Monday, February 22, 2010

Like Leaves on a Tree

Today was the funeral of the husband of an old friend, in Settle, North Yorkshire.

When I was a child we always drove through Settle on the way to visit my relatives in Barrow-in-Furness. There's a bypass now, which is a good thing for the traffic in Settle but it means it's a few years since I was there.

Settle is a delightful market town amongst the hills and I've always liked it. But it also has a sad association for me. My second cousin Lynda was killed in a cave-diving accident, a few days before Christmas in 1982. She was thirty-five, married with a toddler son. We found ourselves driving through Settle to the funeral in Barrow. Settle was all warmth and cheer with Christmas lights everywhere and Father Christmas in the town square. The full tragedy of Lynda's death hit me suddenly and I've always remembered that moment.

Today Settle was full of winter sunshine. Most of the snow had gone but streaks of it remained in the shady places. There were snowdrops all over the churchyard.

I was with my friend David and we arrived early, so had a coffee in a cafe. Twenty minutes before the funeral David said that he was just going to get his hair cut. I have known David for many years and hence I knew that this would work out fine, so we agreed we'd meet in the church.

Ten minutes later, David arrived next to me in the pew, with shorter, neater hair. Don't try this, folks - it will all go horribly wrong for you. You have to be David to succeed with this sort of thing and he's put in years of practice.

There was a very big congregation there and it was a lovely service, full of joy for the life of the man who had died. His son and daughter both spoke very movingly about him ("My dad could do anything"). It reminded me of just over a year ago when my brother and I were speaking at the Communist's funeral. I'd never be one to say "I know how you feel" but oh boy, I could empathise with them.

We sang "Immortal, invisible, God only wise" and "The Lord is my shepherd". I love singing hymns, I always have done, and I knew almost all the words to both of these. I was doing fine until I got to "We blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree, And wither and perish, but nought changeth Thee". Then I couldn't see and couldn't sing for the next verse.

I have known the family for a long time - thirty-seven years or thereabouts. I've known my friend's children since they were tiny - - and one of them has - incredibly to me - just become a grandfather.

It made me think - as funerals do make you think - of the things that have happened in our family too, good and bad, over the last two or three years. Sometimes I think it's a good thing that you don't know what's going to happen next.

"I always think that I won't be able to cope" I said to David, "but then I find that I generally can."

I expect that's true of all of us.

We came out into the sunshine, and drove back to Leeds through the beautiful Yorkshire Dales countryside.


Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

As always, tenderly written, allowing your readers to have an authentic sense of the occasion.

8:54 pm  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I love to read what you write....

10:57 pm  

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