Tag Archives: Funerals

Train Pain

24 Jul

It’s hard to believe that Viv has been gone just over a year.  I went to her funeral and I wanted to tell you about it at the time, but I couldn’t bring myself to write that post.  A year on, however, I have some emotional distance, so here goes. I am writing from memory because, when I checked back to my notebook, there is nothing at all.  Not one word; just the funeral programme, taped in.  I couldn’t even write about it for myself.  That’s grief for you.

Viv’s daughter Sally invited me to read Viv’s self-penned epitaph poem at the funeral.  I was honoured.  I wouldn’t have missed her funeral for anything, but it was lovely to be invited to be a part of it.

My travel anxieties have been well-documented on this blog so you won’t be surprised to learn that as the funeral was held in Newcastle and I live in Stockport, I made sure to leave with time to spare when I arrived.  To be fair, I’d have done the same if I was going one town up: that’s how I roll.  Or clickety-clack.  I don’t trust public transport; or myself on public transport (remind me to tell you why I once missed the first twenty minutes of The Lion King at The Palace Theatre, Manchester, seven minutes away by train).  

To be more fair, the Hub booked my ticket and made sure to leave me with some time to spare when I arrived – but not for my change at Sheffield.  I was miffed to have only 25 minutes because I had to find the platform for the next train and Sheffield is a big station and I am a big panicker.  The Hub assured me I’d be fine.  What could possibly go wrong?

He reserved seats on all four trains for me, over my objections: I always run onto a train and grab the first free seat I can, because that’s how I clickety-clack.  The train from Stockport to Sheffield was packed, however, and I was glad the Hub is bossy because I was able to turf someone out of my reserved seat.

The seat-with-my-name-on-it went a long way towards earning the Hub forgiveness, because it was standing room only all the way from Stockport to Sheffield.  There was no refreshment cart, ergo, no tea, ergo, anxious, panicky, uncaffeinated me.  There was a delay, a slow train, only ten minutes – NOT twenty-five as I had been assured by my perfidious man – to find the platform with my next train.  I fairly erupted onto Platform 1, hitting the ground running, eyes peeled for information screens, clichés exploding from every orifice.

DSCN0956 Sheffield was obviously still feeling the effect of Austerity because there wasn’t one uniformed human in sight.  I ran up the steps to the concourse – no screens!  I ran left – no screens!  I ran right – a screen!  Heaving, bent over my shaky legs, I slowed down enough to glare at the screen which informed me my train left from…Platform 1.  That’s right: the platform I had just run away from.  I had four minutes to get there and had to use the lift because Sheffield Station is just stupid in its weird layout with no stairs down to Platform 1 and absentee staff who probably don’t carry wheelbarrows on their person for exhausted travellers anyway.

I hit the lift button and…waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally – finally! – the doors opened and I ran forward; and then backed up as a thousand people who obviously had at least an hour to find their platform were disgorged.  At last they got out of my way and I jumped onto the lift, slammed the button, and was transported on the slowest elevator known to man to the platform below. Sucking in such oxygen as I could muster the energy for, I ran along the platform just as my train to Newcastle pulled in.

I collapsed into my thankfully reserved space and waited for the sweat to puddle on the seat, the breath to return to my aged lungs, and the spots to disappear from before my eyes.  Then I heard the bad news: no refreshment cart again.  I muttered to myself long and hard.  No one would have heard me if I’d muttered aloud, anyway, because I had no spit to help me articulate my uncaffeinated state.

I settled in, anxious and fidgety – you know, the normal addict state, except that my fix is Earl Grey, black, hot – for the longish journey, and became more anxious and more fidgety as the journey became ever-longer.  I discovered later that there had been a lightning strike on a signal box the day before, causing extended delays.  I watched the time and stressed.  I watched the time and fidgeted.  I watched the time and became tearful. I watched and watched and watched my watch and guess what?  I arrived in Newcastle about the time the funeral started.

I made sure to be first off the train – get out of my way, mother with a baby and elderly wheelchair user!  I’ve got a deceased friend to honour – and ran and ran and ran some more, finally finding the taxi rank when I wiped the sweat from my eyes and could read signs again.  I ran to the first taxi, but I was hailed by a uniformed human – better late than never, eh? – and we had the following conversation:

UH: Oi!  There’s a queue!

TB: OhpleaseI’mlateformyfriend’sfuneralandI’mreadingthepoemandit’salreadystart
edandthetrainwaslateIdon’tknowwhybutI’vegottogetthereassoonaspossibleplease
pleasecanIhavethistaxiplease?Sob

UH: Uh, sure, go ahead.

The taxi driver was wonderful and sympathetic and got me to the cemetery as soon as possible – perhaps wanting to get the hysterical woman out of his cab, but I prefer to think he had the milk of human kindness in abundance – where I encountered a problem: two chapels.

Seriously, folks, how I didn’t have a complete meltdown at this point, I don’t know.

Like a Wimbledon viewer trapped between two players serving high-speed aces, I gazed back and forth, back and forth between the chapels, paralysed by uncertainty.  What if I burst into the wrong funeral?  The odds were good that it would happen, because I never met a blunder I didn’t make. My favourite photo of Viv

Just then, a limousine rolled up and I was inspired to ask the sad-faced woman emerging, ‘Excuse me, I’m looking for a funeral and I know it’s not yours because you’ve just arrived; can you please tell me which chapel you’re going to because I’m so late and my funeral must be in the other.’ Bless her, she did.

I burst into Viv’s funeral as quietly as possible and only eighty percent of the people looked at me, including the eulogising vicar.  Small mercies, eh?  I was ushered to a seat, given a programme, offered a glass of water – because I clearly looked like Mr Rochester’s first wife at this point – and sat my trembling bum on the seat so I could frantically scan the programme to see if I’d missed my spot.

I hadn’t missed my spot!

If I had never believed in God up to that point, I believed in Him that day.  The vicar finished talking and it was my turn to get up and read Viv’s poem.  I’m proud to say I read it as if I’d travelled to Newcastle the week before and spent three days in a spa, being massaged from head to foot and back again.  I would never have let Viv down.

Several people came up to me afterwards and greeted me as if they knew me. Turns out they did: Viv’s friends I’d met and fellow bloggers amongst them.  I was still in Yellow Wallpaper mode, however, and couldn’t register anyone until at least two teas later.  I apologise if you felt slighted, but I assure you it was not on purpose.  Travel in general and lateness in particular send me a little crazy; throw in grief for a beloved friend and it’s a wonder I didn’t end up in Newcastle-Under-Lyme instead of Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Viv’s family were wonderful and understanding, and I was so grateful to them.

My only consolation is that Viv would have loved this post.  As far as I’m concerned, that makes any craziness on my part entirely worth it.  Just as well, eh?

 

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Joke 53

16 May

An old man had died. A wonderful funeral was in progress and the town’s preacher talked at length of the good traits of the deceased, what an honest man he was, and what a loving husband and kind father he was. 

Finally, the widow leaned over and whispered to one of her children, “Go up there and take a look in the coffin and see if that is your pa.”

The Hub Says Sometimes I Can Take Recycling Too Far

25 Aug
Blood Donor Centre

I’d like to be sent off in a cardboard box.  A great big shoe box – white, so that people can scrawl messages on it: Best mother EVER; Can’t believe you were never recognised as the greatest writer who ever lived; Nagging will never feel the same again; We love you so much we can’t live without you; Won’t miss your cooking.  That sort of thing.  I’d like it to be colourful and messy and then the Hub should take photos of it so the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their grandchildren (I plan on being around for a while yet) can take a bit of me home and know how much I was loved and admired and respected.   Um, better make it a real shoe box….

I mention this because I just read Novaheart’s blog about a friend’s send-off.  A Harley Davidson and big tvs – that’s what I call a celebration.  Like Novaheart’s friend, I also want to donate my body to science: it’s just a shell; I won’t need it.  The Hub hates the idea; he says the boys need something to bury.  I say well, for starters, you have to burn me because I don’t want to take up valuable floor space for one thing and I don’t want to be neglected floor space as they rightly get on with their lives for another.  However, he is adamant that I’m not going to be someone’s boring lecture (been that all my life as far as my kids are concerned), and he’ll be the one organising things (assuming he isn’t doing time for needing the organising in the first place) so I don’t have much choice. 

To be fair to him (ouch; that hurt), I don’t feel as strongly about it as he does, so I’m letting him have that one.  But they do have to whip out my bits and re-use them: that’s not negotiable.  I’ve been a kidney donor since I was eighteen – not an actual donor; on the list, I mean.  I’m a registered organ donor, a blood donor, part of a cancer study, and on the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register.  I mention all this not to say how wonderful I am (though I am), but to direct you to read my post Save A Life: Spit In A Cup if you haven’t already, and to remind you to do something about it if you have and are eligible. 

People are dying, folks, for want of things you don’t/won’t need or can reasonably spare. 

  • Giving blood takes an hour (including travel) every four months, and you get to eat a biscuit without feeling guilty about breaking your diet.
  • The cancer study involves one blood sample every five years and a questionnaire.
  • There are organ donation forms all over the place and you can do it online these days; it doesn’t take long.
  • Joining the bone marrow register means just spitting: how difficult is that?  Okay, at some point you might have to have a needle in your bum, but isn’t it worth it to save a life?

Despite my passion for donating bodily fluids to complete strangers, I’m not in favour of an opt-out clause i.e. everybody’s a donor unless they tell the government they don’t want to be.  I prefer nagging (my future coffin refers).  So do something amazing today: listen to me.

 

 

 

Quite Interesting

25 Feb

I was watching QI recently and I learned two interesting facts:

  1. The Netherlands now has its own version.  I first typed ‘Holland’ but luckily I remembered that an episode of QI explained why that is incorrect.  I’m not going to bother telling you why it is, because I’ve forgotten. 

I checked out the QI website and I don’t think it’s that helpful for the kind of information I was looking for – which other countries have their own version?  But it did steer me towards the QI entry in Wikipedia , the first time I have known that to happen, and this in spite of QI’s regular mockery of the veracity of Wikipedia’s entries.  The answer was The Netherlands only.  (Wikipedia cleverly avoided the Holland trap by saying ‘The Dutch’.)  The only reason it hasn’t been picked up by other countries, apparently, is the issue of copyright of the images broadcast.

It took me so long to type that, I’ve forgotten what number 2 is.  How annoying.

Took a chocolate break and it came flooding back; chocolate is clearly brain food – how else do you explain the number of degrees given out each year to 21 year-olds who believe that three years of eating crisps, chocolate, pizza and Coke constitutes a balanced diet? 

There is – allegedly – a website in America called seeitrot.com, where you can buy a webcam for a coffin and watched your loved one moulder to dust away.  I say ‘allegedly’ because of course I had to check it out, and nothing came up except lots of laments about rotten food, and advice on protecting your boat because salt water will otherwise kill it off.  Didn’t know that either.  This self-educating business is fun.

I found the seeitrot.com thing interesting because of my Mum.  I hasten to assure you I had no desire to watch her rot away – it would have been kind of dull, anyway, because she’s a pile of ash – but she had a phobia of being buried or burned alive in her coffin and  I’m sure she’d have insisted I sign up if she’d known about it.  She made everyone she knew swear to stick a pin in her when the time came, to confirm she was truly dead.  Everyone agreed to do it – well, you have to placate crazies, don’t you? – but only the Hub and I followed through.  Just as well, really as, with that many holes in her, the pall bearers would have had embalming fluid stains on their suit shoulders at the funeral.  Now that would have been interesting.

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