Your Smile Crowned Our Hearts: A Eulogy for Zilla Edema
Greetings! My name is Michelle Asantewa. I am the daughter of Lucille Davis, who is Wendy’s elder cousin. Some people know me as ‘Shelly.’ It is an honour to be reading this eulogy for Zilla, better known as Wendy.
Details of her biography are recorded in the Obituary in the Order of Service, so I won't recount those here. I will give my eulogy and add the remarks by members of the family as I go.
Many of you will remember Wendy for her radiant, magnetic smile. Some will also remember her love for life and her liveliness at social gatherings and family get togethers. Still others, will recall her open-heartedness, her generosity and her devotion to her faith. Beyond doubt, Wendy was a peoples person, and someone who simply adored her family. I don’t recall knowing Wendy when I was younger, nor when I was introduced to her as ‘family.’ But when I met her, I immediately knew she was family; she had the essence of ancient people, our ancestors.
For this reason, I'd like to share what I consider to be behind the enchanting quality of Wendy’s smile – a smile that crowned all our hearts.
Although, we know that Wendy was brought up in a Christian home, the depth of her spirituality is perhaps less well known. As her daughter Melanie recalls, Wendy followed in her grandmother Susie’s footsteps by bringing her children up in the Church. Likewise, Melanie has brought her children up in the Church. This continuity gives us a sense of cultural identity, strength and spiritual connection. And, of course, if we marvelled at and appreciated Wendy’s well-turned-out, stylish appearance, it’s maybe thanks to those days she attended church with Sister Sears (her grandmother Susie) dressed in her Sunday best. She maintained this as a kind of rite – to always look her best.
Faith, however, is more than attending Church and ruminating on Scripture. A scholar, versed in ancient Egyptian or Kemetic spirituality writes that: ‘in the spiritual traditions that recognise the state of life after death as well as prior to birth, it is [evident] that consciousness, like matter, cannot be created nor destroyed. You may cease to be alive, to be able to act, but you still have life by the fact of your consciousness’ (Ra Un Nefer Amen).
It is this consciousness and her approach to spirituality that magnetised Wendy’s smile and leant that spirited, vitality to her life. Discussions on matters of spirit connected me with cousin Wendy in a deep way, where these considerations would cause contention with others. Wendy spoke often of her beloved grandmother and father James who had long been deceased. When she was in trouble, or in need of something she would dream them, and they would direct her about how she could resolve the issue she was having. This was possible because of a shared consciousness that prevails even after our death. Wendy trusted this aspect of her spirituality. She allowed herself to be guided and protected by the power of spirit – in a broad, unlimited sense. It was this power that directed her daughter Melanie on that fateful day of January the 12th to be by her side, so she would not be alone at the hour of her passing. And we can be consoled that the timing was Divine and precise, falling exactly six months to the day before her birthdate of 12th June. She would surely have celebrated being 70 in the grandest style, the following year.
As for the love of family, this stemmed from her childhood, growing up as part of an extended family that lived within close proximity. As she told Melanie, when she got told off by her mother, she would go across the road to her grandmother Susie and stay with her for a couple of days. All the children would play together and be in and out of each other’s houses. Wendy looked forward to visits by her uncles Clifford and Herwitt, who always brought a big bag of sweets with them. The number of sweets you received depended on how big your hands were, as each child was invited to dive in with both hands to collect their share.