Extracts from the Tribute paid by Fr Simon Marsh at a Thanksgiving Service for his late wife Jilly (23 February 1960 – 13 January 2018).
…Our humanly spoken, or heard, or read, or written words may not speak of all that there is to be said – of any human soul that ever dwelt upon the face of the earth. What is needed that we might reflect inwardly upon any life is some personal experience – even second-hand experience – of what St John, writing about Jesus, spoke of as Logos in Him, and in anyone. Not words, but The Word; the life of God shining at the centre of the being of every incarnate – in-the-flesh – person. St Irenaeus is reputed to have said that ‘the glory of God is in a person fully alive.’ I saw the glory of God in the full and vibrant aliveness of Jilly Mary Tovey. And so, I think, in many different ways and times and places, did many of you. I saw Logos, I saw The Word, in Jilly. She made sense, for me, of the notion of the Body of Christ alive and at work in the world now…
Jilly was never much given to drawing attention to herself. She lived joyfully, simply, thankfully, quietly, and unobtrusively. When asked her profession, from time to time, I can recall no occasion when she replied with more than a smiling ‘oh, just office work’ – but as many letters and cards have testified in these past weeks – and I have been so profoundly comforted by them – she also lived luminously. I’ve been fascinated by the number of family members, colleagues, friends and acquaintances who have spoken or written of a light that shone in and through Jilly.
From the happy days when she read Engineering at Cambridge, revelling in a spell as Captain of the Boat Club and in the hard grind of the discipline and training required of a Cambridge Boat Crew, and on through training to become a Chartered Accountant, and the years of happy labours for ICI, Zeneca and latterly Astra Zeneca – in all of these years the people who lived and worked with Jilly remember her with the deepest admiration and affection.
Jilly never expected in a million years to become a Vicar’s wife! – though she’d have made a fine pastor. Indeed, in countless ways that many of you here recall, Jilly was a fine pastor. I’ve known of few people who would get out of bed at 6am in order to prepare cooked breakfasts that she would deliver around 7am to elderly parishioners en route for her office at Alderley Park. Jilly did not wear her considerable Christian faith on her sleeve; she believed herself called to more practical ‘incarnate’ or in-the-flesh expressions of the Love of God. Time and again, in my presence, I have been privileged to witness people unashamedly tell my wife ‘I love you Jilly!’…. There was a sense of urgency in our house before Christmas this year as, already very poorly, Jilly set her face to ensuring Christmas presents were made ready – some of them knitted by her – and Christmas cakes and puddings were made and distributed – personally, wherever and whenever that was possible, sometimes involving our driving round trips of a couple of hundred miles a time.
Accomplished and delighted walker of Lakeland fells, dearly loved by many, Jilly Mary Tovey whispers to me now: ‘Enough, my love. You’ve said enough. They’ll all be freezing cold!’ …I know that I will never have said enough about her, but I must draw this little tribute to a close, leaving you with your own treasured memories and with this poem, entitled “Roads” by Ruth Bidgood:
No need to wonder what heron-haunted lake
lay in the other valley,
or regret the songs in the forest
I chose not to traverse.
No need to ask where other roads might have led,
since they led elsewhere;
for nowhere but this here and now
is my true destination.
The river is gentle in the soft evening,
and all the steps of my life have brought me home.