Alternative title : It seemed like a bad dream … The pews were the same, the funeral directors ushering people to their seats were the same, the air was as musty as all those months ago, a coffin on a stand, roses atop … But it wasn’t a dream … We were back at the crematorium. Saying goodbye to another.
Where my dad had the scent of petrol and the roar of scooters, punk music blaring over the sound system as his coffin was walked into the crematorium, glistening fresh snow and a celebrant with tales of mischief, my uncle had rainfall (in typical Lancashire style), a sombre silence as the pall bearers lifted him over the threshold, and prayers sung in broken voices.
This time though mum and I stayed at the back … Neither of us having the emotional reserve to be any nearer. Hands clasped together, a shared energy of grief and Anxiety twisting and turning in the air around us. I wasn’t particularly close to my uncle, we moved in very different circles and a meaningful connection just couldn’t be established there … And while there was a sadness from losing him (as I suspect there usually is when losing a member of your family), the overriding devastation came from the memories of 6 months ago. My brain seemed on a loop; the feelings (emotional and physical) as I lay my head against my dad’s coffin as I carried it, caressing the stem of the rose as I listened to tales of his life, the curious old building smell combined with my lungs telling me that all the air was being sucked out of the room, the itch in my feet as the need to escape prickled at my skin – I had desperately wanted to break from this reality and run as far as I possibly could before exhaustion made me fall.
My uncle was 57 years old (the relevance of that age was not lost on me), he had been poorly for a little while but it was still a bolt out of the blue to hear that his heart just gave out … That said, it was the knowledge that we would be back at that particular crematorium that really knocked me sideways.
I contemplated not going … I contemplated faking some sort of lurgy with in-depth descriptions of what was spewing out of both ends of my digestive tract … I contemplated a “dang it I’ve slept through my alarm” excuse … I even contemplated taking a ferry to Dublin with Monty (my car) and pretending I had a ‘work thing’ when really I just wanted a cold Guinness from the source!
I contemplated all these things and more … Because the idea of returning to the crematorium churned my insides into mush. Because below the surface is the Grief Monster waiting for any opportunity in which to drag me back into a darkened world. Because selfishly, I didn’t want to deal with a second death in the space of half a year.
But I did go …
I held hands with my mum as she mourned her brother (you’d think the universe would give her a break after losing her husband at New Year wouldn’t you?).
I held hands with the Grief Monster who reminded me of each step I had taken in that building all those months ago.
I tried to guard myself as those around me cried … I felt the guilt creep in as my thoughts were not about the person currently making their final journey, it was about the person who had already made theirs … I was watching grief unfold in the eyes of others and it’s only now that I can truly understand how painful that is.
How in the next few days, weeks, months, years (hours, minutes, seconds?) they would each have to traverse a new existence in which that person had once inhabited but now only contains remnants of them … A strange new existence in which you carry around their absence, you carry around your feelings of loss and you have no idea how you can navigate through it all. And sometimes, sometimes, it becomes an all-consuming overwhelming nightmare when you finally acknowledge that you are facing a life without ever seeing that person again …
That is something I still have trouble with. I haven’t fully come to terms with that and I’m not convinced I ever will.
When I was at work the other day I realised that if I live to 64 years old, I will have lived half of my life without my dad (I have no idea what prompted that thought … I was probably nosying at pensions and retirement ages after a rather stressful morning arguing with invoices) … And that thought broke something inside of me that I fear I will never be able to fix (even with a heavy duty dose of No More Nails!) … It is those little moments that start to haunt you. The innocuous moments in which life throws you a curve ball – when you spoon two sugars in your coffee, when you finally place that ear-worm song as the one which frequented the ward leading up to that fateful day, when you watch an advert for the fragrance he always wore on a channel that seldom has anything but food advertised.
It’s in those moments that their absence becomes all the more evident.
And the world seems that little bit darker.
I should also mention that it wasn’t a completely conventional funeral as my uncle had “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as his final song … I’m just gonna let that sink in for a minute …
I think I’d like to have “Bad Moon Rising” as mine …
If you (or someone you know) has been (or is being) affected by Cancer, then I can highly recommend Macmillan – they are amazing folks!
**EDIT : I’m finding Twitter to be quite a negative place at the moment and it’s having a serious impact on my mental well-being … So if you do follow me on there I’m sorry, I’ll probably be rather quiet and will likely only have scheduled tweets going live for a little while BUT I am loving Instagram, it’s giving me some real Wanderlust (especially after our Amsterdam adventure) so if you want to see what I’m up to away from LHB HQ Insta is the place to find me!
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