I know these days I am keen to give things a go that don’t involve Tesco or an ironing board – for example travelling to different cities by piggybacking my Husband’s biz trips, trying my hand at botanical painting, doing ungainly gymnastics at anti gravity yoga classes; I’ve even booked to walk over the roof of the O2 in a couple of weeks time (but don’t want to think about that too much as it makes my tummy feel very queasy).
But, rather like Annabel who has been forced to adopt a toothless grin, there are some firsts I wasn’t planning on experiencing and one of them came my way this week. Yesterday I watched a family member slip away which, although peaceful, was the first time I have ever seen someone die. Helping to organise the funeral arrangements has been an eye opener too… first obtaining an appointment to obtain a medical certificate which legally has to be in a sealed envelope and presented, once you have made an appointment, to a registrar who then produces the official death certificates. I hope you won’t need to know this, but make sure you get at least six certificates as banks, building societies, lawyers and other official bodies will all want an original, not a photocopy. Then – after making an appointment of course – you need to visit a funeral director; ours was an anaemic yet charming chap who obviously had his career mapped out for him from moment he slipped out of his mother’s womb straight into a black top hat and mourning suit (sic). Actually, everyone we have dealt with today has been charming, empathetic and kind which makes the whole ghastly process as painless as possible. But, as we waited patiently in one of the waiting rooms today, we conjectured how for example an old infirm widower on a measly pension might cope with a bereavement: if he had no close family to support him, only public transport to get him from appointment to appointment, and limited funds with which to pay for the extra death certificates, a coffin, the funeral, flowers and a wake.
Anyhow we have just come back from doing all these things and we are all, quite frankly, exhausted. Not because it was a heavy workload, but because it is emotionally draining. The priority is making arrangements that you feel , to the best of your knowledge, are exactly what the deceased would want. There is no second chance. It is rather like organising a wedding without the prospect of there being any joy. As a nation we rarely discuss death and so many of us don’t really know how to handle it.
Our particular family have shared the odd gentle joke along the way which has helped us cope with the fact that we have all just lost someone we loved and admired. We still talk about him in the present tense and I hope we continue to do that for quite some time to come, it makes it less painful that he has gone away.
Until next time, Grace x