My First Funeral

Just over a week ago I attended my first funeral. It was for my step-grandfather who died only a week or so before his 90th birthday. Everybody was saying how they thought he would at least hold out until then. He had been in hospital for several weeks, after a heart attack of sorts. He had been living a very sedate lifestyle, shall we say, for the last few years, hardly ever leaving the house, but he was ok, health-wise. It was somewhat of a shock, and to be honest I thought he would recover. But my mum (of whom he was stepfather) said that when she visited him (I could not bear to go myself), he seemed resigned to death and accepted it willingly. Even up to when I heard that he had passed away, I still thought he would have made it. But it was clear that he felt his time was up.

The funeral was not perfect, the priest reading slightly the wrong part of the Gospel, and not doing a proper sermon, but apart from that it was okay. I volunteered to do the first reading, but during the first hymn, just before the reading, I started crying. I must admit that I was not very close to him, but still I was very upset. I regretted not visiting him in hospital, not being able to say goodbye. I am crying a bit as I am typing this, even. Luckily, I managed to compose myself by the time I had to do it. Throughout the day everybody kept saying that I read beautifully, which was nice. When my nan said it to me, I could see she was welling up a bit, and that made me feel even more sad.

After the church service we went to the crematorium, as he was going to be cremated. It was surprisingly short, taking only a few minutes, which made it seem almost trivial, like a conveyor belt. Luckily, my cousin, who is a great singer and guitar player, sung and played his favorite song, The Fields of Athenry. He was not Irish, but my nan and mum is, and when he married my nan he apparently really got into Irish culture, even becoming a Knight of an Irish order, of which the name escapes me. My nan told a funny anecdote about it, saying about how he got up on a stage, at a party with the Irish side of the family, and sang the song, and my nan’s brother turned to her and said “look at that, an Englishman going up to sing the Fields of Athenry, and me sitting here can’t sing a note!” When my cousin played that, it got a lot of people crying, especially me, my mum and one of my aunties. My sister even started crying, and later said to my mum that it was my crying that set her off. I had composed myself after the song was over, but almost burst back into tears again when I saw everyone else still crying.

Lastly, a bit of background on my step-grandfather. He served in India when it was part of the British Empire and served in the RAF in WWII, both of which he used to tell stories about (also, he is mentioned in this article on the BBC History site). He was also a Conservative councillor in Wolverhampton, where he was originally from. Apart from those things, I do not know what he did. Certainly, he was a nice man was proud of his past, his links to England and Ireland. He deserved to at least reach his 90th birthday, I think, but after the stroke, he’d had enough, and that’s fair enough.

Certainly, it is an experience I will never forget. I kept the leaflet from the service to keep as a momento.
RIP John. We will all miss you.

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