‘Hello Dear Boy’...these were the words my uncle often used whenever I met him; and they were much in my mind yesterday as I attended his funeral in Suffolk.
I’ve done a few funerals in my time and each has been a huge privilege. But there’s a world of difference from leading a funeral to simply being there as a member of the wider family.
At the service in St John’s, Elmswell, near Bury St Edmunds there must have been around two hundred folks present and I sat up the front alongside my five girl cousins and their families. In many ways I was representing my Father – my uncle’s brother - who died six years ago and always called him ‘Spud’.
The Anglican vicar led, the Methodist Minister gave the address and I took part with a short tribute and reading – so we were certainly ecumenical. My uncle was the treasurer of the Methodist Church and never missed – his funeral was simply at the Anglican church because the Methodist chapel wouldn’t have been big enough.
Yesterday was about so many things and one of the most important, for me, was that shared sense of history being told and held. Sitting in church I heard the names of my grandparents being read out: Les and Daisy, of their children: Tony, Peter and Valerie and of the places where they grew up: Rickmansworth and Chorleywood in Hertfordshire. After the service I swapped stories I’d heard from my own father (he used to love telling them after Sunday lunch on a weekly basis!) of his time as a boy, along with ‘Spud’ in those immediate post-war years in the Home Counties.
None of us completely invents him or herself! We are the product of our past and yesterday it felt good to hear some of the stories that came from my father’s side of the family – a sense of ‘connectedness’ – it’s probably why I wore my grandfather’s cufflinks to the service – it ‘meant’ something doing that as I stood beside his son’s, my uncle’s coffin.
So – today I’m in a reflective mood – perhaps because it’s November, maybe because of the quiet dignity I saw in my cousins yesterday as they bade farewell to their dad. And forgive me for being just a touch sentimental but I had this thought - that maybe as my uncle entered God’s nearer presence perhaps God said to him: Hello Dear Boy...Welcome – my good and faithful servant.
With best wishes,