Saturday, 26 November 2011

Last farewell

My sister's funeral was on Thursday. Being November it was - unsurprisingly - dull and cold, but then surely funerals are meant to be something of a grey overcast occasion anyway? Maybe.

There looked to be quite a lot of people there, especially as Leamington Parish Church is enormous - more the size of a cathedral. The priest who read the eulogy had been friends with my sister for a number of years, and had in fact phoned me the previous week for some background information on what it had been like growing up together. In fact although I'd quite readily and naturally assumed the role of the brat little brother plaguing his big sister at every opportunity, as adults we got on well together and I don't recollect that we ever fell out with each other. Listening to it, the eulogy I thought captured my sister's character very well, unlike some I've heard where I've sat there wondering if they were talking about the same person! It did strike me though that I hadn't realized the full extent of my sister's ill health, perhaps understandably as it wasn't something she'd ever really confided in me.

There followed a burial at Warwick cemetery, alongside the grave of her youngest son who died somewhat tragically five years ago. That's a little unusual these days, I think: most people are cremated, not least because of the number of graveyards that are actually full. I shed a few tears as I listened to the priest reciting the "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" prayer and I was struck by the finality of it all, throwing a handful of earth down onto the coffin.

A couple of our cousins made the trip up to the funeral, acting as a poignant reminder of how my sister had always tended to carry on our mother's tradition of keeping in touch with "the family" - though in all honesty I'm not sure she'd had that much actual contact, or at least not until fairly recently. We said goodbye at the end, promising that must stay in touch *as you do* though how the reality of that will turn out remains to be seen.

Once the grave is finished with the headstone in place, I shall perhaps go and visit it. I used to visit the cemetery at Kenilworth, where my parents' ashes are interred, quite regularly at first but over the course of the last twenty-odd years got out of the habit, basically because I suppose I ceased to feel the need to. I guess it's something that's a very personal decision: to my knowledge my sister never went there, but I shall probably go again now if only to try in a strange way to come to terms in my mind with the impact of what's happened.

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