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Now living in l'Olleria, south of Valencia

Monday, 30 January 2012

We Celebrate A Life

Well, in our case, the Funeral Tea turned out to be a Light Lunch at the local pub.

Instead of tea and sandwiches, followed by cake, we had ordered soup and sandwiches, along with tea and coffee. Much more dad's thing. Food, rather than drink! In the end, the location proved to be perfect. The buffet was laid out in one room and the bar was separate, enabling those that wished to buy a drink (or several) to do so, without conflicting with anyone.

I would like to pass on my sincere apologies to everyone I didn't manage to talk to. Several times, just as I was about to speak to someone, I was dragged off to speak to somebody else. I know I saw many people I didn't actually speak to, I feel quite badly about it. Thank you, to those that made the journey to say farewell.

Often, as we grow older and our lives are so full, that we have little time, we forget that our parents have full lives too. They have friends to go to lunch with. Others to go to concerts with. Others to spend days with, and others to spend a few happy hours with, without seeing again for a long time. Often, we have no idea of the existence of these friends of our parents. Why would we? We have enough friends of our own, without adding to them. In our family, these 'extended friends' are all within our circle, as we talk so often about what we have each been doing. I know what is happening with the friends of my children, in the same way as the friends of may parents. If someone is ill, or has just had a wonderful holiday, I probably know about it. I may not have seen these people for a long time, but I still know of their existence, and how they fit within our family unit. It was wonderful to see so many of these faces on Thursday. Some, I had to be re-introduced to, as I hadn't seen them for many a year, but many were so familiar, it was as though we had seen each other only a few months ago.

There was much laughter and lots of chatting. Delight at seeing familiar faces, yet sadness at purpose of the gathering. There was no air of gloom. Mum and dad had done a lot of wonderful things, seen many wonderful places, and acquired a group of wonderful friends over their years together and what else should one do, but celebrate a life that was truly lived.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Last Farewell

On 26th January, we held the funeral for dad.

Sadly, 25th January was to have been their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Needless to say, all party plans had already been cancelled, but, instead of a party, we paid our repects in the Chapel of Rest. He was beautifully dressed, in dress shirt and bow tie, just as though he was off out for a lovely dinner on another cruise. Indeed, he was perfectly turned out for the next adventure.

Thursday dawned grey and drizzly. The house was full of those wishing to pay their final respects, from far and wide. Cousins and Aunts and Uncles from Germany, Kent and the Lake District, others waiting at the church from the village or other more accessible places.

As dad arrived at home, for his final journey, the sun broke though, lighting his way to the church. Along with one of the funeral directors, the coffin was carried by John, Tim and Ed, up the gravel pathway to the church. We entered the church to the sounds of 'Song for Liberty' by Nana Mouskouri [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTo0Inuvlxk ] (one of dad's favorites) and I was stunned to see all of the pews full of old faces. I have never seen so many people in the church.

The vicar (Rev Joe) made a wonderful speach about dad and his life and hobbies. He found a lovely passage from the bible which was very relevant, and then told many stories about dad and his quiet ways that benefitted many people, even though they didn't even know! As we sang the second hymn (One More Step) I found myself laughing inside. We had droped one of the verses, but, as there were so many people, many of them had hymn books, instead of the Order of Service sheets we had prepared, so half of the congregation sang one thing, and half sang another. A good friend of mine commented to the friend next to her that she didn't know the song, to which she received the reply; it doesn't really matter, everyone else is singing something different anyway. How funny. I knew it would go wrong, but I didn't expect that! (I have a horrible feeling that the words I copied and pasted were different to the one's in the current hymn book too - to compound the issue!)

I am standing upon that foreshore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white clouds just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!"
"Gone where?"
"Gone from my sight, that's all". She is just as large in mast and spar and hull as ever she was when she left my side; just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of her destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at that moment when someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!" And that is dying.

Following the church service, as most of the mourners left for the Shrewsbury Arms, family and close friends departed for the crematorium at Stafford. It was a beautiful day now, and this was a route that dad had travelled so many times. It was apt, that this was to be his final journey. Rev Joe said his final blessings, and then dad was taken from us forever.

An Officer and a Gentleman

Ron Harman
2nd May 1936 - 17th January 2012

I don't really know how to write this, but, it is with a very heavy heart, that I write of the death of my dad. A true officer and a gentleman.

He served in the forces for 22 years (leaving as an officer), and then moved on to management within the logistics field, finally retiring some 15 or so years ago. He was always happy to lend a hand to anyone and had many anecdotes to share with those he spent time with. Always a gentleman, he never smoked, and drank only occassionally. Sadly, such a lack of vices cannot protect any of us against the march of time.

I'm very glad to say that we looked after him at home and he died in the loving folds of his family, surrounded by familiar sights and sounds, safe and secure in the knowledge that he had created a wonderful strong family unit, which was never diminished by the miles that often separated us.

I have many quibbles with the NHS, but the care and support that we received is not one of them. Caring for dad at home, saved the NHS some £1,500 per day, but, in place of that, we were provided with carers in the morning and evening, along with nursing care each day, and on emergency call whenever it was needed. Quite often, mum and I had sorted dad out before the carers arrived, but overall, the experience was a very positive one. Sadly, we had to call the nurses out several times late at night, but, they travelled the 1/2 hour without any delay, providing specialist medical care whenever needed. They knew we only called them when we were desparate and assured us that the people on call were 'working' their proper hours, so there was no need for us to wait before calling.

Within a short period of assessment, it was decided that we should be provided with a hospital bed. This arrived within just a few days. The delivery men were very funny. They helped me move dad into a reclining chair, so that we could put the bed in, and practically threw the existing bed up the stairs out of the way! I'm sure that if I'd given them the sheets to make the bed, they would have done that too - well, maybe not. A few hours later, I checked in on dad, and he was sleeping soundly in the chair, with mum asleep in the hospital bed. Both of them were snoring gently - a perfect set of bookends.