18 February 2024

Farewell my lovely.....

In loving memory of 

Amanda Jane Blacknell Gibbs


March 5th 1954 – February 1st 2024

La Voce Del Silenzio,’ [The Voice of Silence] Andrea Bocelli


Welcome – Richard Gibbs

Welcome all, and thank you so much for gathering here today to celebrate the life of (my wife) Amanda Jane Blacknell Gibbs.  The entrance music was sung byAndrea Bocelli, and Amanda loved his music since, in June 1997, we were guests of Kiri Te Kanawa at a gala evening in Hampton Court where Andrea was the support act..... (forgive the name drop, but it would have tickled Amanda....)


Try not to be sad, but please feel free to cry – we may - and I have alerted Anglian Water who are used to dealing with floods round here (though it may mean that the road will be closed for a few days....)


You may perhaps have expected a priest in this place, but Dan, the Vicar of Snettisham, was away and David Stancliffe, the retired Bishop of Salisbury, who married us almost forty years ago, is unfortunately officiating at another funeral today so could not be here.  Although Amanda did not often attend church during much of our married life, she was brought up by Dorothy and Bernard to be a Christian Scientist.  Then, following her diagnosis, she found her faith in God an enormous help to her, so today, as I know she would appreciate, we are using the traditional Christian format and words to honour her.


We meet in the name of Jesus Christ,

who died and was raised to the glory of God the Father.

Grace and peace be with you.

We have come here today

to remember before God Amanda Jane Blacknell Gibbs;

to give thanks for her life;

to commend her to God our merciful redeemer and judge;

to commit her body to be cremated,

and to comfort one another in our grief.


Address by Sarah Blacknell Gibbs

What mum wanted was this to be a celebration.

I'm not a good public speaker and I'm very upset; please bear with me....

I'm going to share some good memories I have of mum and some of the things she taught me.

First mum taught me about art, and led to my lifelong love for the subject. She used to take me down to The Licensed Victuallers’ pond and we would sit on the grass and paint and draw the water lilies. I remember being on the grass slope in the sun laughing with her and her encouraging me and praising my childish attempts saying, "Isn't this fun!" She would take me and Hannah to the Tate Modern, always saying that Edgar Degas’s ballerina statue reminded her of me.

One thing mum was always persuading me to do, and it took years and three tests, despite getting the wrong day for one! And I finally passed my driving test. I never wanted to as I found it so stressful but now, I'm forever grateful she encouraged and enthused me. She taught me the importance of independence and perseverance, and I remember her happy tears when I came home with my pass! I first learnt in Granny Dorothy’s little blue mini! She taught me to drive and have drive at the same time.

Another thing she taught me was kindness. I only ever remember seeing her angry once in my whole life. We were at Harpenden station I was waiting in the car. She came out from trying to book some advance tickets with a strange atmosphere. I didn't recognize it because she was never mad!  She then let out the only time I say her swear, the f word! Although she quickly calmed down after telling me the man had been 'quite rude.'

Even when I had problems with a teacher or student at school and came home upset, she would never take my side even when I wanted her to. She would always say think about them and what they might be going through, which as I grew up, I have taken on and it has helped in many situations. That's the kind of person she was, always empathetic, rational and always thinking of others.

The most important thing she taught me was love. I was always surrounded by a warm blanket of pure love. She always supported me; she always encouraged me and she always would listen. She showed me what a wonderful pure marriage should look like, with my wonderful dad Richard. She was an amazing daughter to Granny Dorothy, dropping everything when she was in need, showing me despite life's stresses and ‘over-importantised’ appointments; Love and family come first. She was an amazing sister to auntie Joy, always on the phone or in Bristol listening and aiding. She was the perfect mother.  I'm so incredibly grateful for every second I spent with her cuddling watching the Simpsons, or cooking delicious food, walking around the common and picking flowers and on girls’ trips to London laughing by the Thames, or swimming in the Mediterranean or reading our books in the sun. I just wish we all had more time but the time we had while she was well couldn't have been more perfect.

To my mum.


Hymn: ‘Make me a channel of your peace’


Make me a channel of your peace:
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
where there is injury, your healing power,
and where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

Make me a channel of your peace:
where there’s despair in life let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light,
and where there’s sadness, ever joy.

O, Spirit, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace:
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving to all that we receive,
and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.



Address by Hannah Blacknell Gibbs

It is hard to choose what to say in a situation like this. I probably started planning what I would say six years ago, and I used to say things out loud to mum when I took her for walks, although she didn’t understand, or at least that’s what I told myself to explain when she didn’t find it funny.

I thought I’d describe some key things about her. She was very loving, quiet but organised. She liked animals, big views, nature, Rod Stewart. She was creative and kind. She had what she called a present box, which was a collection of things available at any time for Sarah or I to use for last minute birthday presents for our friends. She also, when she was ill, made years worth of cards, that some of you might remember receiving. So Sarah, dad and I, as well as our family and her dear friends, have birthday and Christmas cards until 2029.

She was never extravagant. She was subtle and gentle. She liked dressing well like an Italian. She liked matching jewellery, keeping tidy, and her kind example steered Sarah and me without forcing us, to be gracious and care about beauty. She felt very supported by some Christian Science beliefs; she was interested in Buddhism; she felt everything was connected.

She also had a great sense of mischief and cheekiness. For her 55th birthday celebrations the four of us were in Anguillara near where we used to live in Italy. We were walking down a jetty on the lake to a restaurant in the evening, and I had just rolled and lit a cigarette. She took the cigarette out of my hand, and initially I thought she was going to throw it in the lake, but then she looked closely at it. I said mum, “I thought you’ve given up smoking,” and she said “of course!” And then she took a long drag.

Mum was present in my life in two key ways. She was a source of comfort and consolation when I was sad. She was a model of kindness to me. I hope I can convey in my own life the generosity and genuine interest in people she showed. The second way, was when I helped look after her. In doing that she, without knowing it, taught me a new kind of kindness. When I took her for walks, helped her eat, washed her hair, and got her dressed, I learnt how to be kind in ways I never knew I could be kind. 

The main way she was present in my life was through her joy in life. She was happy and almost always smiling and laughing. I really enjoyed sharing time with her and my friends and many of you. Thank you to all of you here who helped make her life what it was. I hope she made you all happy because she made me so happy. I miss everything, the good and the bad. I miss taking care of her, but we will learn to have fun again. 

Thanks for everything mum.  


Hymn: ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’


Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways;
reclothe us in our rightful mind,
in purer lives thy service find,
in deeper reverence, praise,
in deeper reverence praise.

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
till all our strivings cease;
take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
the beauty of thy peace,
the beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
thy coolness and thy balm;
let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm
O still, small voice of calm!


Address by Richard Gibbs

Some years ago, Amanda gave me a note that was headed, “If (& when!) it’s time for my funeral.....”She then put that she didn’t really like that word (funeral), “So could it be a celebration of life around here please?”


She added, “A few suggestions which might be helpful to whoever has to put it all together (Good luck to you!)”


So here we are.  To celebrate a wonderful life, which as we now know slipped gradually into oblivion over the last twelve years and came to a sad end a fortnight ago.  Yes, we are so very sad, but let us be glad that she is at rest now and let us be so very grateful for all the happiness and love she gave us in her (almost) seventy years.....


She wanted, “A nice picture of a smiley me” – well, I have trawled my collection - on my phone alone there are over ten thousand pictures of Amanda. And they are ALL SMILEY!  


And she wanted, “Lots of thanks for such lovely times, so much fun experienced, very dear lovely family (including furry members!) kind friends & colleagues throughout life.  Wonderful times in Italy & here!”


Then she wrote, “Dear family and those who [are here now], Try not to feel sad, but happy & grateful for all we’ve shared & learned together.....”


Amanda was born in Bristol on March 5th 1954, then was taken, with her sister, Joy, by their parents to Birmingham for a few years before returning to grow up in Bristol, where she attended the Red Maids School, with her dear friends Sal and Rache.  She went on to gain a Certificate of Education (for the age range 2 – 9 years) at Bishops Otter College in Chichester. 


I first met Amanda in 1978.  On June 19th, 1978, Roberto Sciò an Italian businessman, who had employed Amanda as nanny for three of his children, wrote her a reference.  “Through her steadiness and reliability, Amanda has given my children the security and confidence they need and has proven that she is absolutely capable of accepting complete responsibility for them with dedication.....”


“We have no hesitation whatsoever,” he concluded, “in recommending Amanda to anyone.....”


I completely endorse these words.  Our own children could not have had a better mother.  I could not have had a better wife.  So, as Amanda left us on the first of this month, I immediately forwarded Roberto’s reference to St Peter at the Pearly Gates, using express delivery, and have every confidence that she will have been admitted to the most deserved heaven without question.


One of my first memories of being with Amanda, was on a date in Rome.  I was struck by her natural charm and on that particular evening something she said struck me as being crystal clear, intelligent and enlightened.  It was an epiphany.  The sad thing, however, is that I have no idea what it was that she said.....  I have racked my brain for years, but all that remains is her smile.


Early in our relationship, her friend Hilary lent Amanda her car, and we sped up to Monte Amiata in Tuscany for a weekend by the fireplace in my friends’ David and Sarah’s house.  It was a perfect time, and over the years we returned to that enchanted place, in due course taking our two girls with us again and again.


Another magical time was when she had just returned from a holiday in the United States with her friends Hilary and Penny.  I was house-sitting a villa with a pool in Casal Palocco, and she came out to see me.  There was some kind of football match on, and then - as Italy won the World Cup - we drove back into Rome, with every car horn blaring and huge flags flying from the backs of Vespas.  It was joyous bedlam and we felt that the cheers, the happiness could have been just for us....


We loved Italy together, and especially Tuscany.  On a particular, warm evening in the Campo in Siena, having had dinner and wine, a strange feeling came over me, and I asked her if she would like to be married?  I wasn’t actually thinking of me, but for some reason she agreed....


So, in 1984, we married.  Then we spent a year back in Burton in Lonsdale as I took an MA.  Amanda, resourceful as ever, worked as a waitress in the Snooty Fox in Kirkby Lonsdale.  One night we drove our red Renault 4 to see a film in Kendal.  For some reason a police roadblock flagged us down in the dark and a young PC tapped on Amanda’s window. When he saw what a charming young signorina was driving, he blushed and apologised and waved her on....  Not realising that it was a left-hand drive car and I was actually at the wheel.....


And then there was the dancing.  She was nimble, and had such delight in moving to music.  Sadly, I am not graceful, and so there were times when she danced alone – to Madness, on the TV, to street musicians in the Forum in Rome, with complete strangers in a square in Tenerife or Almeria, or just spontaneously with her daughters.  I tried, but as ever she was too light and fresh for me.


Since her passing, we have had literally hundreds of messages of condolence and love.  Some have come from people she taught in Rome, many years ago now.  Some have come from boarders she cared for when we were at the Licensed Victuallers’ School in Ascot.  Some have come from colleagues of Amanda’s at the schools she taught at since our move to Harpenden.  Others from dear friends and family who cannot join us today.  It is so heart-warming (though also heart-breaking) to know that she was so loved.  Thanks to everyone who is here now and to those who are here in spirit.


And she also wrote; “Note that I will have moved on somewhere and look forward to seeing you all there some time.....”  and she concluded by quoting one of her favourite prayers, “Everlasting arms of love are beneath, around, above – God it is who bears us on. His, the arms we lean upon.  The joy that none can take away, is ours.  We walk with love today.”


Farewell, my lovely.  Rest in peace.  Ci vedremmo subito....



Support us, Lord,

all the day long of this troublous life,

until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes,

the busy world is hushed,

the fever of life is over

and our work is done.

Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging,

a holy rest, and peace at the last;

through Christ our Lord.




The Lord’s Prayer


Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come. 
Thy will be done in earth, 
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us. 
And lead us not into temptation, 
But deliver us from evil. 
For thine is the kingdom, 
The power, and the glory, 
For ever and ever. 



We have entrusted our sister Amanda to God’s mercy,

and we now commit her body to be cremated:

earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust:

in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life

through the Lord Jesus Christ,

who will transform our frail bodies

that they may be conformed to his glorious body,

who died, was buried, and rose again for us.

To him be glory for ever.





Have I told you lately that I love you?’ – Rod Stewart 




After the funeral service we gathered in the Rose and Crown, Snettisham, for a reception in Amanda's memory.  It was a happy and very friendly occasion, with lots of local people who had not been able to come to the Crematorium joining us.

Final words


Thank you for coming and gathering here.  I apologise for the crush - to be honest I did not anticipate such a turnout, but Hannah, Sarah and I are very grateful for your love and support, and I know that Amanda herself would be delighted, and would dance with each of you.  We realise that not everyone met her, and certainly many will not have known her before the decline set in, especially those who have only encountered us since our move here, but in the early days in Snettisham, still locked down, Amanda loved our walks around the village, to the church, and beyond, and she, and I, were well cared for by many of you in differing ways.  


Thank you again, and let us raise a glass to her everlasting spirit.


And now, Hannah would like to read a short poem she has written:


And, if you will permit me, I would like to sing my last words.  This is a sweet little song by Johnny Cash, which I used to sing occasionally to and with Amanda when we were young.  

It is called, “I still miss someone.”


At my door the leaves are falling

A cold wild wind will come

Sweethearts walk by together

And I still miss someone.....

Hannah also prepared a Book of Remembrance, which everyone signed.

And, with many thanks to those who have already contributed to The National Brain Appeal in Amanda's memory (we have now reached over £5,000 which will go to assist research into rare dementias and to help people, like us, who have suffered) all were invited to add donations if they wish.  The link is:


1 comment:

  1. Lovely thoughts for a lovely lady endowed with a natural goodness