Life is changed not ended

Carmel Mary Basile
Born 16 August 1947, entered eternal life 7 April 2022

Eulogy given at the Funeral Mass by Bernadette (daughter), Mark (son), Ray (husband) and Siddaley (granddaughter)

Bernadette … Hans Christian Anderson said, ‘To travel is to live’.

Carmel Mary Devoy began her travels on 16 August 1947.  Born to loving parents, Patricia and Noel Devoy in Deepdene, she was in fact, baptised in this very church (Our Lady of Good Counsel).  With two older brothers, Chris and Tony, she was their eldest daughter, followed by Angela and Bernadette.  

Called Daddy’s little rosebud by Dad, Carmel was a bit of a tomboy and loved being outside.  She loved helping Dad with jobs around the house, learning to chop kindling for the wood heater, gardening, painting, or mending something.  She became quite skillful, so much so that Mr Mitchell, the local plumber, told Dad that she was as good as any apprentice in turning a thread for a water pipe.  Indeed, Carmel would always ‘have a go’, an approach which she carried through all the travels on her journey.

Carmel began her education at Our Lady of Good Counsel Primary School in Deepdene and went on to Kilmaire Brigidine Convent Secondary School in Hawthorn, missing quite a lot of school with severe asthma throughout her childhood.

Carmel always put family at the centre of everything she did.  Her love for her siblings was obvious in all the things we did together.  The three girls in our family all played in a netball team.  Carmel would always make sure we were there on time, and that the oranges for half time were plated up and ready to share with the opposition.  We were happy being together.  We went on to play tennis and she became even more involved with netball, organising teams & attending meetings of the Victorian Catholic Netball Association on behalf of us all.

Her creative journey began in childhood too.  She learnt sewing and knitting from our Mum and taught herself to crochet.  All skills that she continued to enjoy for many years to come.

Carmel started work in 1964 at the Postmaster General’s Office as a telegraphist, spending three years there doing shift work.  She then moved on to the Hibernian Society (medical benefits organisation) doing administration.  Each year, the staff were able to bring a family member to the annual Christmas party and Carmel took me (Bernadette).  She introduced me to seafood, a delicacy not on offer at home, and whilst she loved the prawns and crab on offer, her absolute favourite was lobster.  I recall several such Christmas parties with great fondness.

Carmel’s travels then took her just around the corner, a mere two blocks, where she found Ray.  Carmel enjoyed going to the cinema so Ray thought it would be the perfect location for their first date.  The movie was advertised as ‘a group of friends on a camping and canoeing trip’, and with a great soundtrack, what could possibly go wrong!  It started off okay, but halfway through the film, things took a horrifying turn.  The movie was of course Deliverance, not the best title to ensure the success of a new romance.  Gratefully they survived this first encounter and went on many more dates after, and the family can laugh about this fateful beginning.

Carmel and Ray were married on 11 September 1974, again in Our Lady of Good Counsel Church and her journey now as Carmel Mary Basile continued.

Mark continues The next step in Mum’s travels took her to Croydon, where Mum and Dad bought their first house in Eric Street.  Advertised as a ‘renovators delight’ a senior member of Mum’s family asked how he ‘could possibly bring a new wife into such a home’.  But they weren’t afraid of a challenge, it was all part of the adventure.  

While completing the renovations they took a few breaks, again to travel, this time to the hospital.  Claire arrived in August 1975, and I (Mark) came along in July 1977.  Mum didn’t drive in those days, so a lot of our travel was on foot.  We attended a playgroup at the Uniting Church, where she met Cheryl Young and through her Marg Davies, starting a friendship that would last over 30 years.

In 1978 they travelled again, this time to Mooroolbark where they purchased the family home in Nambour Drive.  In May 1980, it was back to the hospital for Amy’s arrival, followed by Paul in March 1982.  Much to the horror of some of the more senior women in the family, a great mark of pride for both Mum and Dad were their trips to Wilson’s Prom after each birth.  At just two weeks of age, each new baby was introduced to the family with a two-week camping trip.  It was the best possible start to the life of adventures we’d go on to have as a family.

As we grew, the travels continued.  Gratefully, at this stage Mum got her driver’s license and added the role of ‘taxi driver’ to her many talents.  Shuttling us to tennis, swimming, music and of course, with four of us, but particularly me (Mark), back to the hospital on several occasions!

Most memorable was the injury Paul suffered when trying to escape from the toilet cubicle she had him corralled in as a three-year-old.  The story goes that Mum hadn’t quite finished as he took off under the door.  Managing to grab him only by the arm, Mum dragged him back in dislocating his shoulder, an injury which as she told it, he richly deserved.  You would think with my example of what not to do, he would have known better!

Mum was chief of meals and went on a journey with her cooking over the years too.  Starting with the classics, meat and three veg, spaghetti and a Sunday roast.  Her ‘have a go’ attitude had her skills progress to more adventurous cuisines.  On birthdays, when we got to choose what we had for dinner, there were a few memorable dishes that regularly made the request list and are still classics to this day.  Mum always made a ripping lasagna, yet on my birthday it was always somehow so much better.

Mum’s ability to have something for everyone regardless of the number of attendees and their ‘dietary requirements’, all hot and perfectly timed to coincide with Dad’s pill … amazed me.

Mum was always highly creative.  She made beautiful cakes for our First Eucharist and Confirmation, as well as Christmas cakes for our teachers at Eymard Hill.  Word has it that the teachers used to argue over who was having the Basile children the following year in order to secure a Christmas cake! 

We loved to watch mum work meticulously making flowers and holding her breath while she put the topcoat of almond icing on the traditional fruit cake.  It was one of the only times we heard her swear (or swear as we thought we knew it) as she would say “blast” when an air bubble occurred.  The birthday cakes she made us were amazing.  As was the tradition of the time, we would pick one from the Women’s Weekly Cake Book and Mum would make it better than the original.  Some of the best ones were the Cricket Pitch, the Swimming Pool, and the Jewellery Box.  Other times Mum would just make our favourite cake, she always knew what we liked.

Mum was a whizz on the sewing machine, and good thing too, because there were often pant legs to take up or down, waists to reduce and so many patches and repairs.  Later, she turned her talents to quilts.  She made so many beautiful quilts, not just for her children, grandchildren, and friends, but also for people she would never meet.  Mum knitted and made quilts, along with another lifelong friend, Pam Stevens, to be sold at school fetes and fundraisers.  She worked with a team of friends to create ‘The Bookshelf’ a masterpiece for the Mooroolbark Library, and often lent her talents to those in need by crocheting squares for the women’s refuge and creating quilts for fire survivors in Mallacoota.  Mum always made room to support others along her journey.

Our travels as a family evolved over time.  From our beginnings at the Prom, we went on to buy a caravan.  Mum would spend hours preparing for each trip, meticulously ensuring everything fit just right. We often took the caravan down to Derrinallum and spent many happy weeks with David, Lynette, and the girls on their farm, graduating to ‘farm manager’ when we would take care of the property so they could go away.  On another trip, which became annual, we went to Porepunkah.  Dad built us a trailer for our bikes so we could collect wood from the forest for the communal campfire.  We created much treasured memories on Rickard’s Chestnut Farm while Mum spent the days talking with Dawn and Elvie about all the joys of family life whilst participating in the harvest.

Pa had the foresight to build a family beach house in Blairgowrie in the late 1970s, so we had many family adventures there too.  Over the years, we enjoyed many travels with Mum.  I’m particularly grateful for all the help she gave Erin and I on our many trips, kayaking along the Murray.  Whatever the location, Mum could be relied on to pull together some lunch, look after the kids, or keep everyone well supplied with sunscreen or safety pins.  Her commitment to her family and anything we wanted to do, was always her priority, whether that be attending various concerts or productions, or being a roadie for Paul’s band, if we were in it, she was too.  But it was once we were grown that her travel repertoire really took off!

Ray, Carmel’s husband continuesAs Mark mentioned, we have been blessed with four beautiful children who have made us so very proud of the adults they have become.  Carmel set high standards for herself and for our family, and you can now see the impact of her great guidance as they raise their own families.  But their growth gave Carmel and I the chance to really grow our travel horizons.  We started with two short training runs to Norfolk Island in 2009 and New Zealand in 2010.  These trips were followed by a European Adventure in 2011, including Scenic Switzerland by rail, Bohemian Tour, Avalon River Cruise Budapest to Amsterdam and the grand tour of Britain and Ireland.  In 2013, we enjoyed amazing train travel through the USA and Canada and then via boat in Alaska.  Then a further trip to Europe with tours of Italy and a self-drive tour of Ireland.  On each of these tours, we were under the capable direction of our internal leader, Angela who had prior experience and a voice sufficiently loud to keep us on-route!  At the end of each European trip, we were treated to a week’s respite at Ian and Helen’s B&B in Ambleside in the Lake District.  Ian and Helen first met Angela and Bern in 1980, and then Noel and Patricia after that.  They have been great friends to the whole family since. 

Our travels hit a few rocky patches with Carmel beating cancer twice.  Each time, she met the challenge with compassion, humor, and resilience, along with a good dose of stubborn determination.  We were never in any doubt that she’d make it through.  In her recovery, she joined a group of cancer survivors on their weekly exercise program.  In her company, they discovered a person who would always strive to make things better for others, a listening ear, a shared morning tea or a phone conversation to make life a little easier.  Carmel was always a quiet, private, and selfless person, and had an inner strength and determination, which saw her overcome many challenges in her life.  If she had a motto, it would be ‘just keep swimming’.

Over the journey, we have sadly farewelled our parents, aunts, and brothers, all from this very church, but we have been buoyed by the fond memories we have of them.

After all these big adventures, and challenges, our travels brought us closer to home with the arrival of our five grandchildren, Joshua, Sarah, Siddaley, Mackenzie and Buster.  They have given us much joy and laughter over the past 15 years and have never ceased to amaze us with the way they have developed.  They are a credit to their parents.  We have had so many trips to different parks, playgrounds, cafes, and experiences of the wide variety of baby chinos and sweet treats on offer.  We got to know each of their quite different personalities, and spending time with each of them has been a great highlight for Carmel and me in our later years.

As we all know, in 2020 travel ceased.  Gratefully though, Carmel’s skills with technology were far superior to my own so we were able to “pivot” to online.  Helping Mackenzie discuss how things were different in ‘the olden days’ as part of a grade two project, singing happy birthday and blowing out the candles all via Zoom or Facetime.  But the lack of activity took its toll. 

Carmel is now at peace after suffering for the last six months, but we must continue to be buoyed, as before, by the fond memories of her and the joy of having had her in our lives.

Sadly, for all of us we gather today to farewell Carmel, in the very church where it all began, and I thank Father Brendan for allowing us to celebrate her journey through life here today.

Carmel, I’m sorry I couldn’t share more of the burden of this latest stage of our journey together, but I’m so grateful you’re now at peace.  Know that you will be with me on my travels until we meet again.

Siddaley (Carmel’s grand-daughter)

It broke our hearts to lose you,

But you did not go alone

A part of us went with you,

The day God took you home

If tears could build a stairway

And heartaches make a lane

We’d walk our way to heaven,

And bring you back again. 

In life we loved you dearly,

In death we love you still,

In our hearts you hold a place,

No one could ever fill.

 

 

Life has changed not ended

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