My Mum’s funeral last week was as emotionally moving as expected. Dad did her proud with his arrangements. Mum would have loved the music, the simplicity, the intimacy and the fact that all her close family were all there to say goodbye.
I can’t actually recall the last time that we were all together on something other than Zoom; probably a decade or two have passed since we managed it. It was great that all three of our sons could take a break from work to be there. I recall how hard it is sometimes to get away from work for unplanned events but this one was a biggie.
The celebration of Mum’s life was dominated by my Dad reading out a last letter he had written to her. This was the last of 354 letters that he had written daily to her when Mum’s care home stopped taking visitors last year because of the pandemic. Fortunately the care home had opened up again before Mum died so Dad replaced the series of letters with frequent visits and, charmingly, readings of short stories (mainly tales of Paddington Bear that Mum loved and which my sister and I had grown up with). This last letter, though, was especially poignant.
By the time Dad had finished reading the letter I (and I wasn’t alone) was tearful and a barely managed my brief recollection of a few relevant memories and Mum’s quiet love for us. My sister too said a few lovely words through the emotion. Then we all retired to Dad’s house for lunch which was a very pleasant affair that was full of chat about memories and next steps.
Fortunately my sister has been able to work from my Dad’s house for a week or so and then will take some holiday. They will continue the task of rationalising possessions acquired over decades but also, I’m sure, provide some mutual emotional support. Then, I hope that Dad can come and visit us in Gloucestershire for a while later this year. We move on…..
The flurry of activity around the funeral last week has folded back into the routine of quasi-lockdown life. We are starting to do the normal forms of socialising but mask wearing in shops and social distancing from all but some relatives and close friends seems to be a permanent part of our way of life now.
Youngest Son (YS) stayed with us before and after the funeral and between video shoots and we ventured to the local pub with him. We actually drank inside – such a novelty! To remind us that the pandemic is not over however, that same pub is now shut for 10 days due to a positive Covid test among the pub team. It ain’t over!
After taking YS back to the airport for his flight back to Belfast, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I visited Tyntesfield House Gardens in Somerset.
The house and chapel are Victorian and were built in a rather loud gothic style by William Gibbs who apparently made his fortune from trading guano as fertiliser. The buildings are certainly a grand statement of his wealth and, on a less busy day, we will visit again and go inside to see the ornate rooms with their paintings and furniture.
The walled kitchen garden, orangery and dahlia beds were impressive and quite inspiring to walk around. Some of the dahlias were gorgeous and we arrived at the right time to see them at their best.
We just have one dahlia in our garden (Café Au Lait which produces huge blooms that last well even when cut). However, my Dad has a lovely one in his garden I may be able to filch part of and I will try to find some room for some others and then protect them avidly from frost.
Tyntesfield House was acquired by the National Trust in 2002. That LSW and I are members is thanks to my Mum and Dad who bought us life membership around the time we were married. We both hold on stubbornly to our original membership cards that are so old that they defy the automatic card reader systems the National Trust have installed, and which attract knowing looks from some of the National Trust staff. Those cards are still so valuable to us and are great reminders of the generosity and life-long interests of my dear Dad and, my now departed, Mum.