will still be stunned. The fact that Iris’ death was so sudden has shocked us all. Some of us may think it was better for Iris that she died so unexpectedly while others feel it would have been better if she had had some warning. Whatever way we think, that was the way Iris left us. I know she would have wanted to say her own goodbye, to give her thanks herself to all who have been in her life, in one way or another, and also to tell her final story. But that is not the way it happened and we have to trust that it really must have been the best way for Iris. She would not have wanted to be in a home – to lose her independence. She got that wish. I think anyone who has lived for a certain number of years knows from experience that God’s ways are not our ways and that His ways can sometimes be very mysterious. Iris’ death is one of those mysterious ways.
Iris would want us to be happy, not sad. That is why I have made this eulogy very light. May we always remember Iris with a smile – her smile and ours. May we try to make others smile like Iris did and may she always be a very happy memory in our hearts.
Sr Isabel has written her life story. All proceeds will go to anti-trafficking. To purchase, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictured below: Sr Isabel on horseback in South America.