Nanna – Forever In The Sunlight Gleaming

For Nanna…..

Nanna-15Farewell to Nanna B

I made a final visit to see Nanna. To say goodbye.

At 101 years of age, she had extraordinary longevity and fortitude. She also possessed a lifelong faith. “Oh Lord, take me home.” she said over and over. No fear, just an all consuming desire to move onto the next stage, for her, heaven.

Nanna spent her final days in a place she had called home for several years. It was a place she chose to move to, and a home in which she enjoyed the company of those around her. If she stepped out of her room she could see Southend United Roots Hall stadium, and she would often update other residents on the latest score! A lifelong Salvationist, it was just the right place for her to be.

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It was far too long since I had seen my Nanna and although I felt sad, I mostly felt so thankful for the enormous privilege of spending this final time with her. I knew it would be a day the girls would never forget, time spent with their great grandmother and a memory that would last. I left my boys at home, knowing the girls would just cope with the situation a little better, and I was so proud of them.

At an incredible 101 years of age, Nanna was very weak, and her short term memory poor. When we first arrived I wasn’t even sure it was my Nanna! When I looked into her eyes and saw that smile though, there was absolutely no doubt.  I cannot be sure she knew who I was, I told her several times, but even so her face lit up with warmth. We took a bunch of Spring flowers which she delighted in. For many years she had taken charge of flower arranging at the home, and her love of them still shone through. We giggled with my aunt and uncle because every time I showed her the flowers she forgot she had already seen them and said “Oh look, aren’t they lovely!”


On the wall hangs a most precious photograph of a young handsome RAF serviceman, Albert Bramwell Bearcroft – Bram. His crew badge denotes his role of ‘Air Bomber (aimer), but more importantly he was a son and a muched loved younger brother.  Tragically (like so many others), he was killed during a bombing campaign in 1943. He was just 19 years old. In the 73 years that have passed, how often must Nanna have reflected upon that young life lost, and all that it could have been? One of a generation that carried the burden of grief with such dignity. I don’t think I ever really understood what that must have meant to her, but having lost my own brother since, I feel I have a sense of the enormity of that loss.

Incredibly, and I have to steady myself before typing this for it just makes me blub, hers was also a generation that behaved with compassion. I still remember her stories from my childhood, of how she and my Granddad had two German Prisoner of War for Sunday lunch each week. From my research it’s clear that many of the 400,000 PoW’s, worked and integrated within the local community and were not considered hostile. Some even remained after the war marrying local girls. Even so, it is quite incredible to think that given Bram’s death, my grandparents still welcomed these gentlemen into their home each week. So grateful were they for this act of fellowship, that they remained in contact with Nanna sending Christmas cards up until their death.


It has been many years since my Grandad died (28 in fact), but she has lived the widow’s life with great stoicism. She may not have been some high flyer or discovered a cure for cancer, but what she did in her life she did well. She was always strong, in body and soul, and refused to give into stereotypes of old age. I inwardly smile at the thought she was probably still thinking “I’m not old!” For many years she was active in the home, apart from flower arranging, helping to feed other residents (often much younger than herself). In fact in a sense my first job was taking over from her from her last, both working as care assistants in the same local nursing home.

She was always enormously proud of her family, including her brother Norman and son Brian’s musical achievements. She was terribly close to daughter Joan and her husband Howard, and positively raved about her grandchildren and great grandchildren. She loved the Salvation Army (and before meeting grandad was training to be a Salvation Army Officer). Her parents were officers and she knew no other life.

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Nanna faced life’s end without fear. I have absolutely no doubt that she knew she would soon be in heaven, reunited with loved ones gone before (I know my brother will be pleased to see ‘Nan’). What a comfort to have such faith. Within the Salvation Army, death is not considered sad, but merely a continuation to eternity. Indeed when a person dies they are ‘Promoted To Glory’. To quote Herbert Booth, son of William and Catherine who wrote the hymn ‘Promoted To Glory’ ahead of his mother’s funeral, I do believe Nanna is ‘Safe, forever in the sunlight gleaming’.


Thank you Nana, for all the lovely memories. For the endless Summers spent playing in your garden, where the sun always seemed to shine. For letting me and cousin Heather pick all your prize roses to use the petals to make perfume. For letting a fidgety little me sit with you through the long Army meetings, and always having a packet of Polo mints and some paper and a pencil in your handbag to keep me busy. For teaching me by example a lifelong respect and love of animals. For cooking the best roast potatoes in the whole wide world (sorry mum), and for letting me and Simon raid your sweets and eat all your Terry’s chocolate orange.

Goodbye Nanna. With love.



Promoted To Glory
Composer: Herbert H. Booth

Summoned home, the call has sounded,
Bidding a soldier his warfare cease;
And the song of angels resounded,
Welcomes a warrior to eternal peace.
Praise the Lord! from earthly struggles
A comrade has found release.
Death has lost its sting, the grave its victory;
Conflicts and dangers are over;
See him honoured in the throne of glory,
Crowned by the hand of Jehovah!

Strife and sorrow over,
The Lord’s true faithful soldier
Has been called to go from the ranks below,
To the conquering host above.

Once the sword, but now the scepter,
Once the fight, now the rest and fame,
Broken every earthly fetter,
Now the glory for the cross and shame;
Once the loss of all for Jesus,
But now the eternal gain.
Trials and sorrow here have found their meaning
Mysteries their explanation;
Safe, forever in the sunlight gleaming
Of His eternal salvation.