22 August 2020
On 15 January my father died aged 87. His funeral was held on 30 January. The church was well attended by family, friends and colleagues. The service was conducted by our family friend, the vicar who was curate at the same church half a century ago. Our family home was just around the corner from the church. Our vicar friend married me and my sister and christened three of our children in that church.
As we took our seats, my throat was so tight I could hardly breathe. I found the strength to climb the steps to the pulpit and read a poem with my daughter, before I allowed the tears to spill down my cheeks. At the end of the service she and I walked out of the church, hand in hand. We watched as his coffin, laden with white roses and orchids, was lifted into the hearse. We stood side by side, motionless, as the car seemed to glide away from us and we could see it no longer.
We knew everyone was waiting to come out of the church and in that split second we all agreed we couldn’t face doing a line up. We dived into the funeral cars and in minutes arrived at the hotel where the ‘bit of a do’ afterwards was to be held. I still feel guilty about that as we knew not everyone who had attended the church would be able to join us, but we hoped they would understand. We spent a few quiet moments together, sipping a glass of whatever we fancied before everyone arrived. The next few hours were full of stories, memories, laughter and tears. By the time the last person left we were exhausted but satisfied that the day had been a very fitting send off for an amazing man.
Little did we know then how fortunate we had been. Within weeks Coronavirus was with us. Families were unable to be with their loved ones at end of life. Funerals were limited to no more than 10 close family members and social distancing applied – no comforting hugs allowed. Lockdown delayed our ability to arrange a resting place for my father. Today, over 7 months since he died, his daughters, sons in law, grandchildren and great grandchild were able to meet together and bury his ashes in the garden of the church where his funeral took place. Our vicar friend conducted the short service for us. We had a much smaller ‘bit of a do’ afterwards – just me, my 2 sisters and our vicar friend. We sat in my garden, socially distanced of course – our toasts were to my father and our vicar friend’s wife, who died during lockdown – he drank red wine and we ‘girls’ shared a bottle of pink champagne.