Well, life in lock down carries on… But sometimes of necessity, I just have to leave my cosy COVID Cocoon. So it was, a few days ago, that the time came to tame my rabid COVID hair – to put ‘my face‘, a smart dress and shoes with actual heels on, and drive into town.
This was the day to celebrate the life of my cousin Alan, who had recently passed away. He was the son of my father’s brother and one of three children, himself. Al was a husband, too; father to a son and daughter, and also grandfather to 6.
Due to the pandemic, much of the closest family were unable to be there, so there was room for his little cousin, who sat at the back of the crematorium chapel.
There were 14 people in that place to say farewell and celebrate – all sitting carefully apart, intent and socially distanced. As one of them, I was asked by some of the family who couldn’t be there, to stream the service online.
So I arrived, a few minutes late, trying to not curse myself, but to be calm and focus on the task in hand. I proceeded to unpack my laptop, and fiddle awkwardly with the settings, conscious that out there in the ether, members of my family waited and watched on…
There was no where to stand the laptop so I balanced it precariously on a shelf, holding up one corner and praying that my shaking hands would not affect the quality too much.
The minister spoke movingly and told of Alan’s life, also reading out contributions from his five eldest grandchildren. At this point my tears welled and I let them fall, so as not to shake the laptop anymore than I could help.
The words all told of a family man, a tradesman, a business man, a fixer / mender and clearly someone beloved by all. As a hymn played out, I swivelled the laptop around to take in everyone in the room, for those outside of it. Then we stood up to say a final prayer. Suddenly it seemed, the service was over and I whispered my goodbye to the coffin.
Having said our goodbyes to Al, we left the chapel, to go outside and look at the floral tributes. Out in the daylight, Al’s son met his fiancé who pulled him in for a tight embrace. In the pram next to her lay their 2 month old baby boy – Alan’s youngest grandchild.
I spoke with Alan’s wife Marilyn, who told me that the female minister who conducted the service was from the same church she and Al were married in. “I was there” I said and so many of the others there on that day were here on this day too, many moons later. Now we were marking a different tidemark, whilst chatting at the strange 2 metre distance that we are now all so familiar with. And in this time of Corona, there were no hugs and no wake with tea and cake. Instead we lingered on the pavement.
The next funeral was already about to start. A hearse processed slowly up the driveway with what looked to be more than 30 people, dressed in black and walking solemnly shoulder to shoulder, behind. The coffin was carried into the chapel, whereupon most of them wandered back towards the cemetery gates.
“No social distancing, then,” observed Marilyn without rancour. We turned away and carried on talking of our own connections and reminisces, instead.
So then the sharing was over – it was time to slip away, returning to my COVID cocoon and scruffy sensibilities.
Back at home, I pulled out my late father‘s collection of family photos and rifled through them to find a childhood history, some of which I’ll share here, with contributions from other family members.
As is the way of life, the family tree has been shaken and now our lives continue, segwayed – Alan is gone and we all, go on…
So it was a strange week in the life, not only with Alan’s funeral, but a close friend having a breakdown, which I could only support at a distance, making many calls and messages to her and her family. Then there was the business of having to carry on, with life and work, day after day…
By the end of the week I was exhausted, but Friday came round and still I couldn’t sleep. Instead at 1.00 am I found myself watching and worshipping the luscious full moon, seen through my open bedroom window.
Looking up into the strange night sky was a heady contrast to what had gone on in the days before. The moon was magnificent – so sharp and silver to see. Even with my gravity-weighted feet, planted on the earth an infinitesimal distance away and separated by space and stars; I saw her craters and crenellations.
I stood, captivated, bathing in her rays, watching as the clouds rushed and scudded across her face, veiling and then revealing her ethereal, eternity beauty. As I breathed all this in, I decided to feel rather than think, and lose myself for a little while.
And hours later, the new morning arrived, as they always do. I stayed in bed to save my energy, sharing the space with a small cat creature called Sophia. I have 3 felines and they are normally banned from the bedroom, but not today… She sat with me for nearly 2 hours and didn’t stop purring in all that time…
So it was a small, gorgeous benediction, this creature’s simple, purring joy; yet it was one I chose to soothe my soul with on this particular day.
And finally I wish you benediction and connection too, across the ether between us, wherever you find yourself in this curious and closeted time of Corona.
PS: My first book – ‘Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life’ gathers together the best blogs here into a neat paperback package that you can read from cover to cover or else dip into at whim. It’s evocative, entertaining and will make make you reflect – so you can embrace and enjoy your life – more.
In 2015 the book was a finalist in the International book awards. It’s also been featured in Psychologies mazagine, and The Lady, along with other national and local press.
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