I note that my previous post was made on Sept 16. That was a Wednesday. On that week's Friday I headed up to Auckland to spend the weekend with my dad at North Shore Hospital. Little did I know that events on that weekend would lead to me not writing another weblog entry for close to a month. On Monday 21st September my father, Graham Nugent Purdy, passed away due to complications from the stroke he had on August 18. He died peacefully and fully accepting of God's will and his destiny.
I didn't bare this loss alone. My brother and his family, my family and all of the many friends and former colleagues my father had, have had to deal with his death in their own ways. However, this post is about my experience and it's hard to write because if anything was the number one reason for the blog's existence - it was to communicate with my dad, and if anyone was the number one fan of my weblog - it was dad. And he can't share in it anymore.
His funeral was held at Purewa crematorium on September 25. It was conducted in a very traditional way but with Diana Krall's soundtrack at the beginning and close (Fly me to the moon's lyric is the blog title this time around. It was the song we ended the service with). My two sons, Keegan and Adam, and I delivered eulogies. Samantha wrote about her grandad and Keegan read it out. I've decided to include Samantha's message and my eulogy here so that my friends and family around the world can share in our farewell to a beautiful man.
Good morning everybody, both family and friends. Let me first please apologize for my absence this morning, I tried my hardest to be amongst you all, however due to untimely flight schedules, unfortunately it was not possible to make it back in time. All that I can offer is my word that I am thinking of you all and of a truly special man whom I miss and love very much. Many of you will know this amazing man as Graham or perhaps even Mr Purdy but to Jade, Adam, Keegan, Hayden, Scott and myself he was Grandad.
What a total champion, Grandad always knew what the grandchildren both wanted and needed. I remember when I was small, going to Grandad’s for the afternoon was a real treat. We would dress up in our finest and in return for looking cute Grandad would pull out a box of toys, give us cans of coca cola and present each of us with a film tube filled with coins. You have no idea how rich we all felt. I don’t know why but this childhood ritual will forever be one of the most favourite memories I have of my grandfather.
He was so kind and gentle yet at the same time so clever in occupying four very energetic children. These traits in my opinion represent how he lived his life. I think I can speak for my entire family when I say that as time has passed, as we have all grown older Grandad grew with us and opened up in a lot of different ways. Instead of pulling out a box of toys to keep us entertained he would share stories about his life and work, cups of tea and Tim Tams eventually replaced the sugary cans of coke and in terms of gifts of value we would receive warm hugs and kisses, greeting cards for all occasions and even the odd DVD, which of course he had created himself.
When I began writing this memorandum I really had no idea what to write. I have had to take one million breaks and still I’m struggling with the idea of expressing how much my Grandad means to me in only a few words? Somehow I just never thought I would have to write something like this. Life has dealt me a perfect hand and unlike many of my friends my grandparents have always been there for me. I guess I was naive to think that that level of fortune would last forever. I am honoured to have known such a kind and generous man, to have been a part of his life and in return have him be a part of mine. During his time on earth he accomplished many things both great and small. Some of the Great are without a doubt my Dad and Uncle Ross who are more like Grandad than they think. I’m blessed to have been given such an amazing family, for you Grandad I thank for this.
I loved my Grandad very much and am extremely sad to hear of his passing. I wish I was there to say goodbye but I take comfort in the fact that his spirit lives on and he is reunited with my Grandma Dulcie, who I know will take care of him. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say it for myself but “Goodbye Grandad”, I want you to know I love you and I’m going to miss you so, so much. Thank you.
On behalf of my brother Ross and our respective families I’d like to thank you for attending and joining the Purdy families today – some of you have traveled a long way or made a real effort to get here to support us and farewell our dad – Graham Nugent Purdy. Unfortunately Samantha was unable to return but she has written a beautiful message.
This eulogy has had a long gestation period – the tumour dad had removed in Sept 08 gave us a warning shot – so I’ve had a long time to prepare my thoughts but the emotional force of this moment means that I will no doubt be blubbering like a baby at times and I make no apology for that – Jacky told me that crying at funerals is okay so please feel free to join in with me whenever you wish.
In fact that tumour last year was the first time in 80 years that GNP had been in a hospital since his birth – not a bad record to have!
GNP was one of life’s gentleman. Kind, always impeccably groomed, and genuine. He was a traditionalist. In fact if you look up the phrase ‘old school’ in the dictionary there is a picture of dad. Dad owned zero pairs of jeans but a lot of slippers and he had the same haircut for 81 years.
He set extremely high standards for integrity and values. He was a stickler, a person of logic and precision (I have a distinct memory of him measuring out some garden fertiliser with his pharmacist scales while dressed in suit pants and a business shirt to do the gardening). He and mum provided a fantastic example of a marriage and love. But I’m getting ahead of myself a little. Let me tell you some brief details about my dad.
He was born in Auckland 81 years ago. His mother and father were Harry and Christina Purdy. He grew up an only child and there was always an element of distance in the family relationships. Harry was a master plasterer from a long line of plasterers in Rochdale, England but dad was destined for more cerebral pursuits.
After attending Mount Albert Grammar and making lifelong friendships with people like Bruce Pursar and Mervyn Hynes he trained as a pharmacist. Part of his early repertoire of concoctions were creams for Harry’s lime scarred hands.
As a young hot shot chemist around town he often frequented the record bars of Queen St. on the look out for scarce as hen’s teeth American big band jazz records. During these searches a young lady working the record counter at Lewis Eddy’s caught his eye.
He was smitten. She wasn’t impressed!
He was tenacious though and persevered and according to him – he wore her down. Dulcie Mary Adsett became his wife in 1953. Together they had two gorgeous boys – first was me, then Ross. Around this time dad swapped the chemist apron for a business suit when he joined Burroughs Welcome as a manager. Eventually he rose to become it’s NZ Managing Director.
Growing up we were always aware of dad’s great passions – jazz played at outrageously loud volumes, Marx Brothers’ movies – the password is swordfish by the way, freemasonry, and electronics or gadgets of any kind. It became something of a family tradition lasting until this year that he would buy the latest thing on the market whether it be audio/visual or computers or navigation equipment which was a bit of a hoot because he basically only traveled around Orewa after moving there 7 years ago. He was the most connected octogenarian that I know.
My brother Ross and I were/are very lucky. We grew up in a stable, loving, supportive, fun, disciplined family environment that gave us love, values, attitudes, support beyond question, happiness, a sense of fairness and backbone. Yes I know everyone says their mum/dad are the best but for us it's not a platitude or a cliche. It's the truth!
Unfortunately not all of you have met my mum and dad or knew them as a married couple, and only Ross and I know what it was to live at 18 Korma Rd., then 4 Ramelton Rd. with them. Because of the way families were in the 60's we had the most contact with mum because as dad worked in Otahuhu at BW he both left early and arrived late. It was mostly the little care network of mum and her mum that we saw more of/spent more time with.
I have very vivid memories of growing up and they are mostly sunny, warm and satisfied. Doubly and tragically unfortunate is that less of you knew my mother (Dulcie). She died on November 4 1983 after a battle with cancer and so none of my children knew her. She was an incredible person whom everybody loved. Shortly before he passed away dad asked me, “Where’s Dulcie?” I told him that she was coming and he smiled for he knew it was the truth. When he was finally ready Jacky and I passed the baton on to her and she took his hand. After 26 years they were reunited again and Ross and I could be content. She’ll be taking care of him now much better than we ever could.
My parents were inspirational. They were together until mum died and they loved each other (and that was obvious). They were such different people with such different interests but it worked. That inspires me right there and I know I'm lucky. As a school principal I often see students struggling to cope with horrendous family issues (sometimes amazingly no one wants the child) and Ross and I were safe from all that. So this eulogy is also a tribute to our mum and dad. God bless them! And thanks.
After mum passed away, dad became reacquainted with Nita who had previously been mum’s bridesmaid and Ross’ godmother. The friendship turned to marriage and some happy years living in Glen Eden where they both shared in the growing grandparent duties to our respective families. Unfortunately the relationship was not to last with Nita and dad made the transition to Orewa’s Maygrove Village where he became neighbours with old friends like Marion Schnauer and new friends like Don, Harry and Celia.
Two final things in closing
A message from Jacky first -
Graham – it was an absolute pleasure and a very special privilege to help you
at the end. You allowed me to accompany you to the doors of heaven and watch you
go through. Thank you and enjoy your reunion with Dulcie. Love you always, till
we meet again – Jacky
And to end I’d like to read a passage from Philippians Chapter 4 – Paul encourages the lord’s followers but, to me, it really sounds like Graham’s voice:
Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy,
friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile
and worthy of praise. You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you.