Well, today is the day to bid farewell to my mother officially. I’m filled with some nerves, some trepidation and some relief. Sharon and Ken are busy running around preparing for guests invited after the funeral and their son, my second cousin, Mungo turns up with warm hugs and regards, along with his eldest daughter Ella, who shares his dad’s bright blue eyes. Despite the nature of the day, there’s no sombreness really, just a realisation that this day needs to be done and in short time life continues for all of us left.
I spend some time trying on Sharon and Ken’s hat collection whilst Amy irons me a shirt.
We head to the funeral service, just in a small room, a converted barn called The Barn. Possibly an Australian was asked what to call it. The site is a new cemetery where ashes and bodies can be buried with trees and a small memorial plaque.
The officials are all very nice and understand the nature of my mum’s requirements for no religious texts, prayers and hymns. More people turn up that I expected, most that I don’t recognise but people that Sharon has managed to find in mum’s contacts book. I don’t get much chance to talk with anyone to find out more but later reflect on the words passed on from these people about their appreciation for my mum.
It’s weird to see the coffin and imagine your mother is inside. But I know she isn’t there, that is just the body she was using. It did bring home a finality though and I felt sad.
The service starts with a song I picked which I knew mum would’ve liked. It’s called Day Is Done by Peter, Paul and Mary. I also chose the closing music which is Acker Bilk’s Petite Fleur. After a quick introduction, it’s quickly on to me. I have a prepared speech and stiltedly read aloud as I attempt to input some emotion into it and occasionally make some eye contact with the onlookers. I’ve never been one for standing up and talking in front of people; unusual for someone who used to stand in front of a 100 people and attempt to sing back in younger days.
My speech went like this:
I just want to share a small story that reflects what my mum meant to me and how she subtly influenced me to be who I am today.
I’m guessing I was about 21 or thereabouts at the time and we were living in Colehill. Most dinner times I would come home after work and mum would have baked something for us to eat, me in my room, her in the living room. This particular evening she prepared a big fry up. Eggs, bread, mushrooms, tomato and baked beans. I was grumpy and ravenous. As the egg was the final component and it hit the plate I thanked her (I hope) and headed off to my room.
Some how I caught myself on the corner of the door and the whole plate plummeted to floor, depositing everything onto our worn carpet. I was devastated. I don’t remember what else was going on in my life at that moment but this was the final straw, the end! I think I burst into tears!
My mum quickly came along and told me to get something to clean up the mess. She looked at me and said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make you another one’. Somehow this new plate of food tasted bittersweet. I felt guilty but happy.
This short anecdote demonstrated mum’s attitude and unknowingly influenced me as I have since developed a strong streak of patience, a lack of drama and a get on with it approach to any difficulties in life.
This was just the way my mum was. She just got on with things without making a fuss and bother. She’d be furious with us all now making all this palaver over her demise but a funeral is never for the deceased but for those who are left. So let’s remember her like this, and as we go on our own ways, let’s just get on with it.
My cousin Ken reads through a chronology of mum’s life and another song is played. Mungo reads a short poem that also pretty much reflects my mum’s wishes (except the second line!).
‘By Herself and Her Friends’ by Joyce Grenfell
If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone,
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must, Parting is hell,
But Life goes on, So sing as well.
Finally, the director reads out a poem that my Aunt Lorna has requested be read. Lorna is the last survivor sibling sister and unfortunately isn’t well enough to travel to attend today.
‘Weep not for me’ by Constance Jenkins
Weep not for me though I am gone;
into that gentle night.
Grieve if you will but not for long,
upon my soul’s sweet flight.
I am at peace,
my soul’s at rest.
There is no need for tears.
For with your love I was blessed;
for all those many years.
There is no pain,
I suffer not,
The fear now all is gone.
Put now these things out of your thoughts.
In your memory I live on.
Remember not my fight for breath;
remember not the strife.
Please do not dwell upon my death,
but celebrate my life.
As this poem is read out I start to feel a little emotional and so look outside through the window whilst taking in the words. In the building opposite a dog has decided to push through the curtains and sit in the window, taking in the sun. Life goes on.
The rest of the afternoon is spent chatting with mum’s friends and associates, some who I’ve met previously, others I’ve often heard her talking about over the years. I think the service was appropriately short and without fuss and was a nice way to think about my mum’s life.
Later, we’re joined by Mungo’s two youngest kids who tear around the kitchen distracting us with laughter and screaming fun.
And later still, a final dinner with my cousins where we eat well and drink copiously, even managing to pry the last drops out of Ken’s bottle of Dalwhinnie. Discussion ranges from my mum’s life to deeper, more philosophical things as Mungo stirs the pot with his Dad, who is up for the debate. Amy is wilting and I soon offer we retire to bed and the day ends with an upbeat feeling and one that I know my mum would have enjoyed partaking in.