Three things you ought to know about Emily

My grandmother was born Emily Elizabeth Newth at Auburn, where her father ran a chemist’s dispensary, on 18 May 1920 – the same day as Wojtyla, better known as the Blessed John Paul II. She wrote to the late Pope to tell him this and got a pleasant reply from some poor Vatican official who must have wondered who this Sydney Anglican clergyman’s wife was. As fate would have it, she managed to die just hours before her 91st birthday.

Nana was a devotee of Princess Diana who symbolised all that was beautiful and romantic in the world. Following the infamous car crash in Paris, she wrote from Sydney to Oxford to tell me in great detail how Diana must have been a great missionary, for to be happy in heaven (where she surely had gone) she must be with the man she loved, and as that man was self evidently Dodi al Fayed, she had clearly converted Dodi to Christianity at some point moments before they entered the Paris tunnel. This letter, now renowned, contained the phrase which has entered family folklore: Grandpa not so sure.

Best of all, for a woman who could be socially disruptive in her later years, and whose capacity for telling the truth was profoundly disturbing (especially as you had to know which of twenty core truths she was speaking about at any one time), and whose fundamental intelligence and practical capacity was unrecognised since, oh, about 1965, this woman, when challenged by me to stop taking endless polaroids of the kids at my Mum’s church in 1993, had the wherewithal to utter loudly ‘Don’t cramp my style’, putting us all to shame.

Em, the world in all its sinfulness tried to cramp your style for much of your life. May you, and Diana, and John-Paul, and all the rest of us mad humans, dance and cook and sing until the world world recognises the joy of what it is to live and die in truth under the light of the cross.

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