What a splendid and well deserved send off for Diana at St Mary’s in July. The church was full, a mark of how many people’s lives she touched – in friendship, in the family, in work, in the church, and in outreach through voluntary work. In the previous newsletter we had a chance to read Peter’s address from Diana’s funeral and the tribute by her elder brother Johnnie. Here Emrys has given me the opportunity to add a little more about Diana, and to take a few things from the (other) tributes of her colleague Elaine Kelman and her stepson Olly.
Diana was a month older than me and our lives coincided in several ways. She was also a speech and language therapist, whom I had known since I was a student although we didn’t ever study or work together; also a member of St Mary’s since the eighties; and for many years a neighbour in the next street. There were many ways in which our lives touched, and I admired her hugely.
At St Mary’s Diana’s loyalty, reliability and wisdom were quickly noticed and put to good use. She became fully involved in the church and was soon a church warden and a parish representative chosen to select a new vicar. She was an early member of the Meadbank team, visiting and taking services. And she stepped into some big shoes, putting her hand up when everyone was asking who on earth could take over from Mary Edgdale as ‘queen of the cake stall’ and from Len Bridge as the lead welcomer. It’s wonderful that her involvement as a committee member with the Friends of Battersea Church in the 1980s led to her meeting Geoffrey and Barbara Goodwin. To quote Olly: ‘we were delighted to see Diana bring about a dramatic transformation in Geoffrey’s outlook on life following the death of our mother. Diana and Geoffrey really did seem to be made for each other; they shared a love of the arts, and of sailing, and both had a life-long connection with the same small corner of the Isle of Wight. Diana needed little encouragement from Geoffrey to bring out her playful side; and Geoffrey needed only a little more encouragement from Diana to curb his greater excesses!’
As a speech and language therapist Elaine described Diana as ‘our colleague, our manager, our mentor, our educator and our role model’. She was an expert clinician working mostly with adults who had suffered strokes or other neurological problems, swallowing or voice problems. And she rose through the ranks quickly, moving into managing the service in Camden and Islington, and then managed a cross borough speech and language therapy service of the highest repute, which has remained a gold standard for the profession. She was awarded the honours of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in 1996; and was one of five national nominees as The Guardian’s Public Servant of the Year in 2004. Elaine spoke of Diana’s efficiency and smartness which could make one feel in awe of her. But she also spoke of her warmth and kindness; her quirky and mischievous sense of humour; and her respect and positive regard for everyone, be they patients, doctors, the cleaner, her colleagues and on one occasion, Prince Charles!
It was hard for all those who were close to Diana to see her become increasingly incapacitated, especially losing the ability to communicate effectively. As Olly so movingly said: ‘It seemed to us particularly cruel that, after so many years selflessly giving her time to help others in need, she was struck down by this condition which gradually deprived her of these skills and made her increasingly reliant on help. Nevertheless, she employed her qualities of fortitude, tenacity and quiet determination to fight this, and always downplayed its effects on her, and the struggle she had to keep it at bay. Everyone already had the greatest of affection and admiration for Diana, and this was just magnified by the dignified way she dealt with this dreadful illness.’
It seems to me that Diana was one of those people who although she died early had spent her shorter time on earth so fully and so well. May God bless her and by his grace help us to live wisely and abundantly.