Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Burying "Gran"

Yesterday we buried Carol’s “mam” in the churchyard at Thornton-le-Moor alongside her late husband Vic, who died almost 14 years ago. So they are now reunited in the Lord and at rest. This is the church where Carol and I were married a little over 31 years ago, although the church building no longer remains, just an outline of the church foundations peeking out through the grass. Requiring too much money to be maintained, the ‘economic’ option was to pull the building down – Carol’s brother Brian was the one awarded the contract.

The funeral itself, though awash with the painful emotion of human grief at the loss of a loved one, was also strangely a wonderful family celebration of Lil’s life. It caused one of the pall bearers to comment that he had never seen a funeral like it, there seemed to be so much joy and happiness despite the sadness and tears. I am sure that Lil would have wanted it like this and that it brought a smile to her face as she ‘looked on’. The sight of her three daughters and one grand-daughter carrying the coffin into the church was a poignant moment that certainly added to the drama and that no doubt surprised many amongst the gathered mourners.

Lil’s life could be summarized in one word – “Family”. She was always surrounded by family, young and old alike, whether literally or just with the photographs, cards and knick-knacks that adorned her home. She exuded love and service. She lived ‘beyond herself’. She had lived her life ‘locally’, in villages that were surrounded by beautiful countryside. Gathered together in the small, old village church and then on to a neighboring village hall for mouth-watering array of sandwiches, pork pie, cheese rolls, cakes and the inevitable pots of tea, we were a long way from Austin, Texas!

It was fitting that some of her 12 grand-children got to play a direct role in the funeral as they paid tribute to her life through words (some recorded and “emailed” from TX and NC), poems, songs as well as a video montage of photographs set to music. It was a privilege to officiate at Lil’s funeral and lead her family and friends in remembering and commending her to God, much as I had done in part 14 years earlier with her husband. It was also emotionally and physically draining.

Despite coinciding with the start of Wimbledon, the weather was spectacular, almost a little too warm. In the late evening sunshine (and here it stays light well past bedtime!) we gathered again for barbecued sausages and burgers, and to celebrate Carol’s sister Lynn’s birthday which fell on the same day. Such is the nature of life.

Rest in peace Lily, knowing that you are truly loved and will be truly missed.