Celebrating Life – and Good Friends

Today I went to Birmingham for the funeral of my good friend’s dad. It was sad and uplifting in equal measures, sad because Brian no longer walks amongst us and he will be sorely missed by those who loved him, and uplifting because so many people turned out to pay their respects. Brian was a larger than life character, and it’s always those people who leave the biggest hole when they pass away. I didn’t know him well, but I knew him well enough to know he would have thoroughly appreciated every moment of today, from the sympathetic vicar who delivered the ceremony in exactly the way he had specified before he died, to the inordinately large volume of champagne that was drunk in his beautifully sunny garden afterwards. I know he would have loved the fact that everyone had come together to raise a glass in his honour, and above all else I know he would have been hugely proud of his son, my friend, who has borne his father’s untimely passing with such strength and courage, helped in no small part by his gorgeous fiancé and wonderful family.

It’s on occasions like today I realise how important it is to count blessings. When I looked around me in the crematorium, which was lined wall to wall with people, I really felt the value of the life that had been lost. I like to think I live my own life well enough to ensure a decent turn out to my own send-off, whenever that might be, but that’s not to say I can’t do more in whatever time I have left on this mortal coil to positively contribute to others’ lives, to make them feel valued, supported and loved as they have me. I felt particularly grateful today at the wake, when I recognised the fantastic and extensive support network of friends I still have from university – not something everyone can claim to have sustained a decade after graduation. This friendship group is special and, despite not getting together nearly as often as we’d like, it is also lasting. I know I’m being a soppy cow but sometimes it’s just nice to take a moment to reflect on all the good things. And I’m sure that somewhere up there in the ether, glass of champagne in hand, Brian Simonite is doing just that too. Cheers, Brian.

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For Pauly xx

Tomorrow is the funeral of the wonderful Paul Wickerson, who came into my life with his beautiful girlfriend Sarah eight weeks ago at the wedding of our mutual friends Harry and Emma, and who left it a mere two weeks after that.

I’m struggling to find the words to describe how I feel as I sit here and consider all that’s happened in the past few weeks. We only knew Paul for a weekend, and yet he has made a lasting impact on our lives. His gentleness of spirit and sense of fun were plain to see from our first meeting, and I’ll treasure the memory of the four of us spending several cycles in the Jacuzzi (naughty) before launching ourselves down the children’s water slide. I will also always remember the fry up Paul cooked for us before we left that sunny Sunday, sharing the food he’d brought as we hadn’t had the forethought to bring our own.

When I think of Paul it will always be in that beautiful five star lodge besides a lush green golf course, a big smile plastered on his face. And I, in turn, shall make sure I have a big smile plastered on mine.

I wish I could write more eloquently but my sadness prohibits me saying more. Instead I have taken the below picture, which I hope encapsulates Pauly’s love of fancy dress, fun and silliness. And I am posting the following poem which I read at my grandma’s funeral and which, whilst heartbreakingly sad, I believe with all my heart:

Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sun on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there; I did not die.

God bless Pauly. The world’s a less colourful place without you in it.

On Loss

Today is the funeral of a girl I know who tragically passed away in a car accident three weeks ago. She was just 32. Although I haven’t seen her for several years, I remember her as being beautiful, funny, kind and talented – she was an actress and, I recently learned, an aspiring playwright. I can’t imagine the pain her husband of two years is going through as he struggles to come to terms with the bottomless chasm of his grief – they were together since before I knew them, so he must feel he’s lost a part of himself. I just hope that one day he (and her family and friends) will be able to look back at the many happy memories they shared with fondness rather than pain, though I imagine that will take a very long time.

Being slightly removed from the situation by virtue of the time that’s passed since I last saw them, it feels somehow self-indulgent for me to wallow in grief. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her since I found out. It just seems so unfair that someone with such a zest for life, who showed so much promise in her career and was such an incredibly lovely person, should be so cruelly snatched away and cut down in her prime. I know the same could be said about everyone who dies young, I suppose this is just the first time it’s been someone who I really knew, and it’s come as a terrible shock because this is normally the sort of thing that happens to other people.

When I first found out I wrote a post about trying to take what little positives there are from such a tragedy, so I’m reminding myself now to make every day count, to tell everyone how much I love them and to be the best person I can be. But somehow all those promises feel like little more than hollow reassurances today, as I think about the fact a bright star isn’t with us anymore, and the sky will be a darker place without her in it.

I’m going to close with the poem I read at my grandma’s funeral years ago, by Mary Elizabeth Frye. It makes me cry every time but I think it’s beautiful:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle Autumn rain

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quite birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die

Rest in peace, Katy. You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten x

I chose this picture for today because it was taken in one of the most peaceful places I’ve been, Taliwas in Borneo.