It was a relief that when my oldest friend (who’s the closest thing I have to a sister) turned up and said she’d felt the same on the day of her Mothers’ funeral. She has since walked down the aisle with both my Dad and her own Dad; actually half way with each.
I of course haven’t walked down any aisles with anyone’s Dad and I didn’t think I would with mine, but as it turned out the three of us came down the aisle together, Mum, Dad and me. My little Mum clutching onto me as though her life depended on it and at that moment I think it probably did.
To say that it was a beautiful day was a bit of an understatement, not only did the sun SHINE on the day of my Dads’ funeral but as we left the house for the church I found great comfort in the army of friends and family that surrounded me. Like a bright, shiny, protective shield. Even though we were all in black.
And as soon as they dispersed to find a seat I was over come with nerves, because of course the really, truly hard bits, you do alone. Walking out to meet the coffin and then watching as the six pall bearers strained underneath the weight of it; the responsibility as well as the physicality. I wish now that we could of captured it somehow, the tennis racket of flowers lain on top, the moment of clarity when finally I realised that it was over. The days of waiting and planning, organising and busying myself with everything other than reality, they were over and here was my Dad for the last time in a wooden box with some flowers on top.
I bit my lip as we walked up the church path, pointlessly cursing it for being so long, and uneven, even though I had never noticed it before… and I didn’t let go, instead I held on to my Mum as she sobbed, clutching a little photo of her and my Dad on holiday in New Zealand. I didn’t let go of that lip until everyone had gone and only my closest friends remained. The sun shone and the people came, over 150 to the church. There were some genuinely funny moments, which I am so thankful for, light relief I believe they call it? My friend crashing into us as we left to meet the coffin, and she ran in late in a truly Miranda style moment which I will never forget, as the vicar turned to me and said, “I don’t know who she is, but I lover her!” Moments of colour and moments of black, fade to white.
There were so many people crowding into the wake my poor little Mum got trapped outside as wave after wave of people came to pay their condolences – first they were saying hello and then they were saying goodbye as they started leaving and she still hadn’t even stepped inside. I had never realised my Dad was so well regarded, perhaps they’d all just turned up for a free sandwich. Either way it was a wonderful turn out and they all seemed to have known him in some capacity. Everyone shocked and saddened.
I began the day on my yoga mat, as my friend said to me it’s my anchor, wherever I am there it is. It’s new. It’s very heavy (and actually I am not sure I will ever be able to take it with me anywhere as it will throw my luggage allowance straight over the top, however it is very pretty in a stone wash 1980’s style way and I love it.) I prepared for the day ahead like it was my wedding and when I caught my Mum applying her own make up I swiftly intervened and re did it, hair included. I spent three hours with my head in a plastic bag trying to tone my hair to a reasonable colour. I knew it would be a day of stares, of attention, of giving, of thanking, of understanding, of sympathising, of soothing and hugging. This I can do! As long as I have prepared for it appropriately, and prepare I did.
I applied a bright pink lip and a smile and I worked the room, I gave my attention to every one I could get to, I thanked them, I reassured them and I smiled. I gave them the show, and really I loved seeing all these people who had cared enough about my Dad to spare some time to remember him, it gave me great comfort.
And so it is over. People always say that this is the hardest part, and you know what? They’re right! I would do anything to go back to that part where we still had a funeral to look forward too…but such is life and the journey must continue, I went to bed crying and woke up crying as I realised that it was over, my chance to say goodbye was gone. I hope he would have been proud, he never told me he was, he always seemed to disapprove he would have hated all the attention of the previous day. He was a private man, private about his feelings and emotions, and I will never know now if he was proud, or if he knew how much I wanted him to be.