Eulogy for Muriel Naylor

Delivered by Graham Naylor at Muriel's funeral service at the Alston  Memorial Chapel, Lincoln Grove Memorial Gardens Crematorium, Tamworth NSW on  Friday 17 December 2010.

Today we remember and celebrate the life of Muriel Naylor, the much loved Mum, Nana, Auntie Moo and beloved friend of countless people who have been fortunate enough to have been helped or befriended by her during her lifetime. She was mother to many more people than just her own children.

Mum lived her life as a committed Christian, not just in terms of her personal unquestioned faith in God, but also in the practical spirit of christian ideology. She spent her life helping people – family, friends, associates and strangers in need. Affectionately known as 'Moo', she was a hard working and much loved member of the community who inspired people with her positive outlook, her sense of humour, her unselfish work in helping others, her writing and her poetry.

Born in the Sydney suburb of Mosman on 24 July 1917, Mum came into this World during the the dark days of World War One. In Mum's own words her Mother Mary Ann “was a gentle woman who saw no evil in anyone”. Her father Benjamin (affectionately known as “Pop”) was, as she put it, one of nature's gentlemen who was loved and respected by all.

Her childhood was spent during the 1920's in Mosman where the family ran Joyce's Laundry. It was a time when children had to be seen but not heard and speak only when spoken to. Being the youngest child in the clan, early in her life, she was also made to feel inferior by all her siblings and cousins and given the nickname “Bub”, which she hated. In her writings you can feel the frustration of a highly intelligent individual who as “Bub” was not allowed to participate in intelligent conversation. But very soon, of course, the benefits of being the youngest became apparent and she had a very. happy childhood in Mosman.

Bronwyn and I have fond memories of our childhood visits to Mosman . There were so many jokers in the family the place always seemed to be ringing with laughter at family gatherings. And I as a young boy I loved Toby the dog who seemed to live forever.

Mum's teenage years were spent during the hard times of the Great Depression; and, her young adult life during the horror of World War Two. In 1938 when she was 21 her parents moved to Seaforth, not the posh part of Seaforth with views of Middle Harbour, but to a pioneering fibro cottage along what is now the Wakehurst Parkway. There she met Arthur and they were married on 21 March 1942 just two days before he left for overseas service in the Pacific War for three and a half years.

In the post war years Mum was busy running a household in very stressful circumstances. With two new babies born 18 months apart in 1946 and 1948, a husband struggling with problems commonly associated with newly returned soldiers, a mother suffering from dementia and an father who was bed ridden at home for the last 6 years of his life from 1962 to 1968. While dealing with all this Mum took on whatever casual work she could find to supplement the household income. She also managed to keep corresponding with her friends and keep up with her craft work including cake decorating which generated some income through birthday and wedding cakes.  Of course she did all this without complaining, with much love and a smiling face – the greatest Mum in the World. What got her through was her faith in God, her positive outlook and her sense of humour.

In 1973 Mum and Dad moved to Kensington to be closer to Dad's workplace and city transport. It was hard for Mum to move away from her beloved Northern Beaches and her old friends. She at first had to cope with a bit of “culture shock” and “extreme loneliness”. But, as always, she turned a negative into a positive. She now had more time on her hands to become deeply involved in worship and Christian service. She joined the congregation at the Kingsford Church of Christ where she became the first woman to be elected to the Board of Deacons. The Family of God at Kingsford became her new family and she described the hours she spent with them as “very precious”.

She also took on voluntary work for the Red Cross, the Parkinson's Syndrome Support Group, the Carers Association, the Friendship Club for the Aged; Alanon; prison visitations and in the Church of Christ Opportunity Shop.

Her work for the Red Cross included meeting refugees arriving at Sydney Airport. What a welcome they got, what a magnificent first impression of their new country. In this way she befriended people newly arrived in Australia from many parts of the Globe. She once told me that while she would have liked to have had the opportunity to travel the World, in the end but it did not matter - the World came to her.

The Red Cross recognized her service by awarding her medals for Long Service and for Quality of Service.

Her work at the OP Shop in the Old City Temple Building involved more than just selling second hand goods. She held Court to many homeless and lonely people. A Church of Christ publication article, headlined “Friend of the Friendless” described her activities as follows:

Within a short time she had established an ever increasing circle of friends who just wander in to talk to her; like the homeless lady who just sits with her for a couple of hours, making the most of human company; and the young Asian student who refers to her as his “mother”. Our office staff find Mrs Naylor's days a welcome relief too; the usual sombre atmosphere of City Temple is broken by frequent gales of laughter as Mrs Naylor holds court among her friends.

She also worked for a time as tea lady for Radio Station 2CH in the AWA Building. There, along with the tea and biscuits, she freely dispensed so much personal advice to the office workers, and even to visiting celebrities, that she became known there as “Dorothy Dix”.

Over the years Mum made many trips to Tamworth to visit Bronwyn and Ray and her grandchildren Karen and Paul. There used to be an overnight train with sleeping compartments and Nan would arrive in Tamworth fresh out of bed to be greeted at the station by the family. For a while, her grandchildren believed she lived on the train.

She made many friends in Tamworth and particularly loved the Christian Fellowship at the old Calala Schoolhouse. I would like to quote a couple of verses from a poem she wrote about it:

Many years have passed since children
Came to learn to read and write,
Now Christians come to learn from God,
Things pleasing in His sight.
I would rather worship in that schoolhouse,
Than in any cathedral fair,
There are no spires, no stain-glassed windows,
But God's presence is manifest there

In 2000 Mum and Dad moved to Mountview Apartments in Tamworth to be close to daughter Bronwyn and son-in-law Ray. Once again Mum had to leave her many friends for a new life. But this time she already had friends in the place she was moving to.

I was astounded at the crowd and the obvious love and respect the congregation of the Kingsford Church of Christ had for Mum at her farewell on moving up to Tamworth in 2000. George Ting who was a very close friend of Mum. He drove her to church every Sunday and became to be known as her No. 2 Son. George is here today and I am sure he won't mind if I borrow from the kind words he said about Mum at the Kingsford Farewell He talked about:

Mum's love of poetry began at a young age. She read and memorized a large range of Australian and English poems. She started writing poems when she was young but most of her poems were written after she turned sixty. Her poems have a Christian theme but also contain a wider philosophy on life generally.

I'd like to finish by quoting from a poem written for the year of the disabled in 1981.The last verse neatly sums up Mum's philosophy on life:

All people are our neighbours,
We know this to be true,
So, caring people of the world,
Learn carefully, three things we must do
We must love the Lord our God
With heart and soul and mind,
Love our neighbours as ourselves
And unselfishly serve mankind.

This is a philosophy of life not merely stated but lived. Imagine everyone in the World living their life like this - what a wonderful World it would be!