I never wrote anything about my grandfather’s funeral. Yet it was a moving experience which, I think, deserves a few lines. We decided it was to be a celebration- a celebration of the man he had been, of the love and friendship he had given us throughout his life. The part in the crematorium and the church was, of course, the hardest. We read texts and stories we had written about his life, about him, about the many things he had given us and we were grateful for. My mother also read the poem by Mary Frye, which is one of my favourites (see below). Finally, as we left the church, we played his favourite song, “Annie's Song”, by John Denver.
After that, we let the celebration begin. We wore our good clothes and cooked his favourite meal. We ate it as we drank his best bottles of wine and played his favourite music. The entire family united like that around the table, we talked and laughed about all the good times, deep into the night. It’s the way he would have liked us to remember him, all together, in high spirits, celebrating rather than mourning the great man he had been to us all.
The next day my grandmother, mother and her sisters went out to sea on a boat, to spread his ashes, to return him to the sea where, as a man who had worked for the Royal Navy for many years, he had spent most of his life. As his ashes were being spread, my mother read out a few lines by Emily Dickinson... a few lines that say so much, so perfectly:
Exaltation is the going of an inland soul to the sea
Past the houses, past the headlands,
Into deep eternity.
Finally, the next day, we all went out and walked his favourite walk, along the coast, along the place where his ashes were spread. And as we looked out over the water, at the horizon, I think it was a comfort to all of us to know that there he was, in every wave, back at sea where he belongs.