You have left the biggest hole in our hearts and a mark in our memories – it is hard to put into words the gap that you have left behind.
You were Doris or Doll to most friends and family as well as becoming Nanny Doll to all of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Growing up through the generations we have loved nothing more than visiting you regularly on a Saturday and walking in to the inviting smell of sausage rolls or your famous bread pudding.
Poplar created a true cockney, pearly queen when it raised you and you were always well known around Chrisp Street – everyone stopped you to have a natter because you were always liked amongst your neighbours and friends. The strong link with being back in Poplar – even though you moved to Bethnal Green for the last twenty years – remained in tact because it was always your true home.
Your neighbours remained important to you at Ted Roberts House and yet again you were popular and liked by everyone. It is hard to imagine what life is like there without your beautiful face and your wonderful laugh which I know will be sorely missed.
You were born in Poplar in 1935, which was quite hard to believe, as you always remained looking youthful and sprightly even when you were poorly. There was also a special fact about your birthday (which was the 8th of October) as if by fate you shared your birthday with your loyal husband, Len.
At the end you didn’t want any of your family to see you. You wanted to be remembered as you were – the Nanny Doll we all joked with, tormented and cherished. Sadly, we didn’t listen because it was more important to share the last memories with you and hold your hand until the end, it was what felt right in our hearts.
But the end doesn’t stay engrained and the soul that you carried is etched upon our minds instead.
So to respect your wishes, and to celebrate your life, that’s what we will do today.
My mum told me this was not appropriate but I’m going to do it anyway because you always had a strong mind and I think it carried down the genes. If you ever talked about your younger days (and how bossy or sulky you was with your sister Iris or Idy as you chose to call her) you always insisted that you were a ‘stubborn little mare.’
It always made us laugh as you recounted stories of sulking and needing to have things your own way.
That’s a strength to your personality and one that should be admired.
You also had a brother called Bill who you doted on – and you found it hilarious that you also managed to get him a good hiding by your dad the day when it was you and not him that actually lost the half a crown. In fact, you creased up in stitches whenever you reminisced about the story.
Idy always let you be the boss and she took a back seat in your sister-ship. Making food for all the family would always raise a few smiles as Idy would be shoved out of the way at her own kitchen counter as you were the only one who knew how to do things properly. She got so used to it over the years that she would pass you the bread and butter, then the knife, and move out of the way knowing what was coming next.
You were nick-named ‘Queenie’ by your brother-in- law Den and the joke would always be to get everything clean and tidy before you arrived. You were proud and clean – and probably held the world guinness record for storing at least eight bottles of Domestos at any one time.
You kept everything pristine because that was the type of person you were – as you always said you couldn’t help the way you were and could never change.
Well the truth is Dolly we never, ever wanted you to change.
We loved you just the way you were and always will do.
It didn’t mean we didn’t enjoy rearranging your furniture, like your DVD’s that were numbered and in order with a matching list, or when we would say goodbye and give you a kiss on the cheek smiling at one another knowing that we had shifted your mini display of piggy ornaments on your cupboards.
As soon as you realised you would always laugh and rush back to put them just so.
There were so many times that us grandchildren would prank you and enjoy watching your reaction as it was always priceless. You never grumbled and in fact you laughed louder than anyone.
I can still remember the time you kindly took us to Florida because you wanted to do something for Len when he died – that was the kind of selfless, generous person you were. However, at a waterpark, we dragged you in the water – knowing you had just finished curling your hair, and held you on a spot until the wave came over that we knew was about to happen. You were a drowned rat and your hair washed over and we can still hear your laughter now.
We always laughed about your fear of germs or insects and again we used to see how far we could push you for a laugh. We were only kids when you took us to Trafalgar Square one time to feed the pigeons and off you rushed to buy us each our bag of food because you always insisted on getting things to watch our enjoyment. You tried to keep out of the way as you said you hated pigeons and I don’t know what came over me but I turned around and threw my bag of feed in your direction. Off you run screaming with a flock of birds pelting at you. Of course you never told me off for my impulsivity, you laughed hard yet again.
There has always been a joke about who was the favourite. I was the first born and always called ‘Mary Lou.’ Justine was always nicknamed ‘my little treasure’ and Terry was always ‘My tells’ and we joked that he always got fed first along with the men in the hierarchy of importance. In fact, on one of the last times I came to visit you with Arijana, you woke back up and asked me ‘Is that my tells?” We laughed that he was the golden balls and even then you were still smiling.
I can’t fault the amount of things you have done for us. You and Chas came to visit me wherever I was on my travels. It was never too far for you to come like for my wedding when you flew all the way to Albania, and you couldn’t even touch the food of course because it was foreign! We trailed the shops to find you a kettle for your room so you could have a proper English cup of tea.
As always you were prepared to give things a go, like turning up to one of our 21st parties dressed as a belly dancer which was met with lots of laughter. Or the time you tried to skip in the garden and fractured your coccyx but nobody could help you as we were rolling around laughing.
There were just three answers you gave me on the last day I saw you and I think that took all of the energy you had to give me those on the day.
I told you about my book and you were still waiting to read it but we never had the time. The words read about a strong woman and I will be dedicating the book in your honour as you have taught us what it means to be brave. I asked you if you were proud of me, not expecting an answer, but just to tell you a little bit about what was going on. You surprised me out of nowhere when you suddenly answered ‘yes.’
Then my mum rung and I was on the phone to her with the usual nagging that was coming from the other end of the phone. You had already told me many times how lucky you were to have her and that she had a heart of gold. She held your hand until the end and peacefully you died also holding your friend Rene’s hand – the same friend from over 50 years.
After the call I joked to you that it was ‘Bossy Pants’ and she was nagging me from all those miles away. This was the nickname you gave to mum and we used to laugh about. Again, out of nowhere you rolled your eyes and tried to laugh. I knew you were there and hearing everything.
I asked you: ’She’s nothing like you is she?” And I wasn’t expecting an answer.
Suddenly you said ‘No!’ Which shocked me.
I squeezed your hand and said, ‘Am I more like you Nan?’ You answered ‘yes’ and went back into a peaceful sleep.
It was always our joke that I had your personality and the banter was you and mum drove each other up the wall and you played along until the last. Of course, in truth you got on well and spent every Saturday together and spoke most days on the phone. Mickey taking was what connected us all and will continue to in your absence.
So my last memory is now of you laughing and joking just as you wished. It will be forever in everyone’s minds that you were funny, kind and generous too.
Back to the start and your description of being a ‘stubborn little mare’ lived true to the end because you didn’t go without a fight. You were brave, courageous and proud – always saying sorry and worrying about what it might feel to everyone else. Your body was stubborn as you held on giving us those last few days to make memories together.
Your stubbornness defined you. It gave you your character – your patriotic views that you were English and we could never convince you otherwise that you were British – ‘No! I’m English!’ You used to say. We tried to even convince you with your ancestry line but you had none of it. English you was and English you stayed.
We laughed and told you repeatedly that the things you said were politically incorrect and you always replied with ‘Good Job Shit.’ We never changed your mind on things and that was what made you our Nan. The funny one. The one who shocked us and the one who we loved being around.
Dolly May, you will always be remembered.
You will always be loved.
And most of all we feel honoured that we had such a wonderful Nan.
‘Byesies,’ Nanny Doll.
*A donation page has been set up for The British Heart Foundation in memory of Doris May Frost – for further information click on this link here.