Friday, 27th February, 2009. It’s a beautiful Spring day, although technically speaking, I think it’s officially still winter. That notwithstanding, it’s unseasonably mild. The optimism of Spring abounds: I’ve seen crocuses, daffodils, the sun is out and my coat is making me hot. After the bleakness of winter, where softly wind allegedly made moan – actually, it didn’t – the snow gifted us with a surprise day off and much impromptu wartime-esque cheer. Everywhere looked pretty. Even Watford. Strangers would stop and chat in the street like old friends and all the kids went sledging like back in the good old days, although the insistent march of modernity was ever-present. Whereas we, as nippers, would temporarily pilfer our Mam’s tin tray to slide down the hill at a life threatening speed, kids these days pilfer the lids of recycling boxes. And not just temporarily. Hmmmf, etc. Anyway, after the unrelenting, biting cold that has plagued the winter months, today is a climatic dream. The sun warms your face. Old people have discarded their cardies. Even the ducks seem excited. When I woke up this morning, I heard bird-song and it made me smile until I realised that today is the day of your funeral.
You’re dead and I can’t believe it. You’re fifty-three, you’ve beaten cancer and it’s a beautiful day. Three good reasons why you shouldn’t be dead. But you are… And I can’t believe it.
You'll be pleased that the occasion reunited The Big Cheese, Goddess and I. But what rubbish circumstances to realise that we are idiots x3 for leaving it until now to get together; that such joy (a natural result of seeing each after so long apart) was brought about by the complete and utter tragedy of your passing.
I'm not a fan of funerals. Yes, I know that they are supposed to be a celebration of life, blah, blah, blah, but I still can’t get over the fact that when I attend one the chances are that someone I love and care for has hopped off of life’s rollercoaster and nipped over to the next astral plane for a mosey about. In other words, I will never see them again. Their passing tears a hole in the fabric of our collective and individual existence. They’ve cheated life or life has cheated them – but either way they’re dead. And while I’m off on one, why does ‘dead’ have to be such a hideous word? Where is the celebration in all of that? You know, I am yet to take part in a conga round a coffin. Maybe I’m not getting the point. I dunno.
For what it’s worth, your funeral was lovely. The Big Cheese, Goddess and I went for a quick drink beforehand. We talked about you, naturally. Good things, only good things. What else is there? At first, we spoke as though you were still here, orchestrating it all. ‘She’s picked a good day for it,’ we’d quip lamely, as we laughed and felt guilty and naughty and ridiculous and happy and sad all at the same time.
I didn’t think I’d cry like I did. Not because I have a swinging brick in place of a heart, but because I have a problematic relationship with the stereotypical idea of grief. That said, I wore black – but only because it’s thinning, okay? I just find it hard to grieve when someone tells me it’s all okay, to let it all out, that life goes on, that there is no more pain, they're in a better place and all the other death cliché bollocks. All whilst patting my back. How can it be okay? It doesn't feel okay.
So, the funeral: we sat three rows from the front on the right hand side. As we first entered the room, we were presented with a booklet dedicated to you. On the cover was a beautiful picture of you. You look almost regal on it – one arm raised, casually supporting your resting head with a cheeky hint of a wry smile lighting up your face. As the casket flowed up the aisle on a sea of shoulders, we all stood. As it passed by me, I caught my breath and the gravity of the situation sucked me down. I wept for you, my darling friend. I held my breath and sucked on my cheeks to oppress a huge belly sob. Goddess and I held hands and I suddenly felt lifted. I laughed at the anecdotes that we shared throughout the ceremony. I attempted to sing hymns even though I didn’t know the melody and Goddess mimed. We took a sideways glance at each other and grinned. I continued to smile thinking of you and the times we spent together. I smiled thinking of your attitude to life and your innate goodness and unwavering generosity. I smiled thinking of the more-than-appropriate lines to the final hymn that we sang – how great thou art, how great thou art.
Sleep well, Susan-Mary.
All my love, hugs and a cheeky (but delicious) bum squeeze,