notes from a small curate
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Eulogy for Muriel Jessie Murton
St Luke's Crosby, 15 February 2005
In the sadness at having to say goodbye to Muriel today, and with the shock at having lost her so suddenly still raw, perhaps we may find some comfort in the words of that great psalm.
For it is about a soul who knows that they have been surrounded by God's love from their very beginning, and who continues to be surrounded by that love beyond what we, today, may be tempted to call the end.
We are sad because we loved her and she is not with us any more, but today is not the end for Muriel. Let the psalm speak to us again:
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother's womb...
As the family fondly know, Muriel was born to Jessie and Cyril Davies on the sixteenth of August 1930, the younger sister to Dorothy and Gladys and later, an older sister to Les. Like the rest of them she spent most of her early years in King Street, where the family lived in not just one, but two or three houses over the years, a little Waterloo dynasty.
Mother and grandparents were devout folk, chapel, and Muriel attended Christ Church school, so many of her activities as a child revolved around church things - and this was to be a constant throughout her life.
But she took her enjoyment in other places too. She had her youth in wartime when people worked hard and played hard, and she and Gladys used to enjoy escaping from their older sister Dorothy and enjoying some of the benefits of war - going dancing, meeting the sailors, having fun together.
When Muriel left school she went into hairdressing, learning her craft at Hills on South Road. And it was in the Golden Goose Cafe on South Road that Muriel met Fred Murton, in port with the Merchant Navy. They began courting, married in 1953 in the chapel in Tarporley which was Jessie's home, and a decade later brought Allison into the world.
In time Muriel became a proud and loving grandmother to Jasmine and Jade (and Jade's beautiful words earlier on in this service tell how much they love her).
The psalmist says to God, you are familiar with all my ways. Muriel had many ways about her, many good ways, ways which enriched the lives of those close to her.
For instance, she was hard-working. When Allison was young she kept up the hairdressing by going mobile, did that for many years. And she also worked in some demanding care jobs. Especially perhaps St Christopher's on Chesterfield Road, which was what you might call a school for naughty girls, a remand school, a tough place. But people there appreciated her, girls and staff, as they did in a similar institution in Formby where she worked some years later.
Muriel also made plenty of time for enjoying life; in younger days that included dancing - at Mr Fletchers, Oxford Road, and other places like the Floral Hall. Throughout her life it included foreign holidays. She loved them, whether to Israel, Morocco, Croatia, Florence, Greece, or - her favourite - Spain - Muriel would be off as often as she could be. Whether with Allison or Dorothy or a friend or on her own, she enjoyed each break she made.
At home her enjoyment of life came out in the music she listened to - Muriel loved opera, Pavarotti and others like him, and on TV and in books she loved getting into a murder mystery, Midsomer Murders and so on. And those close to her will also be familiar with this mental picture of Muriel - quietly enjoying a small cigar and a glass of G&T.
Perhaps Muriel enjoyed herself most of all when she was shopping. She was a serious shopper. In Liverpool, in Southport, on those twice-monthly trips to Bury Market to meet up with Gladys - on every trip Muriel would exercise her good eye for a bargain, and bring home many things. Bags, clothes, shoes - and hats. She loved it. Allison and Steve now have the difficult job of working through all the stuff she has left behind from all those shopping trips. As many of her bargains came from charity shops, perhaps they'll soon be returning back there, where someone else can have the enjoyment Muriel obviously relished - of searching for a bargain, and finding one.
My soul you know well, says the psalmist. Today, God embraces a soul which was kind - we can say that with confidence because we know Muriel loved animals, especially cats, and it takes kindness to care for animals.
And today God embraces a soul which was always energetic - a very active woman who made the most of life, who enjoyed exploring all that it offered to her.
And God embraces a soul which was devout - in her own way Muriel stayed faithful to the faith of our family's elders, a regular here at St Luke's in her later years, chorister, attender at fellowship meetings, someone who enjoyed doing the reading in church and who I know did a lot to organise Christian worship at St Christopher's during her time there.
Where can I go from your spirit?
from your presence where can I flee?
We have to say goodbye to Muriel today, and there is sadness in that. But I'm confident that she shared the Christian hope many of us have, which is that death is not the end, just a stage on a journey. That hope tells us that God has a place for Muriel and that she's there now, happy to put all her suffering behind her, happy to be in a good, new home.