Earlier this week, I said goodbye to one of my favourite people.
My grandfather, Francis Phillips, was a unique character. Of all the people I’ve met who knew him, not a bad word could be said against him. He had an amazing sense of humour and a true love affair with whiskey. I was in the hospital room when he passed away and, after giving me one last fright, he went to sleep eternally. I’ll never forget that night, and the last few moments I spent with him.
I was tasked with writing a speech for his funeral, something I felt both proud and nervous about. I didn’t think it possible to sum up my Granddad in a respectable, humorous and honest way; particularly as I had only known him for 21 years of his 72 year-long life. In the end, I wrote about my memories of him, and what I loved about him. After heavily censoring it at the church, in order to avoid bursting in to flames, I decided that I would publish it on my website so that my friends and family could read it again if they so wish. I invite you all to read it, enjoy it, and think of him as you do so.
Ladies, gentlemen, Granddad
For those who don’t know me, I’m the grandson of this wonderful man. I’m not sure who was luckier to be honest.
It’s been one year since my Grandma’s funeral, and looking back on it, I almost feel guilty for prodding Granddad in the ribs and saying: ‘You’re next’
All jokes aside, this is a truly devastating moment in my life, but hopefully I can get through this without crying. A lot of people have told me over the past few weeks that he’s gone to a better place. And if a pub with plenty of whiskey and belly-dancing girls exists in the afterlife, then they’d be right. What a character he was. Someone outside asked me: ‘What would Fran say if he was here?’… I imagine it would be something along the lines of: “Get me outta this fecking box”
The earliest memory I have of my Granddad is of him taking me to the park down the side of Thornhill Road, pushing me along on a yellow Weetabix wagon. He’d push me on the swings, call me a dipstick and take me to the shops for sweets (and beer for himself, of course). Looking back now, it is one of my happiest memories. There’s also the times where he’d take me to the Anchor pub, where there would be a pint of beer and a half pint of Coke waiting for us. How he managed that kind of service, I’ll never know.
I also have a video tape from when I was a child, and it has over an hour of footage of me and Granddad messing around. Me calling him a ‘Beauty boy’ and him pretending there was a fly that was buzzing around and hitting him in the back of the head. It had me in hysterics, and still makes me chuckle when I watch it back today. You see, that’s what I’ll always remember the most about Granddad. He had a wicked sense of humour and could entertain anyone, from a cute four year old boy to a tight lipped Nun. Just seeing the joy and enthusiasm he had from making me laugh is enough to make me feel proud of him. Sure he made mistakes – because he was human. He drunk a little too much, he smoked a bit too much, he got married…
There was one time, about two years ago now, where we were sat down in the garden, just me and him, having a can of beer and looking out over the senate and picturesque town of Brighouse. I can’t remember the ins and outs of the conversation, but what I can remember is him asking: “I’m a good grandfather, aren’t I?” He was looking for reassurance, I thought. I told him of course he is, because he makes me laugh, and he makes me smile even when I’m being followed around by a shadow. He then said, “Never forget me please”, which really hurt. Of course, I’ll never forget him.
All my friends’ granddads were what they considered to be ‘normal’ – they wore cardigans, listened to Sinatra, played chess, watched Andrew Marr’s Sunday morning politics show. My Granddad wasn’t like that. He wore a fez, listened to Irish music, pissed himself laughing at Mrs Browns Boys and offered you a can of beer at 10 in the morning. I loved that about him, that he was different. Sure, he might have been a bit too drunk and smoked far too many cigarettes, but he had a heart of gold and a sense of humour that would kill the Queen. Not to mention incredible blue eyes and a beard one could only aspire to have. If anyone had the pleasure of making him a cup of tea, you’d know he liked two tea bags and two sugars, and if he didn’t like it, he would just send you back to make it again.
If I had a glass of whiskey for every time someone said something nice about my Granddad I’d be joining him in that casket. I asked a few people to sum up their opinion of him in one or two sentences, and these are just some of my favourites:
“A heart of gold who welcomed everyone into his home and treated you like one of his own. With an Irish accent and a passion for drinking, you knew you were always looked after in his presence.”
“Fran was the best. He was a lovely cook with his Irish coddle, and everyone who called in to see him had a dish full”
“He made the nicest dinners. I remember when I stayed there when I was younger and he always took great pride in making the creamiest, tastiest mash. It’s gas what we remember. He was a character, always joking and laughing, and very laid back. He will be sadly missed”
“He didn’t just give you everything you wanted, Tom. More importantly he gave you all of his time.”
“A wild, hairy Irishman”
I was so humbled to hear these words, knowing just how much he meant to everyone and how highly people thought of him. That’s the way I’m going to remember him, and the way that I will describe him to my children and my children’s children. In fact, just a few days ago I found a poem which was perfect for remembering Granddad.
Feel no guilt in laughter, he’d know how much you care. Feel no sorrow in a smile that he is not here to share. You cannot grieve forever; he would not want you to. He’d hope that you could carry on the way you always do. So, talk about the good times and the way you showed you cared, The days you spent together, all the happiness you shared. Let memories surround you, a word someone may say Will suddenly recapture a time, an hour, a day, That brings him back as clearly as though he were still here, And fills you with the feeling that he is always near. For if you keep those moments, you will never be apart And he will live forever locked safely within your heart.
Francis Phillips was a unique character. He was kind, welcoming, hilarious, thoughtful, smart and fun. He gave us the laughter we needed and the smile we didn’t know we had. Thank you, Granddad.