Katie and Ruth delivered this eulogy at Emma’s memorial event, 30th September 2013.
When Errollyn asked whether I might possibly talk on behalf of a group of Emma’s Manchester friends, my first thought was that it was too big an Ask, and that I wasn’t up to the job. But then, very quickly, an image of Emma came to my mind. I recalled conversations that I’d had with her about gender balance at conferences and talks and I knew that Katie and I had to do it. We owed it to Emma to do it, however hard it might be. She was always so encouraging of me and my work and had a belief in my own skills that I didn’t always have. So, I just imagined her voice telling me that I could do it with so much conviction that I believed that I could do it too.
When we got together to write about Emma we spent some time recalling times that we’d spent with her and words that we associated with her. Here are some of them:
Emma was a force. A force to be reckoned with. She was brilliant. In the true sense of the word: Intelligent, capable. A shining jewel. Quite simply, she sparkled. Almost everything about her sparkled – her smile and her eyes and even her amazing shining hair.
James and I spent a lot of time with Emma over the last few years, with other people and often just the three of us. We shared our lives, with trips to the Cornerhouse, playing out in Chorlton, and drinking tea together. It felt like she had always been there.
Whenever we were with Emma, there was laughter. Usually hers, but also ours too. She’d sit and laugh at our jokes and made us feel as if we were really funny. Her laugh was just something really special.
Emma loved Manchester and especially her house. It was a happy place for her, full of the things she loved. Emma was close to all her neighbours and often had their children helping her in the garden to earn some extra pocket money. It was an enjoyable place and felt like my second home.
Unpredictable was another word that came up when we remembered Emma. Fun yes, and unpredictable. You never quite knew what was going to happen when you were around Emma. We sometimes felt envious of that ability to just let go – and sometimes felt uncomfortable at the same time.
She was someone who was up for anything – she encouraged us to do all sorts of cultural and interesting things and pushed us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it would be a success – and sometimes a disaster! But there would always be a good story out of it. This was something that came up again and again for all of us.
She was full of ideas and always seemed to be thinking of a way to make the world better. Mention an idea to Emma and she would immediately start thinking of a practical way to make that happen. She had a really strong sense of justice and of wanting to right some of society’s wrongs – whether that would be gender inequality, mental health stigma or on making Manchester a more cycling friendly city.
Music was a big part of Emma’s life and she was part of a singing group that met regularly called Singing for Larks. She found Larks a supportive group in good times and in bad. People there became part of her social life too – and I’m one of them.
Tori also met Emma through singing. They were drawn to each other as two single women on the quest to find true love! Tori described Emma as her partner in crime.
Justin remembers going to a ceilidh with Emma about a year ago. This is his memory. “It’s great dancing with Ruth but because her of wrists, she can’t be swung very fast, but Emma loved it. She loved to be swung until her feet were off the floor. I was at the limit of my strength, swinging her round faster and faster”.
I love this memory and image of Emma and think it says something about Emma’s attitude toward life – she wanted the exhilaration of being spun faster and faster. She had so much zest and HUNGER for experience. But she had a hunger for understanding, and compassion too. The flip side of her need for exhilaration and stimulation was the fact that she couldn’t find peace.
We could go on for hours about our memory of Emma, but the biggest word missing so far is perhaps the most important. Emma was our friend. She meant different things to each of us, but ALL of us feel that we could tell Emma anything and she wouldn’t judge us. She would listen, know the right things to say and she just ‘got’ us. We hope she knew that we were there for her too – whenever she needed us. It wasn’t always easy to be Emma’s friend, her illness knocked weeks or months out of her life. It was so chaotic and we all so desperately wanted her to be well.
She was our friend but at times she made us feel so ordinary not knowing so much or being interested in so many things. But she also made us better, and happier and special for knowing her and knowing the people she introduced us to. She was a force but she was also unbelievably at times so vulnerable. Sometimes it was all you could do to keep up with her, let alone protect her. We all thought Emma was a brilliant person and it makes us sad that she didn’t see herself in the way that we saw her. We’re left with a massive void, an Emma shaped hole in our lives.
We hope she knew how much she meant to us all, how much she will be missed. She was our friend and we will hold her memory close. We will always love Emma and she will always be in our hearts.
Cormac, James, Katie, Tori, Justin and Ruth.