Since my last posting it’s been an roller coaster few weeks. Our trip to the US did go ahead and it was just great. I’ll write more in my next posting. But on Friday we got to say a final good bye to our sister Helen. It was a tough day with atrocious weather at the graveside adding to the grimness of the proceedings. But the wake organised by my brother and his wife Deb was really good and the celebrations of her life continued long into the night. In the end it was a happy way to say farewell.
So here’s something poignant. My sister’s passing whilst dreadfully sad has meant something positive. The most important thing is that she’s no longer in pain and suffering from the cancer ravaging her body. There isn’t a person who would wish for life to be extended in those circumstances. It may be a cliche but the end was truly a blessing. And we, her family and dearest friends, are all thankful for that. For Caz and I there’s another smaller blessing. Our trip to NYC to see my daughter S and son-in-law E and our beautiful grandsons this w/e can go ahead. It’s not that we don’t leave with a heavy heart but if she’d survived for a few more days then our decisions would have been so difficult…
Regular readers may recall that 5 years ago we had a harrowing week away in Italy as we learned of the sudden death of my youngest brother M from cancer. He had been ravaged by the disease in a very short period. And I missed seeing him before we managed to get back. Now here’s a sad tale; my young sister H, the baby of the family 12 years my junior, had been dealing with a spinal cancer situation for the last few years. She’d been elected for an experimental drug programme after years of surgery and therapy but a sudden change in her condition necessitated a mastectomy a couple of weeks ago. Long story short it didn’t go well and her condition deteriorated. On Saturday night we learned she had little time left, days possibly, and headed up early Sunday morning to Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Half an hour away from Blackpool we learned my lovely sister H had passed away.
So yesterday we finally got to say goodbye to my youngest brother Mark. It’s been a long wait but he was laid to rest not so far from my mum and sister. And despite a couple of glitches it was a lovely service and committal. I was especially proud to see so many people turn up for the service and to talk to so many folk who knew him and just loved his kind gentle character. It was great to catch up with so many old friends and family, some of whom I haven’t seen in absolute years. Several family members had travelled half the length of the country (and I mean Britain) to say goodbye to the most decent chap I’ve ever known. But on a day which started out thoroughly miserable but brightened up beautifully for the interment, my fondest memory will be of my father Bob who delivered a stunning few closing words at the service. He chided those of us who had criticised Mark over the years for his ‘softness’ by declaring his utter pride for a son who had demonstrated nothing but goodness and selflessness to all throughout his life. He wanted nothing more than to be in that bloody heavy coffin rather than his beautiful boy. Poor Bob. We all felt wretched at losing a brother but heaven knows how he must have felt yesterday and these last few weeks. I can’t imagine his hurt and never want to experience it.
But life moves on. His kids were sad, of course, but full of life and his grandson, who we saw for the first time, was just beautiful. And you could see Mark’s lovely features in him. Here’s one of the shots of Mark selected for the service sheet. He was around 2 years old at the time and I must have been about 9 and my younger brother Dave around 5/6. I remember the day the photographer came round like it was yesterday and he must have taken 100 pictures of us. But this was the one and only shot that everyone remembers…
‘Bye Mark. Love you bro.
Last week in August we headed down to Italy for a week’s break to get some hard work done on the house before the winter. Regular readers will know there’s usually a bloody drama with our visits but this time there was no sense of looking back afterwards and smiling wistfully.
Yesterday was such a great day – my fabulous youngest grandson E had his naming/thanksgiving ceremony (so much more welcoming than all that ‘I renounce the devil’ nonsense) and my lovely daughter S and great son-in-law E threw a top party for him in Chiswick where we caught up with our family, S&E’s oldest friends (love ’em all) and lots of great kids. Super, super day. Oh and it was father’s day too which I’d quite forgotten about until my girls got me some lovely cards and pressies. I wasn’t able to try and get hold of my dad until later in the evening by which time I’d missed him, though I did catch up this morning and he was well and looking forward to his first break-away since my mum left us some 16 months ago. So I had a big smile on my face until I read that the actor Sam Kelly, who featured in Porridge and Allo’ Allo’, had died. I wasn’t a fan of the shows but Sam went through chemotherapy at the same time as me and we were on nodding terms in Ward 6 at the CX hospital when our treatment schedules co-incided. I guess somebody up there must have thought it was my turn to get the week-end pass. It made me realise I’m a lucky fella in so many ways.
Shocking news eh to learn of the death of James Gandolfini at just 51. I like this image of him in a classic Tony Soprano pose – that look of calm menace was just brilliant characterisation. Surely he was the finest actor in the most gripping TV programme of the noughties. A poignant line from his character Tony reflecting on life as head of the family….
“All due respect, you got no f—–g idea what it’s like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other f—–g thing. It’s too much to deal with almost. And in the end you’re completely alone with it all.”
Well it’s been a difficult week or so. My mum had left some directions about her funeral arrangements and I imagine there are always some family issues around the delivery of those very personal final wishes. The odd thing is how my mother’s death brought us together as a family after some initial difficulties over interpretation. We had a kind of shake-down and after that all went pretty smoothly in the planning. We even had the most positive and light-hearted interview with Michelle, possibly the best funeral director I’ll ever come across.