About Patrick Arthur Turner 'Paddy' McBride, Rev.
Eulogy For Grandpa ‘Mc’ 26/ 2/ 1917 - 29/ 12/ 2003 with love from Sharon
The phone call to go and say goodbye to Grandpa ‘Mc’ came while we were watching The Lord of the Rings on my birthday. Although these two events may seem to be less than fortuitously connected, in fact they provide a significant link to my understanding of the meaning of my grandfather’s life story.
Birthdays remind us that we were all once ‘inconceivable’ and the testimony of his eldest and youngest grandchildren is an acknowledgement of the debt of existence we owe to the commitment my grandfather made to my grandmother. We would not be here, or who we are today, if Patrick McBride had not been the kind of family man he was.
As for the Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien wrote it to my grandfather’s generation - men born during WWI who grew up to fight in WWII. It represented the spirit of their age: which was the question of what it meant to live and to die honourably, and how this journey might bring you home. My grandpa’s life story makes him a man who embodied the spirit of his age - an honourable man who answered the call of duty - once to North Africa, in a war from which his brother, Podgy, did not return; and once to Swaziland, to preach for his God. He was also a man who found his way home - through the places that Richard remembers from his childhood, back to 40 King Street - his family home; and today to this church, where he once preached as its minister.
It is as a minister that he exists so clearly in the memories of my childhood. He was a man of books and his bookshelves always fascinated me - his study in the Malvern manse was probably the reason that I grew up to love walls of books myself. He was also a man of the Word - so that I will always carry with me the resonant sound of his preaching voice echoing in churches in Swaziland; in Pretoria; at my own wedding and those of my brothers; and at the christenings of our children. I know my mother also remembers his voice from her childhood singing to his daughters: “Good night Tricia, Good night Jean, Goodnight Valerie, you’re going to sleep now...”
It is his ears, however, that feature most ‘largely’ in my pre-school images of him. I must have regarded them as magical agents - given that I have one memory of him solemnly dipping his left earlobe into a bowl of soup that I’d declared to be too hot to eat, and telling me that this was incontrovertible proof that it was now the perfect temperature. I was convinced. Especially since these same ears could listen carefully at the chimney in the 40 King Street lounge for the magical appearance of an apparently never-ending supply of Smarties; chocolate medallions; and Dr Pinks’ ‘Pills’ that had the power to heal all tears. And I am not the only one who associates him with sweeties - his daughters remember him running down King street as a young man with them on his shoulders to buy ice-cream cones.
He was a family man throughout the journey of his life. The kind of man who ran out and bought a huge teddy bear when he heard the news that my mother was pregnant, and who was sitting in the waiting room with my father when I was born in a ward just over the road from the Primrose Hill Cemetery where he will be buried. To this day the teddy bear sits in my bedroom watching me sleep.
Memories anchor time and I know there are many other stories of his relationship with all his children and grandchildren. Richard has told you some of his. For all that none of us bear his surname our blood ties to Patrick McBride are strong. This isn’t surprising in a man who dedicated his life to delivering Holy Communion - a ceremony symbolic of the strength of blood ties even beyond death.
At the time when we left the movie house to go and sit in the hospital waiting room, Gandalf was reassuring a hobbit that “death is just another path.” The Irish mystic, John O’Donohue, puts this a different way when he suggests that we ask of life: “While we are here; where is it that we are absent from?” If we are all ‘aliens longing to go home’ then Grandpa Mc’s life journey tells us assuredly that he is a man who has always known his way home.