Nancy, with the laughing face

My first memory of Nancy was when she came home to Lismore, after a number of years living in Sydney and Brisbane.

It was about 1970, and she was only about twenty five years old. Despite her apparent youth, she was beginning to feel she had left it “too late” to get married.

After a few adventures (and misadventures) she returned to the family home in Kyogle Street, South Lismore. Also living there was mum and dad, granny, my uncle and me (then aged five or six). All of the other girls had, by this time, married and were having children of their own.

Not long after, she married a neighbour, had a daughter, worked for many years as a school cleaner, and has been living in Lismore ever since.

A couple of weekends ago, when it was pretty clear Nancy was going to die, I booked a one-way ticket home to Lismore, unsure of how long I would need to be here.

Nancy had been living with reasonably advanced dementia, and her body was starting to fail, the result of many, many years of heavy smoking. With the combination of illnesses she had, it was good that she died peacefully.

Here’s a few excepts from the eulogy/wake…

As we began to prepare for this day, I started to look around for photographs and songs we could use to celebrate Nancy’s life.

Only in the last few days, I discovered there was a song by Frank Sinatra which I think perfectly sums up Nancy’s life. The song is called “Nancy With The Laughing Face”.

It was written and recorded in 1942, three years before Nancy was born, and so it’s possible Nancy was named after that song. Dad was a keen fan of jazz music, and there are no other people called Nancy in our family.

You can imagine the scene when mum and dad saw their new born baby for the first time.

While other babies would have been screaming and shouting, you can imagine the new born Nancy was born with a huge grin on her face, a laughing face that stayed with her throughout her life.

When Karran posted news on Facebook of Nancy’s death there were many, many comments, and there was a common theme: that she was much loved. Here’s a handfull of comments

“Nancy was a beautiful soul and was always there to have some fun with”.

“She was a little character with a lovely caring heart”.

“RIP Nancy. You will always be in my heart, as you were a mum to all of us, and will be greatly missed by everyone that has ever met you”.

“You have touched all our hearts so much and played a part in most of our lives, taking us all on board like family.”

R.I.P. Nancy – with the laughing face.

Nancy Ann O’Brien / Keaton 27/12/1945 to 09/06/2021