Today concluded a very difficult chapter for me,and no doubt for my loved ones too.
It was my Fathers funeral.
I realized yesterday that the build up to an imagined pressure day was worrying me more than the actual event itself. In a way, thinking about the funeral, and the emotional trauma that it could possibly bring, was upsetting me more than the event itself could. So, today was the day to deal with it and get past it all. And do it we did.
I sat around most of the morning, after a much delayed start. I didn’t specifically plan on a lie in but I was resisting rushing about and panicking. I had a leisurely breakfast and sat watching tv, whilst internally worrying that I hadn’t done anything to get ready yet. I kept asking my good lady if there was anything to do but every question was answered with the news that all concerned in our house were already doing anything that was needed and all things were on schedule. Not that it stopped me fretting.
The morning wore on and I kept thinking about putting my suit on but knowing we had to get through a quick lunch before heading off, I delayed it.I m not some child that needs a constant bib but I know irony and it loves me. I was almost honour bound to spill something down my new, clean,pressed white shirt today if never again. I was pleasingly surprised to see all my offspring taking a turn in polishing their shoes, although two at least needed a quick teach.
When we all left, walking the twenty minutes to Mum’s home, I felt so very proud. My children, our babes, all grown up and doing us proud. Looking very dignified and smart, we arrived early at Mum’s, had our introductions to friends and relatives we’ve never met or haven’t seen in decades before then waited for the cars to arrive. That was when the wobbles started. Mum went from bubbly and light hearted to pale and quiet as the cars crept silently into view. I took my moment to do my duty for my Dad and grabbed Mum as she wobbled, thrust her hand through my arm and steadied her towards the waiting car. The journey there was painfully long but respectfully sombre. The girls, my siblings, in the back seat took turns to sob loudly and Mum soon joined them as we pulled up outside the crematorium. I accompanied Mum to the vestibule, following the casket in and took her to her seat, staying with her, holding her hand, holding her when it got rough.
They had chosen a Humanist service some time ago, not being at all religious or hypocritical. I was very impressed with the professionalism and the sobriety of something that didn’t have the dignity of the Church to fall back on.
The ceremony over,we greeted and spoke with those who wanted to give personal condolences,pay tribute or just share a story about Dad from their time associated with him. My Father, you should understand, was a social animal. He was a member of several groups over his lifetime and a loyal friend to anyone who had the pleasure to meet him. Having been a Railwayman all his working life,a fisherman on and off for most of his adult years and a major player in his local social club after retiring early, plus a keen, award winning in fact, Country and Western dancer (NOT line dancing!), the queue of well wishers took an hour to pass by. Over 150 people turned up to celebrate his life, with as many again joining us at the same social club afterwards.
Once the ceremony itself was over and the most emotionally moving dedications had been made, the worst of it was over and Mum relaxed and started to look healthy and happy again. Maybe for the first time in months. The stress of it all had been taking its toll on an already poorly woman. It was noticeable but we didn’t let her worry about us worrying. That’s what parents do isn’t it? They don’t want you worrying about them, then you worry that they are worried. Then, as you become the carer,you worry that they are worrying about you.
As we left, having introduced my children and wife to the rest of my very extended family, including the auntie who informed them she still had pictures of my cousin and I dressed in nothing more than our pants and Christmas stick on ribbon bows, Mum was at ease. She had friends and family jostling for her attention, all wanting to share memories and the latest news.
It is an end to a chapter, a major chapter,but it is not the end of the book. Now Mum can begin to build the rest of her life. Dad will be with us forever, in spirit and in our hearts and he will always be part of Mums day to day life. That will never change but now she can stop worrying about him, preparing herself for the worst to come and fearing a future watching her childhood sweetheart, the only man she ever loved and the man she shared every night with, until his cancer was diagnosed, slowly and painfully crumbling away into ill health and drug dependency.
Dad is at peace now. Mum is happier. We live on. We don’t move on, we carry on. One of our family has left us but the family is stronger thanks to his being part of it.