Last month we went to a funeral for a very popular, lovely, family man almost 10 years younger than me. He had died suddenly leaving his family and friends shocked and bereft. It was an absolutely packed and emotional church service – he was a terrific guy who was enormously popular – followed by an equally packed reception. The whole occasion was very moving and I have thought about it a lot since.
Of course, the overriding feeling during the service and afterwards was sadness that it represented a life cut short, especially as he was so full of life, he had looked so well and was so obviously a vital part of his family, the organisation he worked for and his local community. However, the speeches and readings at the funeral were largely an uplifting celebration of his life. There were many amusing anecdotes and also a lovely poem by David Harkins that provided a positive slant on death that gave a little boost even in such a sad situation.
You can shed tears that he is gone
Or you can smile because he has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what he would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Into this mix of shock, sadness and a celebration of a life well lived, was a feeling of being the recipient of good fortune in that I am still here and reasonably healthy. I have seen three sons settle with three delightful partners and seen Eldest Son produce a wonderful child with his wife. And, this year, I’ve seen all three sons purchase homes with their partners that are each very different but which seem very well suited to each pair; a flat in Edinburgh, a terrace house in Bristol and a semi-detached house in Belfast.
Old age may bring aches, pains and worse but it is a privilege to have had longevity to be able to see our sons grow and establish themselves in the world, to be happy and to establish a platform into which they could introduce new life. As I stood in the crowded church at the funeral, I thought: lucky me.
Even as Christmas approaches and we look forward to hosting our sons and their partners at various times over the Christmas period, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I are starting to think about making the most of our time with a few trips next year. First, we want to get to Belfast to see Youngest Son’s new house but we will be trying to visit Edinburgh too and, I hope, spending smaller but more numerous fragments of time in nearby Bristol. Plus, after a few years of abstinence, we want to travel abroad again.
Meanwhile, I continue to potter through my local routine of walking, shopping, cooking, and working a bit for the local Climate Action Network and Food Bank. In recent cold, clear weather, the local walks have been a real treat.
Plus, of course, I have been watching a lot of football at the World Cup. Qatar may have been a crazy choice for a number of reasons but the overall quality of the football has been great. For all the concern about the Qatari views on LGBTQ rights and workers rights, it has been a pleasant change to see the joyous, ebullient crowds in the stadia in contrast to the thuggery and tears at Wembley at the Euros a couple of years ago.
My normal routine was also interrupted but enhanced by a trip to Lewes in Sussex. I tagged along with LSW who wanted to visit a specific shop called Freight there. It was a long way to travel for a shop but it was very much LSWs thing and Lewes is a very attractive town.
Harvey’s brewery is based in the town and the smell of hops was delightful as we walked down the high street. It is a smell that reminds me of my home town of Reading which was the home of Courage breweries in my youth. I love it.
After a very good value and pleasant lunch at Bill’s, LSW and I split up for a bit. While LSW surveyed the shops, I wandered around the town’s castle and gardens. The gardens are a bit bleak at this time of year but the weather was fine and the views from the visitor-friendly castle were pretty impressive in all directions.
Since getting back home, the weather has been very cold and then surprisingly snowy. We had about seven inches of snow and it stuck around for almost a week. My Yaktrax Ice Grips allowed me to continue my normal round of walks to and from the local towns and the frost and snow made the local countryside en route even prettier than usual. A week of such weather is, though, enough in my book; I am looking forward to temperatures rising a little bit before Christmas.
And so on to Christmas! Hopefully our sons and their partners will be able to avoid the issues caused by strikes and weather to make it down to us from their various new abodes. Then we can feel so lucky all over again…..