Friday, October 10, 2008

First And Last

Tom was one yesterday and we cremated my aunt.

And that, for me, has to be one of this year’s most unexpected sentences.

It was a day (to use a football analogy for the first and last time in my life) of two halves:

The first was lovely – Tom’s first birthday, Tom’s first experience of being given gifts to open and the last time he will ever receive birthday gifts without at all knowing quite why he’s been showered with them and without any hope or expectation of what they might be. Next year I suspect he will be a little more knowing, a little more sussed, and while that is fine and lovely too (and I can’t wait to see it) there was something very special indeed at witnessing his surprise and wonderment at this, his very first birthday.

And to use an old cliché, my aunt made her final journey – a slow, respectful last drive through beautiful October sunshine to the crematorium where a mere 4 years ago we buried her mother / my Nan. Last words and the last committal from the vicar and it was done. They say that each time you go to a funeral you remember all the funerals you’ve ever attended and everyone you’ve ever lost.

Well, let me tell you, it’s perfectly true.

Due to the ghosts of old family rows and resentments, the occasion was tense. Emotions were high. There were dark undercurrents and groundswells that only a true occultist would have been able to read. But nothing overt. And thankfully the event passed without a hard look or a snide comment from anybody. All as it should be. What use family arguments now? What use recriminations? Time to remember. But also time to let go and move on. Everybody has to deal with their own trouble. It’s best to wish them well and deal with your own.

It was good to get back home again afterwards, to the kids, to my favourite place on the sofa, to the next round of presents. To a precious normality.

Little boys with blue plastic diggers... what could be more happier and more right?

Birthdays are precious things.

I aim to be grateful for every single one.

19 comments:

Inchy said...

You call your life 'normality'?

"Wake up call on aisle 6!
Can I get a wake up call on aisle 6 please!"

Watch 'Life Of Brian' over the weekend, that'll put a grin back on your face.
If it doesn't, try Staropramen premium Czech lager. It's always my friend.

Steve said...

Ah - a comedy about someone being crucified. You're right, that'll make me feel much better. ;-)

Daisy said...

steve...i am so glad Tom was able to have that time...i know it's hard to go from one extreme (celebrating life) to the other (saying goodbye to a life) but it sounds as if you balanced it well...

i'm also glad your favorite spot was available on the couch to welcome you home...sometimes just being home, is enough...

Lucy Fishwife said...

The last funeral I went to was my grandfather's several years ago. It was actually a great day out for all the family, commencing with deaf 95-yr-old Cousin Jim shouting "I had a shocking experience with a radish this morning" into a mostly hushed room, and finishing with a woman I'd never met before insisting, despite my firm demurral, that I was my aunt. In the church my cousin Ned had to hide his face in his hands to smother his hysterical giggles because a large group of strange old women in unspeakable hats kept looking at him in a tragic way. They thought he was overcome by grief, which made it even funnier.

Steve said...

Thanks Daisy, happiness is very often just a quiet place on the couch. And access to the remote...

Lucy, that sounds quite an experience! The only funny thing that happened at this one was my granddad asking in a loud voice why the vicar was making him (and everyone else) keep standing up every 5 minutes...!

Old Cheeser said...

Glad the funeral went okay (relatively speaking) and Tom had a nice birthday. One life ends and another begins.

Steve said...

Thanks, as always, for your good wishes, OC.

Reluctant Blogger said...

Those plastic diggers hurt when you stand on them though, don't they? My son has recently got into small metal aeroplanes and those are vicious.

I'm glad the day went as well as it could have done. I am fine with funerals for older people - they are good occasions to celebrate a life and meet up with people you see rarely. But not for those like your Aunt who are younger or where there is unfinished business. But I'm pleased everyone behaved.

The weather is still splendid so I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Steve said...

Hi Gina, I'm finding that most kids toys hurt when you stand on them - aside from the soft fluffy ones of course!

I'm glad the funeral is over with to tell you the truth and that all remained peaceful on the western front... just all the legal stuff to sort out now but some decent lawyers (if that's not a conflict in terms) have been engaged so the donkey work can be undertaken by them.

The weather's good here too - just taken Tom out for a walk and bought some Milky Bars... mainly for the kids. Karen and I just have one so they don't have to feel self conscious... ahem.

Inchy said...

I know this is somewhat off at a tangent, but last year I attended the cremation of the old man who lived next door to me. Bobby and his wife had become a bit like surrogate grandparents to me (I never knew any of mine) and I used to call him Postman Pat as being retired he was always at home when a delivery of a parcel for me arrived.

His cremation was a humanist ceremony, something that I'd never heard of at that point, and I have to say it was probably the perfect way to say cheerio to someone.
There is no mention of the pearly gates, no "he's in a better place", nothing religious at all in fact, merely a speaker for the dead who talked about Bobby, his life, who he was, and I learned things about him that day that I hadn't known before, things like he used to play rugby for the Scottish national team as a young man.
After this was a sort of open mike period where people were actively encouraged to come up and tell tales and anecdotes about the old boy and during this I was equally laughing out loud and crying like a baby.

All in all it seemed perfectly fitting to be in a room with lots of other people all laughing and celebrating his life rather than feeling desperately sad at his passing. It's how I want to go.

One particular comment by his wife Pat had the place in stitches.
They had been on holiday abroad and whilst walking to the hotel upon arriving with their luggage, Bobby had complained that he was bursting for a pee. His wife said "Well you better pick up your pace", but Bobby being a bit hard of hearing replied "I'm not pissing in my case!"

Just thought I'd share this wee thought with you all.

Steve said...

And it's much appreciated, Inchy. We actually had the option of having a humanist ceremony but naturally I suppose, my grandfather wanted a traditional C of E. It did the job I suppose but I found all the religious stuff got in the way... a humanist ceremony sounds far more fitting. I'd rather have honest feeling than pious protestations any day...

KAZ said...

Sounds as though each event helped you to appreciate the other.
..or something.
Hope Tom and his digger will be very happy together.

Steve said...

A match made in Heaven, Kaz. Igglepiggle is looking very put out.

The Sagittarian said...

I would love to know what the wee fella thought the next day...no presents!

Glad all was as it should be for the funeral side of things.

kate5kiwis said...

love inchy's tangent. love that idea.
so glad the day had lots of highs, steve.
here's to another wonderful year in the life of Tom! X

Steve said...

Hi Amanda, I think he was actually relieved to have things back to normal - he was initially a bit nonplused to have all these gifts thrust at him... I daresay he'll be a pro by Christmas though...

Thanks Kate - I can't believe how quickly this first year has gone!

Brother Tobias said...

Glad the funeral went okay. As Kaz said, you'll probably remember Tom's first birthday more clearly because of it. I think we could probably have given ours wrapping paper, apple peel and bits of sellotape for their first birthdays, and they'd have been just as happy!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Let us hope he never aspires beyond that blue plastic dagger (I mean as a present - he'll bankrupt you!)

Glad you Aunt's send-off went as well as could be hoped. I'm sure it was stressful just anticipating what might go wrong though.

Steve said...

I must admit, Brother T, the most enduring of Tom's gifts has been a hug emepty box which he plays with every day!

Laura, you're about the third person who's read "digger" for "dagger"...!