Friday, 19 November 2010

It's a wonderful life - and it was for Tony

My favourite film is – and has been for many years – Frank Capra's 1946 masterpiece called It's A Wonderful Life.

To those who don't get it, this is just a whimsical American fantasy piece about a man who is given redemption by an incompetent angel. However, for those who do truly understand it, this is a truly uplifting film which shows how one man's life touches so many others and how no man who is truly loved can ever feel their life has been anything but a triumph.

This film kept coming back to me on Tuesday when I attended the beautiful funeral service of Tony Morgan at St Swithun's Church in Bathford.

I got to know Tony a few years ago when he was consort to one of his five beloved daughters, Loraine Morgan-Brinkhurst, when she was chairman of Bath and North East Somerset Council. Every time I met him he had the ability to make me feel like I was the most important person in the room, and his warmth, kindness and genuine love of life shone out of his eyes.

On Tuesday I realised that this quiet and unassuming man had the ability to do the same to everyone and I can honestly say I've rarely ever been as moved as I was during this quite remarkable service.

As well as an inspired and inspiring speech by Loraine herself and some beautiful words from nephew Kevin Moore and sons-in-law John Fry, Paul Allison and John Davies, the moment that really struck me was when Tony's many grandchildren went to the front of the church and paid their own incredibly moving tributes.

For someone from a relatively small family it seemed like there were dozens of these grandchildren but what really touched me was the way all of them spoke as if they were the only grandchild Tony had ever had because he clearly loved and delighted in every one of them.

Their loving words would have been heart-breaking – if they weren't completely inspiring.

As I left the service I thought again about my favourite film. It's main character George Bailey is given the chance to see what life would have been like had he not been born and when he realised the impact he'd made on others, he saw that it is, after all, a wonderful life.

For Tony Morgan it was exactly the same. As I looked around the packed church it was almost impossible to find a dry eye but this was a mixture of tears of sadness, tears of joy and tears of pride.

That is the impact that this humble man had on all around him and having not known him terribly well before the service, I felt I really knew him by the end. And my admiration soared.

It showed to me, once again, that we should not judge a man by the size of his bank balance or his home but by the size of his heart and his capacity for love.

In that context, Tony Morgan was truly a man amongst men.

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