My precious Mandy, the sister I never had, my best and oldest friend, my soulmate and most importantly my sister in Christ……. How can I ever pay tribute to such a wonderful friend in minutes? It would take me hours to tell you everything that is in my heart.
We first met over 48 years ago when we were just 10, both having moved to Newport from other parts of Wales. Our families quickly became very close, the 9 children were more like cousins to each other. The Parsonage (as we affectionately called Mandy’s family house) was like a second home for me and my brothers, Ruth certainly a second mum. Endless sleepovers, meals together and the 2 families had static caravans next to each other on the Gower peninsula – we had years of happy holidays and weekends together. Mandy and I were inseparable – we would never tire of chatting, we played guitar and sang together (and performed them to our ever-patient families!), we made up plays and recorded them on a tiny cassette recorder and would roar with laughter as we played them back. We shared all the joys and heartaches of teenage girls discovering ourselves and life and were often mistaken for sisters with our red hair. We both discovered a personal faith in our late teens and with close school friends Rachel and Clare, we formed a singing group called Ichthus (the Greek word for fish and a symbol for Christ) – we even had a manager – our dear Debbie. Over about 3 years we performed at churches, community and school events – very special memories.
After Mandy started nursing in London, I had many fabulous weekends with her, Tessa, France and Nikki – we were pretty wild back then – the shy, demure Mandy had become a thing of the pas, as she discovered London’s social scene and became a party girl. France remembers her complaining once ‘Well, I haven’t had a good kiss in a week’! My strongest memory of these times was making up dances and singing to the top of our voices to our favourite songs – ‘Ain’t no mountain high enough’ has and always will remind me of Mandy and the fun we had.
Once we both married and had children, we stayed in close contact despite living a couple of hours from each other. I was honoured to be Mandy’s bridesmaid and Charlotte’s godmother. We had one of those friendships, where even it we had not seen each other for a year, we would meet up and continue, as if we had seen each other the day before. Over the last 10 years we had a tradition of meeting in Stratford for the day – we would talk endlessly, wondering where the hours had gone when we had to say goodbye. I loved those days so much.
It was over the last decades that we both rediscovered our faith in an amazing way. Instead of religion we discovered the person of Jesus Christ and Mandy always inspired me to trust in Him more, to stop striving to do things my way, but instead to ask Him to do things through me. She was literally full of the love of Christ, she heard His voice clearly and she would do anything to glorify Him. She started to get vivid dreams from God and it was after she prayed, that God started to bless me with amazing dreams too. If I was ever at a low point, I would ring Mandy and she would fire me up again, remind me of God’s faithfulness and promises even in a storm. About 10 years ago when I was in the depths of depression, she prayed for me over the phone and God gave her a picture of me and Christ walking through a beautiful garden. The next morning, after months of illness, I awoke with a feeling of release, a feeling of hope and my slow recovery began from there.
As the only friend speaking today, I wanted this tribute to represent all the many friends Mandy had, so I asked them to give me adjectives or memories which they associated with her.
Appearance wise – of course, she always looked fabulous and was so co-ordinated. I would always dress up when I was going to meet Mandy. Her beautiful blue eyes were deeply set and she always carefully applied her make up – at school we used to hear her ask countless times a day ‘Are my eyes smudged?’ in case her mascara had marked her cheek. We remember her up-turned collars and her ‘oil slicks’ – her black, shiney, skintight trousers. She always took an umbrella with her whatever the weather as the slightest rain made her hair go frizzy. She knew what colours suited her – when deciding where to go to train to be a nurse, she would not consider Guys as the uniform was yellow and would clash with her hair! It is no coincidence that her favourite colour was purple – the colour always associated with the royalty of God the Father. But of course, it was the Mandy inside that we all loved the most – the same words and phrases came up time and time again – full of life, kind, loyal, so much fun, a dear friend, always there through thick and thin, godly, confident, energetic in her faith, infectious laugh, gentle, full of joy, sure of her God. Mandy’s kindness to my mum after she returned to Newport was immeasurable. Jewel, one of her closest friends said that Mandy had dove eyes – this is from the Song of Songs in the Bible, Mandy’s favourite book, where Jesus describes his bride as having dove eyes, representing loyalty, devotion and dedication. Mandy regularly prayed to have those eyes and all who knew her, know that her prayer was answered.
As you can well imagine, I will miss Mandy dreadfully. She was a rock for me in so many ways and I thought we had so many more years to share together, but Mandy would not want me to be sad and I take comfort in these things….
Firsty, I am incredibly blessed to have had her as a friend for so long.
Secondly, in the difficult months leading up to her death, we had been in very close contact, so that it was only a couple of days before she died that I had told her that I loved her.
Thirdly, the day before her death I had shared with her the picture God had given me – of her in the arms of Jesus, echoing her favourite Psalm 91.
Cathy. May 2021