Josie Tilley

From her Granddaughter, Zoe.

Between gran’s 11 grandchildren, a great grandchild, 3 children and many other loved ones there wasn't a moment where a candle was not lit. Our gran spent countless hours praying for all of us, job interviews, exams, moving country or even if we were just going through a bit of a rough patch. Gran was the third person we would tell anything to. Run to mum, run to dad and always run to Gran. Life will never be how it was, we will all feel this great loss, but our gran will never be forgotten, from simple Sunday dinners to our greatest moments in life we can let go knowing you will always be with us just like you always have. And so today our wonderful gran we light a candle for you, we pray for you, and we smile for you knowing you will forever live in our hearts and our memories.

Today I stand here representing my big brother Louis and my big sister Alisha who with heavy hearts were unable to fly home for our gran’s funeral. In this moment Alisha has written something she would like to share:

‘To have loved and known you is a gift from God. Through my happiest moments you were there: to feel your pride in me is something I will cherish forever. You always told me you wished you were smarter, but I want you to know you taught me more about life than any book ever could. You were my favourite way to spend a day, You, mum, Zoe, and I putting the world to right, as you would say, over fish and chips and cake.

There are no words to fill the hole you’ve left behind, but I know you and grandad are in a tight embrace, finally. Please thank him for letting us keep you for so long. I love you with all my heart, I will miss you every day until we meet again, keep the tea hot and the fizzy juice fizzy for me.’

Over the last few weeks, talking to a few of gran’s friends and relatives, we've heard her be described as soft, gentle and with a quiet nature... This is where my sister Alisha and I would say yeah... you obviously never saw her when she was served lukewarm chips or slightly stale bread, oh dear. One of the greatest things our relationship held with our Gran

was laughter. God, we would wind that poor woman up to her wits’ end, of course you'd know about it if you had, because you'd feel a good old Irish slap on the back of your head.

“The wains” - that was us. Each grandchild who she loves so dearly, what about the wains? How are the wains? Sneaking money into mum's bag, give that to the wains. At Christmas time in the past couple years when Gran struggled to write her cards I would sit with my mum and sister for hours on end writing and stamping cards, safe to say this wasn't our favourite day. A couple times I've even written my own Christmas cards – ‘to Zoe from Gran’ - I would tease her and say that everyone got two kisses and I got three, because I'm the favourite. Saying this would definitely earn an Irish slap. Because our Gran was always fair, always kind and tried in her many ways to show us her love, I'm sure it's safe to say from all of us that we felt it.

Gran was wise, Lord knows she'd have her moments that would make us raise an eyebrow, but when it mattered most, she would say just a few words and I swear it would warm your heart and catch the butterflies in your tummy. Gran, I promise to keep laughing with you and to look to the skies when I need your guidance, not a day will go by where I don't think of you. You have always and will always be so loved.

And from her Grandson, Christopher

Ask anyone about Josie Tilley and they will tell you she was a lovely lady. She was, but she was so much more. Born in 1932 as the third youngest of 8 the life of Josephine O’Donnell began in controversy. When her birth was registered the registrar, who was not sober at the time, recorded the wrong date. He begged her father not to report it or he would lose his job so Josephine officially came into this world two months before she was born. Gran loved being part of a large family. Some of her happiest times were spent in the middle of all her siblings and their families with 7 different conversations going on at once. Even when she was very ill she was so happy to have her friends and family visit and said it felt just like Ireland. As a young woman Josie loved going out and dancing. It was at a dance that she met my grandad. On their first date he brought her a box of chocolates. She thanked him and then told him to take them home as he would get hungry later. As all her family know this was not the last time she would do this. Gran and Grandad married in 1958. On honeymoon she asked if they would still hold hands when they were older. I can confirm that they, much to their teenage children’s disgust, continued to hold hands until my Grandad died in 1984. Gran never stopped missing Grandad and it is of great comfort to the family that they are reunited now. Gran was one of the strongest people I have known. She lived through WW2, when they would go out into the street when there was an air raid, and the harsh times that followed. When she married she left her beloved Derry and moved to Wales and then Edinburgh where they settled. It must have been so difficult and frightening but she faced it head on. She lived with the knowledge that Grandad had heart issues and would likely die early. She nursed him through a number of heart attacks and kept going until her worst fears came true. She then found the strength to keep going for their children. She even brought her mother in law to live with her and looked after her when she developed dementia. Gran was very modest and self deprecating. She would never believe she was good at anything and was always surprised when she won a bowling match or tournament. She would dismiss any praise she received and always found excuses for her success. She was very proud of all her family and their achievements. She would be the first to tell you about an exam passed, a match won or a new job. Her shelves were full of pictures but perhaps her most favourite picture was taken on her 80th birthday where she sat surrounded by her 3 children and 11 grandchildren. It was a surprise party and she was totally shocked that we had gone to all that trouble for her. She never felt deserving of peoples kindness but no-one deserved it more. Gran had a wicked sense of humour and loved being around people. It got more difficult for her as her hearing deteriorated but she still enjoyed the company even if she couldn’t fully join in the conversation. She found the strangest things funny and her laugh was the most joyful sound. As Gran got so frail in later years it would be easy to forget the beautiful energetic vibrant woman she was. She loved to travel, the more exotic the better. She would travel on her own to meet Majella wherever she was and was not adverse to jumping on the back of a moped to get to the shops. Family legend says she once agreed to sell Aunt Dalores for a turkish rug in Istanbul when they were shopping on their own. She loved her family fiercely and would do anything to support them. No matter how difficult the situation was for her she would always be there for us. She may not have always approved of the choices we made but we could always rely on her to stand by us. Gran was a very devout Catholic and believed strongly in the power of prayer. Any time any of us faced a difficult situation she would light a candle and say a prayer for us. When she was very ill she took great comfort in the visits from the Eucharistic Ministers. Gran was the last of her generation. She lived a full life and was blessed to have a peaceful death. She was a tiny woman who has left a giant hole in many lives. I take comfort in imagining her laughing with her brother and sisters and dancing with grandad, happy again at last