THE CANVAS OF HER LIFE – ELSIE COCHRANE (1931-2011)
Pete, my brother in law organises for her paintings to be in the Chapel half an hour before the time when we would celebrate the life of Elsie Cochrane, my Mum, and he hung them on the walls. Beautiful, large expressions of her life.
Susan Boyle sings “How Great Thou Art” as people were still filling the chapel to overflowing.
“Welcome to this ART GALLERY of our Mum’s works. We wanted to pay tribute to Elsie Cochrane’s CREATIVITY as a PROMINENT ARTIST as well as a loving Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, and faithful friend to many of you here today.
It seems a bit strange that as a CHAPLAIN in an Aged Care Facility that I find myself leading the funeral of my own Mum. That seemed inconceivable a week ago. Still does.
All of us are here because we have a connection with Elsie. She has touched our lives in various ways, and the COLOURS of her influence will remain with us.
What can you say when your Mum dies? Death is a one way street into eternity.
Not even the most experienced of artists can adequately create with paint on canvas or poet can express in words on paper what we feel inside. The TUBES OF PAINT are squeezed dry. The words seem somehow hollow and empty. And yet we are here, with EMPTY CANVAS and unskilled hands ready to paint a portrait of our Mum, in bright and beautiful colours like the canvases around you.
In order to do that we will need a bit of help, so we are going to ask the MASTER ARTIST to give us a hand. After all GOD painted the original portrait of Mum in eternity past and He knows her better than any of us.
The Bible says in Psalms 46:1 (NLT) “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalms 103:13-14 (NLT) says, “The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.”
Elsie and her children, Ross, Toni and Lauren
This day is a time to CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF ELSIE COCHRANE.
Don’t MISUNDERSTAND me. The last few days for my sisters and I has been a PALETTE filled with the DEEPER, SOMBER EARTH TONES OF GRIEF, …and WATERCOLOURS at that. So this is also a time to be impacted by the reality of eternity and realize that God is SENSITIVE to those of us who areHURTING.
Psalms 34:18 (NLT) says that “The Lord is close to the BROKENHEARTED; He rescues those whose spirits are CRUSHED.”
Psalms 90:1-12 (NIV) says “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”
My son Ben, comes to the front and reads from Psalm 139:13
“For You (God) created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written inYour book before one of them came to be.”
Elsie, her children and some of her grandchildren, Rachel, Ben and Hope.
We sing Amazing Grace and TONI and LAUREN, my sisters, take up a PAINTBRUSH, and paint a picture of our Mum, Elsie Cochrane.
First Toni picks up her palette and paints her part of the portrait.
FOR MY MUM
“Its 8am. I sit down at the computer and call Mum on Skype. “Hi Tone darling, I knew it would be you,” she’d say. “How did you know that?” “Because I’m psychic and who else would ring me at this ungodly hour of the morning!” “Spot on, me, I’d say”.
This is how we would open one of our marathon talkathons. We could TALK the pants off a kangaroo, sometimes two and a half hours of intense ramblings would find us still in our P Jays coming up to lunch time. “Well I guess we’d better get off this phone”, she’d say. I’m going down town, I haven’t had a shower and Ken will be here to pick me up soon. Just before you go though, did I tell you about”………..and a half hour later, Ken is asleep on the couch.
My Mum was my true friend. She loved me unconditionally and she gave me her time. She made allowances for me. She was understanding but would always tell me in no uncertain terms if she thought I was being ridiculous.
We were Shopaholics whenever she came to Sydney. We loved anything unusual and beautiful. We’d drive up the mountains, park the car and Do Leura. Zany little café’s were our forte. We’d get “wired” on our decafe cappuccinos. I will miss that.
She was always encouraging and intensely proud of my achievements. She strived for excellence in all that she did and was passionate for her art, her garden, music and her family. She was my Rock in my darkest moments and I know I was her Rock likewise. She is always my Mum and I will miss her terribly.”
Lauren my sister shares
My mum accepted all things that came before her and always made the best of every situation thinking not of herself but of her family.
I remember when i was 14 years old and wagga at the time was experiencing a shocking heat wave. After sweltering all day in a classroom at school, I was dreading the long miserable hot walk home from Mt Austin high school to Hunter Street. Back in the early 70’s we didn’t have luxuries of refrigerated cooling like we do today. Just the old stand alone water cooler on wheels, but back then it was a luxury and I planned on gluing myself in front of it when I got home.
As I walked out of the front gate of school, to my surprise, I saw mum across the road sitting in her little grey two door Morris miner waiting for me with a bucket to full of cold water and wash cloth to cool me down. ” Don’t think I will be doing this for you every day Lauren”. It’s too bloody hot to be sitting here! But she did, she was there the next day and the day after that!
My mum had a wonderful sense of humour with an effervescent laugh. She could always make me laugh, even when I was in one of my horrid teenage moods.
When I was recovering from a burst appendix in hospital, she made me laugh so hard; I burst a few of my stitches. The doctor was not happy, either was I!
Mum was with me through the birth of my daughter Hope and played a huge roll in her up bringing. Being a single mum at times was difficult for me. My mum was always there for Hope and I. I could always rely on my mum particularly when it concerned Hope. She had a very special bond with her and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being such a loving thortful caring generous nana to hope.
My mum was a very stylish woman right up to the end. She always looked beautiful and modern she always looked younger than she was. I was very proud of her and how she looked when I met up with her in the market place. I remember being so proud when ever I introduced her to my friends or work colleagues always hear them commenting afterwards “oh your mother is beautiful” or “Is that your mum wow she is so pretty”.
I take comfort in the fact that my very last words I said to mum was “ I love you mumma” and waved her good bye.
I pray she is in heaven with god and she has been given her energetic artistic spirit back again. I’m going to look forward to magnificent sunsets from now on ‘cos I know my mum will be painting them just for us. Love you mumma.xx
Hope, Lauren’s daughter, sings a beautiful song.
In my hand, a legacy of memories
I can hear you say my name
I can almost see your smile
Feel the warmth of your embrace
But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?
Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are
Never thought this day would come so soon
We had no time to say goodbye
How can the world just carry on?
I feel so lost when your not at my side
But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?
Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are
So sorry your world is tumbling down
I will watch you through these nights
Rest your head and go to sleep
Coz my child this is not our farewell
This is not our farewell
Another grandson, David, Toni’s son, shares.
“Hello everyone, I am David Macarthur-King second grandson of 4 to Elsie Cochrane. Most of my adult life l have been away however I’m sure Nan understands.
And that’s probably the greatest gift my Nan gave to me, was her unwavering understanding. Drawing picture’s and painting art as a boy, in between climbing the highest tree whenever l would visit, she understood that l didn’t understand any boundaries and that was okay. Nan was all about trusting that I could be more than what I was and that my limits were expandable. Nan knew that I would learn to be understanding of boundaries, one day.
I always felt loved and cared for in her presence and her home. Nan nurtured my mind and fed my heart, and always made the best scones because aside from Art, she understood that the way to my young heart was through an exceptional scone. She was very thoughtful — indeed she allowed me to wash the dishes quite a lot when l was little. We will all have special memories of Nan, or Mum, or Elsie, but for me Nan taught me the love of appreciation for all things in life and to never settle for anything but the very best scone.
These are the gifts Nan gave to me — to share time simply and with love. To appreciate that I can just be me, and that‘s good enough, and to accept that sometimes life may serve you bad art without understanding, but somewhere, someone is enjoying Nan’s. That comfort is lessened for us today, but Nan‘s passion, and love, lives on in us. lt’s up to us to love each other as she loved us, with quiet acceptance and understanding.
Thank you Nan, I love you and goodbye.”
My son Ben shares.
A reflection in the form of a video slideshow of Mum’s life is shown. I originally went to have this professionally produced but the guy came back with something which fell far short of what I wanted to depict my Mum’s life. I made my own, just impressions painted on a screen of Mum’s life.
I have been extremely busy for the last few weeks and I had thought “I must ring Mum” but I didn’t make the effort until Monday night, at about 9.15 pm, when Julie, my wife, handed me the phone and said “Why don’t you ring your Mum” So I did.
We spoke for about 50 minutes that night and she seemed happy to talk about what was happening in her life, about her granddaughter Hope and Hope’s new boyfriend, about my sisters and about her health.
She asked me about my work as a Chaplain and I told her about how I had conducted 3 funerals within 2 days recently and how difficult it was to make each one personal.
I said that I wasn’t afraid to speak to people about ETERNITY and how many people are MORE than willing to talk about dying when they come to an AGED CARE FACILITY. As a Chaplain I always TRY to encourage people to PUT THEIR FAITH in Jesus Christ personally. I have found that faith in Him to be a great strength to me during this time. I think we all need His help today.
Mum spoke about how good she was feeling of late. Her health was good and she was enjoying life. She asked me, as she often does, if I will ever take up painting again. I told her that I was writing and illustrating a book on the computer of late and that she would get a copy as a Christmas present this year. I guess I will dedicate it to her.
When I asked her if SHE would ever paint again, she told me that she hadn’t given up painting. She just lacked motivation to get something started again.
My Mum and Me, Ross
I didn’t realise that this would be the last conversation that I would ever have with my Mum. At the end of those 50 minutes I cut the conversation short because I was tired. The last thing I said to her was “I love you Mum”. I am so thankful that Julie, my wife, handed me the phone that night and suggested I ring my Mum. I think God arranged for me to have that conversation.
Our Mum was a fine ARTIST, and it is my task to paint you a picture of her life.
ELSIE SWAN was born in “Windooree” private hospital, 53 Gurwood Street on the 19th June 1931, one of 7 children.
Some of you may know that Wagga was experiencing a huge flood in 1931. My grandfather Dave Swan had to drive his very pregnant wife Alice into town. He had to get out of the Sulky at Lake Albert to check the depth of the water to see if they could get through. Mum could have been born in that sulky.
Of course Australia has just been through some more incredible flooding and there has been a terrible earthquake in New Zealand recently. It seems Mum’s entrance into and exit from the world was surrounded by CATACLYSMIC EVENTS. Perhaps that’s why Mum always liked to paint in such DRAMATIC colours.
Let me first paint some BROAD BRUSHSTROKES of her life.
Elsie lived on a dairy farm with her parents at Gregado. She rode a horse with her sister, Letty, to the Gregado School, that’s if Tommey, her horse, would let them stay on. He had a habit of shaking them off at the gate and they would have to catch him all over again.
Mum used to laugh about Tommey. She was not the best horse rider and one day when she was supposed to round up some cows, one cow just refused to co-operate. Tommey just bucked her off and rounded up the cow for her. He figured he could do the job better himself.
After finishing the Black Friars CORRESPONDENCE course Mum completed her INTERMEDIATE in Wagga. She loved the dances at Gregado and playing tennis and she worked as a telephonist in Gregado.
On the 23rd of July 1949 in the Methodist Church, she married our Dad, Roy Cochrane.
Our Mum was a wonderful cook and I remember most Sundays we would have a roast Chicken feast. Toni, my sister, says that Dad made the mistake of saying one Sunday that part of the chicken was still frozen. This didn’t go down well Mum and he received a roasting himself, and the next time she served chicken she placed a frozen chicken on his plate and said “Here, eat this!”
We’ve been reading Mum’s diaries of those early years, filled with hard work, and good friends, tennis and camping and eventually 3 children, Toni, myself, Ross, and Lauren, arguably her most creative work.
In the early years of her marriage she lived in a little lane called LAMPE AVENUE in what amounted to a 2 room house and kitchen area, with a lean-to out the back and a copper for hot water and bath. We had only one powerpoint in the house. I loved growing up there and missed it greatly when we moved to a housing commission home at 27 Hunter St in Wagga. Since then someone has had the hide to pull that little house down and build an apartment. Pat Davey, Mum’s lifelong friend, who is here today would remember many stories from those days.
For many years Mum was a professional dressmaker. She also worked in the Plaza theatre for a time.
Mum and I studied fine Arts together at the Riverina College of Advanced Education and she went on to get her degree. She taught fine art at the University and Tafe College. She also taught DISABLED STUDENTS as well as teaching numerous PRIVATE STUDENTS through the years, some of whom have gone on to be prominent artists themselves. Over the years Mum has exhibited her work in many places including a combined exhibition which she did with me here in Wagga.
This is perhaps her FINAL EXHIBITION and she would be pleased to think that you have come to see her work. AND NO, THEY ARE NOT FOR SALE.
In 1981 Mum and Dad divorced and she moved to Ashmont. She remained friends, however with Dad until his death. She has lived in Ashmont Avenue for 25 years. Her landlord loved driving by and seeing her beautiful garden, splashes of colour from roses and numerous other plants decorating the premises and inviting your eyes to pause and enjoy them. She loved her garden.
She also loved a variety of music ranging from Neil Diamond, John Farnham, Susan Boyle, Andrei Reau TO PINK. Her granddaughter Hope introduced her to Pink, I’m sure. She loved listening to Hope sing the songs of today.
Mum actually attended Hope’s birth. She has loved being a grandmother and great grandmother. She recently came to Sydney and we all got together for a great day where she got to meet Rachel and Ben’s children. She also loved being a DAUGHTER HERSELF to her own Mum who lived to 108. Mum, Letty, Nana, Ken and others loved spending time at the Wagga Market Place where they all became well known and loved by the shopkeepers.
During her time in Ashmont she met Ken and he has been a faithful friend to Mum for many years. His friendship enriched her life. Thankyou Ken.
Our Mum has been able to travel to a number of countries and these trips have been inspiration for many of her artworks. She traveled with Pat Davey to Europe. She traveled to America, and Lord Howe Island, and to Tasmania with Letty in a Holden Barina. Letty remembers that they laughed a lot. Many other places fill photo albums. Although we have numerous photographs of these trips there are very few of them with her in them. She was more interested in TEXTURES AND COLOURS AND SHAPES for series of paintings which followed.
I came across some notes Mum wrote for an interview with RVN, the local TV station, she was going to have for an exhibition. She wrote “Comments for RVN interview (I guess I won’t say any of this)…. The longer one paints or the more experience one has, the more difficult painting becomes. Rather than whipping up a painting as the result of “inspiration”, it is more a battle of wits – painter versus paint, brush and canvas.
The most frequent comment I have (from people) is “so long as you enjoy what you’re doing.” Well yes at times I do but often I loathe the piece I’m working on to the extent that I would like to tear it to shreds. Only later when I’ve taken the work to its limits, when I’ve resolved the painting and put it away for a time, am I likely to grow to like it. The ones that cause the most trouble – those I’d like to hack to pieces, are often my better pieces when resolved.
I very rarely feel so attached to a piece of work that I can’t part with it, canvases are ripped off frames or repainted if they remain in my workshop after an exhibition.
I work very long hours. I live alone so I can work into the early hours of the morning in my workshop if I want to and often do. I sleep very soundly but should I wake in the night with an idea I keep my note book handy and I jot things down. Inserted later – I said none of this but the interview was the best I’ve had. It was shown at the exhibition several times.”
Another time she wrote, “Broke my hand 30th Sept 1986. Chirp (my budgee) died during operation 4th Oct 1986. Hand in plaster from 16th October – 27th November. Completed 3 mixed media paintings while my hand was in plaster (with great difficulty). Unable to stretch canvas and begin work in earnest until after Christmas 86. 19th January. Completed 7 paintings, six floor pieces. Work flowing, enjoying freedom from other commitments. Money short for materials as I’m unemployed during holiday period.”
Elsie had a heart condition called HYPERTROPIC CARDIO MYOPATHY and on Tuesday morning 22nd February, 2011, at the age of 79, God painted the last brushstroke of her life here on earth.
I walked into her workshop a few days ago and was suddenly overwhelmed with grief for her loss and thankfulness for life. The canvases still stood against the wall ready to be painted. The tubes of paint, paintbrushes, pottery, and numerous tools of her trade silently stood as if saying “What do we do now?” and I cried for their loss and mine.
Her garden and the quality of her works and all those who have felt the touch of her influence say “Well done.” We love you Mum.
Elsie and some of the great grandchildren - Levi, Arielle, Zion and Rome.
Elsie Cochrane was a sister to John, Nell, Kath, Chick Letty, and Lilly. She leaves behind 3 children, Toni, Ross and Lauren. 6 grandchildren, Jeremy, David and Matthew, Hope, Ben and Rachel, and 8 great grandchildren. And of course all of YOU who have come to her exhibition today.
We would like to give you a memento of her work. We found some canvases which had been water damaged at the bottom, so we have cut them up in the size of a large bookmark to give to each of you. There is a picture of Mum on the back and Julie has written “In recognition of the colour and texture you have added to Elsie’s wonderful life, we would like you to have, as a keepsake, this portion of her artwork. This memento will also serve as a reminder of the beauty with which Elsie has touched all our lives, with love, Toni, Ross and Lauren and their families.”
Would you stand with me as I pray. “Lord we commit Elsie into Your hands. We thankyou for who she was and what she meant to us, and the privilege of knowing her and loving her.
May the Lord bless you indeed abundantly beyond all you ask or think. May the Lord extend the sphere of your influence in positive ways as you grow to know Him more and more. May the Lords Hand be with you guiding your hand as you reach out to others. May He protect and keep you from evil that you may live a life that pleases Him. May you honour Him more and more in your life. May you know His peace and forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.
Neil Diamond sings “Yesterdays Songs”
The casket is carried to the gravesite by Peter, David, Jeremy and Matthew, Ben and Jim.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says “There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
We’re here today to LAY TO REST Elsie’s body and to say our final goodbyes. The Bible says that OUR BODIES are made of the DUST OF THE GROUND and to the dust of the ground we will all return. But we are MORE THAN DUST. God breathed life into these temporary bodies, and as I just read GOD HAS SET ETERNITY in the hearts of men. These bodies serve us only as the TEMPORARY DWELLING PLACE. It is all together fitting and right that we miss Elsie but now is the time to let her go, to give her into God’s hands.
We take time to place some flowers on Elsie’s casket. Mum always said she wanted plenty of flowers.
Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
knowing full well that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
I sing the Benediction.
The Lord Bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.