It’s been a hectic month, starting with cooking two Christmas dinners on the farm, progressing to a serious chest infection and ending, last week, with my mother’s funeral.
It was the second funeral I’ve been to this year. The first was sad, a lady of 86 who embodied pretty much all that was good about old-fashioned values and being active in old age. I often used to look at her and compare her to my mum. She was much healthier and fitter, but in the end you can’t ignore the call.
I haven’t mentioned that to many people, but now it’s over I feel more like talking about it. If you don’t like sentiment you may not like me doing so, and if you don’t like levity in the face of death you may feel the same way. To be honest, this is a good way to talk about it, because I don’t have to endure people trying to be sympathetic or asking me how I am. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the concern but there’s no good answer.
She was 85, she was well-cared for, but she had Parkinson’s Disease and life wasn’t great. . For about six months before she died she was significantly worse each time I visited and a week before Christmas the doctor warned us she was slipping away. It was a release for her and it wasn’t a shock for us. Nobody wanted it to happen but it had to happen and it was about as good as it gets. It wasn’t the youngman’s death that Roger McGough wants, but for a lady of 85 “a curtains drawn by angels borne, ‘what a nice way to go’ death” is much more suitable.
I often say that I’d like to die of a massive heart attack whilst driving a coach load of tax inspectors along a winding cliff road with no safety barriers but actually I wouldn’t mind slipping quietly away surrounded by my family. There’s an ornate brass plaque in the church commemorating a man called Herbert Selwyn Scorer. I’ve been reading it for over forty years when I visit the church. I bet he’d have liked to slip away surrounded by his family at the age of 85. Instead he shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 29 surrounded by the Prussian Guard.
My sister organised the funeral and did a tremendous job. At one point she was worried that there would just be half a dozen family and a few others, all clustered at the front of a cold, empty church.
In the end we had people travelling from as far as Lancashire, Surrey and Norfolk. Mum was 85, as I have said, and at that age you’ve outlived a considerable number of your friends and family, with others being too old to travel, so it was a good turnout. To prove this point, my sister had attended a funeral for Mum’s best friend in the same church just five weeks ago.
None of this, of course, is of any interest to my mother, but it was very important for my father. That’s what funerals are about really Although it’s important to pay respect to the deceased it’s also important that the survivors are able to feel good about saying goodbye in a suitable fashion.