Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Weep, You May Weep, For You May Touch Them Not

We cremated my grandfather yesterday at 1.30 at the local crematorium. The place is surrounded by woodland and though beautiful is perishing cold at any time of year let alone in the middle of December.

I hope the service was what he would have wanted. Aside from a few favourite hymns there were few instructions. We had Jona Lewie’s “Stop The Cavalry” played at the start and end of service which raised a few smiles. It was one of his favourite records and we all have memories of him playing it constantly, much to my Nan’s annoyance, while he beefed up the percussion by striking a glass with a knife or a spoon. I have very vivid memories of him singing along to the “dub-a-dub-a-dum-dum” parts in a voice that strove joyously to be completely out of tune and atonal. Entirely deliberate one suspects from a man who sang in the church choir as a young boy.

What can one say about funerals? Other than to say they get more sad with each one you go to and each new one you go to reminds you of all those that have gone before...

It was sad. Very sad. But it was good to be together as a family. The New Year will bring some hard challenges as we all pull together to sort through the remains of my grandparent’s lives together – the house and possessions need to be attributed and sold. It isn’t going to be easy. And the solicitors are being harshly efficient. My sister had an estate agent ring her on the morning of the funeral wanting to arrange a viewing of the house so that it can be valued.

Wisely she told them to wait until the New Year. I realize there is a lull in the housing market at this time of year and the estate agents are kicking their heels but even so... a bit of tact wouldn’t have gone amiss.

We gathered in a local pub afterwards and said goodbye to the old patriarch the old fashioned way. He would have approved, I’m sure.

Wherever he is now I hope he is happy. And I hope he knows he is still loved.

As are all those who have gone before, all those who populate the many happy Christmases of my childhood. So many people who I now can no longer touch but who yet touch me still.

A very Merry Christmas to you all. I hope it is spent in the company of loved ones whose closeness to you, you will treasure.

The best memories of all are made of this.


ArtSparker said...

My father, like your grandfather, is a contrarian. These people are very good at etching memories of themselves in our minds. Living and dying are both jobs of work, I think. Have a good holiday.

Steve said...

ArtSparker: a contrarian sounds a worthwhile thing to be and a joy to know. Hope you have a good holiday too.

Gina said...

Christmas funerals are somehow a thing apart I always think.

I hope you have a lovely Christmas with your family, Steve. It makes you feel part of History, really doesn't it? What you do now, will be what your sons look back on one day and memories they will pass on to their children.


Steve said...

Gina: thank you. I did have a moment where I realized that it's up to me to make the memories now and, hopefully, to one day be the grandfather...

Savannah said...

Your acute sadness reached out and touched me Steve and I hope the joy on your little boys' faces in a day or two will hope whisk some of that away.

Your Grandad knew he was loved by could he not?

I hope this Christmas will be the beginning of many wonderful memories for you, Karen and your boys. I'll be sure to raise a glass for grandad in the coming days. Cheers!

Steve said...

Gypsy: thank you - and I shall raise a glass to you in return, across the many miles, and wish you a most wonderful 2010!

Deirdre said...

Steve...I know you will always have fond memories of him, and as you say, hopefully make memories for your boys to recall.
I have just driven home from Leamington after my regular weekly
visit with my parents and sister...she lost her husband in January and when I read your post today I remembered all of us being at the same you said, in a way a lovely place but crisp and cold in the winter. You must now enjoy every day above ground yourself with your wife and family...Happy Christmas.

Steve said...

Deirdre: for words infinitely wise and full of true understanding - thank you.

Anonymous said...

Others ahve already said it, but your Grandfather did know he was loved.
I've been there at the lovely crematorium on the frigid day and struck by the thought that when someone dies, some truth is lost.
The things you didn't know you didn't know until the only one who did know is gone.
Try to enjoy the season touching your nearest and dearest in the many ways we humans can touch each other.

The Sagittarian said...

Oh howlovely a tribute Steve, your grand-dad would be proud I reckon!
Merry Christmas to you and yours and best wishes and hugs for the times ahead.

Suburbia said...

Beautiful post Steve. I love your recollections of your Grandfather, such wonderful memories.

Take care

Seasons Greetings, as they say.........

Löst Jimmy said...

Solicitors are only harshly efficient when they want to in my experience.

Despite the pain of your loss Steve I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and extend all the best to you and your family for 2010.

Take care

Clippy Mat said...

Happy Christmas Steve.
I love the thought of your granddad playing Stop the Cavalry.
My Dad died in May and we gave him a good send off too. It brings me a lot of peace when I think of it, knowing he would have approved of our get together after and the music we played. Hope it's this way for you too.
thinking of you.

Steve said...

MissBehaving: "The things you didn't know you didn't know until the only one who did know is gone" - oh that says it right there!

Amanda, Suburbia, Löst Jimmy, Clippy Matt: thank you and warmest Christmas wishes to you all too!

Rol said...

A very touching post, Steve. Hope you and your family have a great Christmas despite your loss.

All the best.

Steve said...

Rol: cheers mate - hope you and yours have a great time too!

KAZ said...

Lovely post Steve.
Have a good Christmas with the family and let's hope 2010 will be a big improvement.

Steve said...

Kaz: Amen to that. Hope you have a lovely Christmas too and a very happy New Year.

skatey katie said...

happy christmas to you and yours steve X

Steve said...

Katie: and to you and yours too...!

The Crow said...

I do understand the mixed feelings this time of year will bring you for awhile. (My mother died 12-23-1971 and was buried Christmas Day.)
But your boys will bring joy back to this season in a short time.

Maybe hearing a Great-grandad story from you each Christmas will become a new tradition.

I don't know the emoticon for hugs, but I'm sending some along anyway. Happy New Year, Steve and beloved family.


Steve said...

The Crow: thank you from the heart; I am very touched by ypur understanding. I hope your Christmas is as happy and warm as you wish for others...

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Sorry for your loss Steve.

Brings to mind my own grandfather's death some 20 years ago, also at Christmas. I was only a teenager yet ended up having to sort out death certificates etc on behalf of my octogenarian grandmother who was too upset and ill to get to the registry office. Though winter weather and funerals do seem somehow apt together.

Am glad you have a sensitive sister. I hope your family continue to all get along and pull together during the challenging times ahead and it is not always the case that 'where there's a will, there's an argument.'

Compliments of the Season to you and yours anyway, since I am sure it will be hard to enjoy a truly happy one this year. Lxx

Steve said...

Thank you, Laura, hope you're having a terrific Christmas - well deserved after such a tough year.

French Fancy... said...

I loved the title of your post and after I've left this comment I will go and find from whence it came.

What to say - I've only been to a couple of funerals in my life and they were both of my parents. There is nothing to say really. I was too sad to cry - it took a long time before I could cry and then it was very hard to stop.

Death of loved ones makes you think about your own death really. You just never know when it is going to happen and I suppose if there was a way to find out, then nobody would choose to be told.

Hark at me - getting a bit gloomy, sorry. Let's remember that we are alive and people that loved us and have left us would never want us to be sad.

A Happy new year to you, Karen and the boys


French Fancy... said...

Ah, Wilfred Owen - I thought it was beautiful

Steve said...

FF: my granddad was a fan and would have appreiciated the reference I'm sure. Thank you for your good wishes - I'd like to return my own and hope 2010 is a wonderful year for you and yours!

Owen said...

A lovely memorial Steve... even in mourning you write beautifully...

And thanks to French Fancy for looking up the reference to Wilfred Owen. As you can imagine, with a great last name like his, I couldn't help but be a bit of a fan. Last year I tracked down his grave near the small town of Ors where he was killed one week before the war ended. What a waste...


Greater Love.... by Wilfred Owen

Red lips are not so red
As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O Love, your eyes lose lure
When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!

Your slender attitude
Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed,
Rolling and rolling there
Where God seems not to care;
Till the fierce Love they bear
Cramps them in death’s extreme decrepitude.

Your voice sings not so soft,—
Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft,—
Your dear voice is not dear,
Gentle, and evening clear,
As theirs whom none now hear
Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.

Heart, you were never hot,
Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail:
Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

Brother Tobias said...

I can understand how you felt - and how youi have come to express it so well. I barely function at funerals of loved ones, trying to hold back tears in a British way, acutely conscious of a very present absence. Despairing at the inadequacy of even the best addresses; at the inconsolation of flowers; at the stark mechanicalness of the buttons and rollers and parting doors; at the finality of it all. I hope that you can save a tree decoration from your grandparents' house, as a reminder of the continuity within a family.

Steve said...

Owen: Wilfred's story, like so many of his comrades, is a sad one. Recuperating from an injury at a French hospital he was discovered by Sassoon who begged him not to return to the front. Owen felt duty bound to return and as you point out was killed one week before the Armistice... a terrible, terrible waste.

Brother T: you'd think I'd be used to them by now - 3 cremations in 5 years, 2 at this time of year. There is something horribly mechanical about the whole affair - like a bizarre Punch & Judy show... thankfully the emotion and stories of my fellow mourners helped humanize the whole thing.

Selina Kingston said...

It wasn't a good end to 2009 for you. And it's not easy getting over the loss of someone so important in your life. There are no set rules for how long it takes to be able to cope with it all either. My thoughts are with you Steve and my wishes for a good 2010when no doubt you will still miss your grandfather but your memories of him will make you smile....with pride.

Clippy Mat said...

thinking of you, still. I hope you go into 2010 with a lighter heart and find comfort where you can.
Looking forward to reading your posts again, when you are ready.
All the best,
Pat :-)

Steve said...

Selina: thank you for the right words.

Clippy Matt: I'm touched at the thought that anyone is missing me (thank you). I plan a return to blogging in the New Year - I feel too sorry for myself right now to write much and don't want to bore people with my unrelenting misery! ;-)

Valerie said...

I was sorry to read that your grandfather had passed away. He is at peace now. I popped in to wish you a Happy New Year, I hope at this time you were able to remember him as he always was. May your personal sun shine brightly in the coming months.

The Joined up Cook said...

A very moving post.

Treasure the memories Steve.

We all eventually become one.

Steve said...

Valerie, AWB: thank you both.

French Fancy... said...

I came back to read the rest of the comments. I seem to do that more and more on my favourite blogs (don't go getting big-headed now :p)

Hope your first day back at work is a good one