Shirley Vera JEFFERY (Mrs. BEACH)
(May 17, 1927 - August 11, 2007)
Funeral Service and Eulogy
It is with the greatest sadness that I must announce the passing of my darling girl in the Cardiac Care Unit of the Nepean Hospital, Penrith NSW at 4:15am on Saturday - August 11, 2007.
Shirley had initially taken sick around the time of her eightieth birthday in May after a vitamin capsule had become lodged in her throat as she was trying to swallow it and the resulting tear and irritation had caused an asthma attack. She was administered Prednisone and Ventolin initially and this seemed to bring all under control at the time. She was, in fact, quite well when we were treated to a visit by eldest son, Julian who is resident at the Stockton Centre in Stockton NSW on May 23, 2007. Stockton had organised to bring he and another resident down for a two day holiday as neither we nor the other person's parents had been able to visit for sometime.
We'd planned to drive to Sydney for the first weekend in June to celebrate as this would be the mid-point between both our birthdays and when friends got wind of it they decided to hold a combined birthday party for us also doubling as a benefit for myself as I had been diagnosed with inoperable and incurable Prostate Cancer some six months prior on our 20th Wedding Anniversary.
Sadly, what started out as a promising sojourn rapidly developed into a nightmare with our room booking being stuffed up and both of us suffering falls at our lodgings. Me hurting my chest as I fell onto a chair and my darling Shirley slipping backwards on a wet floor in the shared bathroom and landing heavily in the shower cubicle bashing her head on the wall and gashing her shin.
By the time we arrived back home from Sydney on the Monday she had developed a severe cold that very quickly became Pleurisy and she had to be treated with antibiotics.
As she was unable to swallow tablets, or capsules and was allergic to penicillin she was given a suspension liquid (E.S.S.) to be taken morning and night and all seemed to start clearing up.
On June 20th we went to see our local GP again because the toes of her right foot were going somewhat blue in colour and there were open wounds on them, assumed to be from chilblains. It was suggested that she also go to Lithgow Hospital to have her toenails cut, although when we got there, and after waiting for some two hours, we were told that they did not do such a thing and she would have to see a podiatrist. An appointment was also made with a vascular specialist in Penrith for June 30th. However, after discovering that there was little or no parking close to the rooms the appointment was and one was made with an Orange-based specialist for August 30th. Sadly, we would never make this appointment.
We went out to Bathurst in late June where she saw the podiatrist and had her nails cut and cleaned up and she was in reasonably high spirits when we returned.
As June wore into July we both became rather ill will nasty colds, hers obviously stretching back into the realms of Pleurisy and my own getting close to and by the end of the month she had been placed on a relatively strong antibiotic pill while I was on Augmentin. I had gotten to the point of being unable to lie down in bed and breathe at the same time and finished up spending most of our last four nights together trying to sleep on the settee with the gas fire on and a blanket wrapped around me while my darling was in the bed in a sitting position propped up with pillows and the electric blanket on.
I awoke at around 5:30am on Sunday - August 5 to find Shirley awake, as she had been all night, and phoned for the ambulance at around 6:30am which arrived sometime between then and 7:30am.
It was a freezing cold morning and the breeze made it even more so and they had her walk out to the ambulance - it must be said that the temperature took even my own breath away as I walked out with them.
The ambulance left and I followed on a few minutes later after seeing to the animals arriving at Lithgow Hospital Emergency around 8:00am and staying with her until they had shifted her to the wards about mid-afternoon. What amazed me then and still does is the fact that after checking her blood pressure and getting two wildly differing readings from her left to her right arm that no further investigation was done into why and it was decided that further readings would be taken from the right arm as that was the closest to a normal reading. The actual cause of this, it was discovered two days later in Nepean, was an embolism in her left arm that needed to be dissolved.
By the Monday afternoon it was decided that she needed to be moved from Lithgow to Nepean's Cardiac Care Unit as she appeared to have had a 'mild heart attack' during the overnight period from Sunday to Monday and they flew her down in the helicopter around 10:30pm on the Monday night - I followed the next morning after staying with friends in Lithgow overnight and arrived at the Nepean Hospital around 9:00am on Tuesday - August 7th. As with Lithgow, Nepean managed to completely screw up the admission details from the spelling of our family name to her being a 'Pensioner' and therefore a 'Public' rather than a 'Private' patient, all of which I had to get sorted before I could sit beside her, hold her hand and try to gain some comfort in being with her.
During the morning we were told the seriousness of the embolism and what they were doing to alleviate that situation, we were also told that she had now developed pneumonia and that they were trying to fight that off with antibiotics as well as bring her asthma under control.
The biggest problem in the end was that she hadn't been eating and was now under 30kg in weight and was getting weaker by the minute and I was actually told by the doctors on the Friday morning as she was slipping into a coma that it wasn't so much that her illness wasn't treatable as the fact that she no longer had any strength with which to fight and that she was going to die. Perhaps within the next hour or so. Marc was finally able to get to her bedside by around 3:30 in the afternoon after battling with buses, trains and cabs and we were both with her when she finally passed at 4:15am the following morning.
Over most of the last twelve months of her life my sweet girl had hardly eaten a thing and was down to around 30-35kg (fully clothed) by the time of our last visit to our own GP in late July.
In the time since I have been told many times that my pain will subside with the passing of time, although I must say that I don't believe this to be the case. The truth of the matter is that before Shirley I had no-one and nothing and then she came along and made me feel as if I were the richest of men as long as she was by my side. I had found my true heart and soul and could face anything as long as she was with me. I believe that she felt the same way about myself.
I know that when ever I was on tour with the band in the nineties I hated being away from my darling and my home and only ever enjoyed it when she was there with me. I also know that when she was in the States on holiday in May/June 1986 she was missing me the whole time and just wanted to be back home beside me.
Time will NOT heal the wound! Shirley was all I ever had and all I ever wanted, I hated being away from her then and hate being away from her now and do hope that I am wrong in my beliefs and that there is an afterlife and that she is waiting for me.
Rod BEACHHEAD Jeffery
April 25, 2008
Eulogy delivered by Kevin Casey at Funeral Service: Wednesday - August 22nd, 2007
A few days ago Rod phoned and asked if I, as a long time friend of both Shirley and Rod, would deliver Shirley's eulogy today. Naturally, I agreed. I consider it an honour to be asked to do so.
But later, thinking over connotations of the word "eulogy" I started having second thoughts. The word to me conveys meanings of finality and I feel that this occasion is not the finality of Shirley's life: she will live on in the memories of all who knew her as well as the memories of her friends. I am proud to have been among Shirley's circle of friends. So, rather than a eulogy, allow me just talk about our friend, Shirley.
I first met Shirley about 25 years ago, when I started frequenting the Court House Hotel in Redfern, where the late John Edgecombe had a band. Among the regulars was Ray Horsnell. I knew Ray by sight and by reputation as a good reed player in various big bands, but had never actually met him. Sitting with him at the bar was a small, quietly spoken woman; Ray's wife, Shirley. Over a period of weeks we got talking; small chit chat, as one does in these circumstances. At this stage this was my only contact with Shirley.
Shortly after this, Ray Horsnell died suddenly and Shirley seemed to drop out of sight. Some time later my wife Heather and I were at the Three Weeds Hotel in Rozelle when Shirley came in one day. We started talking again and gradually became firm friends. A strong bond was forged by our mutual interest in jazz [and maybe in pubs where jazz was played; one went with the other.]
Shirley and I both became Committee members of the Jazz Action Society, where we served for some years: Shirley as Secretary and I as Newsletter Editor. In a way we formed an internal bloc; fighting off the forces of reaction, as we saw it. Shirley was a meticulous Secretary, minuting minutes of meetings precisely. I remember one particularly stormy meeting when I lost my cool and stormed out of the meeting. In the minutes of that meeting Shirley wrote something along the lines of 'Kevin Casey said, "Bugger this, I'm off. I'll see you at the Soup!" picked up his papers and left'. And I did!
Shirley's appearance and demeanour reflected her professional life of the time, as a schoolteacher. In fact, some people thought she was a Sunday school teacher. But beneath her mild mannered exterior lurked "Party Girl!" She liked to enjoy her life and friends were fully engaged in everything she did. I have fond memories of her dancing on the bar of the Royal Hotel in Parkes during one of the annual Jazz Triduums. Great fun!
Heather and I would pick Shirley up from her place of work at Granville Tech on a Friday morning, to take her to the Triduum. Almost invariably she would be carpeted on Tuesday for skiving off early on Friday, to which she would say "Sorry" and do the same the following year. She had her priorities right.
Sometime in 1985 or 86 she met Rod Jeffery and many of her friends [myself included] felt that she had made a wrong choice. The combination of the schoolteacher and the big hairy blues singer seemed improbable. Improbable or not, they married in December 1986 and the union continued until Shirley's passing, with Rod becoming a supportive and adoring husband.
Through her life Shirley was no stranger to family tragedy and ill health, but her indomitable spirit helped her raise herself over her troubles and get on with her life.
During their married lives Shirley and Rod moved home several times: from West Ryde to Katoomba; to Lithgow and finally to Portland, where they became part of the community and the community has been very generous and supportive of them. With all these moves, ever westward, I often wondered if Rod would give up the blues and become a Country and Western singer.
Our thoughts go out to Rod and to Shirley's son, Marcus and the rest of her family.
Shirley was a unique person and she will be sorely missed. But this is not a time for tears: it is a time to celebrate a full and unique life.
But to paraphrase a philosopher whose name escapes me: Weep not for Shirley, for she is beyond tears: rather, weep for ourselves, for our lives are the poorer for her passing.
It is now with great sadness that I must report the passing of Kevin Casey on Sunday evening - December 27, 2009.
Kevin had been ill for some time with Prostate Cancer and, sadly, a short time ago this evening I received a call from his daughter saying that his battle was now over.
Rest easily old friend!