Sidney’s funeral was today. Yesterday, for no obvious reason, I suddenly got a bad attack of pain in my lower back. I cannot bend; the actions of sitting down and getting out of the chair again are painfully difficult. As you can imagine, I was worried that if the pain got worse, I would not be able to go to the funeral.
Tigger’s sister and her partner were supposed to take us down by car but I feared that squeezing into a car for a long journey would make things worse, so we went by train instead, and were picked up by the car at Whitstable Station. My back wasn’t any better but I found the condition manageable.
The four of us met up with the hearse in Whitstable and followed it to Denton Crematorium, where we were joined by the other mourners, about a dozen of us all told. In the crematorium chapel, the coffin, with a wreath on it, was placed on a plinth in front of a hatch through which, I assume, it passes once the mourners have gone.
The funeral was conducted, as I mentioned, by a humanist celebrant. This was decided upon as Sidney never professed any religious beliefs, nor did the rest of the family have much interest in religion. The one exception to the non-religious scheme was the singing of “For those in peril of the sea”, insisted upon by Tigger’s sister, who claimed it was their father’s favourite hymn. The other music played was Jim Reeves’ rendition of “Distant Drums”, which Sidney was very fond of.
The ceremony, which lasted about 40 minutes, was based on a narrative of Sidney’s life. I knew most of these stories because Tigger has told me about many of his scrapes and adventures. There were anecdotes and details that I didn’t know, of course, so I was pleased with this approach.
The narrative by the celebrant was interrupted twice, firstly, for Tigger’s brother to speak about his reminiscences of his father and secondly, for me to read my prepared piece. The theme of the ceremony, which I had independently developed in my speech, was the sadness of loss combined with the happiness of remembrance because Sidney was loved by us all and has left a lasting impact on our lives.
After the ceremony, the celebrant discreetly eclipsed himself. We went to look at the flowers and to talk for a while among ourselves. Then we all went off by car a few miles down the road to the Jackdaw pub at Denton, for a buffet lunch. Despite the nature of the occasion, this was a fairly cheerful gathering, offering a chance for people who meet only occasionally to catch up with one another’s news.
After lunch, I cautiously eased myself into the car once more. Tigger’s sister took us to Whitstable Station ready for our return to London. As it was now about 4 pm and Whitstable is an attractive little town, we decided to go for a walk around and a cup of tea. I will tell you about that in another post.
This was our final leave-taking of Sidney. He will be greatly missed but lovingly remembered. He was an ordinary bloke but special to us for all that. He endeared himself to me simply by being the man he was. I also admired the patience and dignity with which he bore the final months during which, from crisis to crisis, his health deteriorated to the point where he himself had had enough and wished to be released.
Sidney has departed but he remains in the effect he had on our lives and in our loving and grateful memories.