Tuesday, 26 January 2010

You would remember that my great uncle Harold died last week, yesterday was the funeral and I thought I would preserve my memories of the day, for my own sake, if nobody elses. The photo is of Harold's truck, purchased with great excitement for the use of the grocer's shop he owned in Dubbo in the '40s and 50's. He was in partnership with my Grandpa for some of the time and it is Grandpa's house, Dad's childhood home, in the background.

After the month long hiatus of a Sydney January the day dawned with concerns about dress. Were the uniform shoes polished? white shirts crisply ironed? what kind of state were my black dress pants in, were brass instruments clean and playable and could anybody remember what shirt Keaghan wears if a t-shirt is unsuitable?
I like to think I'm usually dressed nicely but soon after arrival at the cemetery my cousin (who owns a law recruitment company) showed up in bespoke suit and covetable tie (the shirt was probably expensive but I didn't like it ) and I suddenly felt like the poor cousin, which I suppose I am, comparatively. I haven't seen H since I missed his wedding four years ago and I was mildly uncomfortable but we made chit chat about the untimely death of his mother and the shock we had both felt. He told me his brother L had run into car problems and would see us at the church and we laughed over the fact that Uncle Harold would have interjected at that point of the story with "God willing".
The graveside service was dignified and meaningful but I felt remote, standing there with the graves of my grandparents only metres away and making me surprisingly emotional (they have both been gone over 15 years)
We sung "When the roll is called up yonder" and the combination of nostalgia for the song and the other emotions of the day finally conspired to see me weep quietly.
The church was full, Liam and Hubby played in the band and the younger three retreated to the balcony so I sat with H and L, all of us alone in our own way in a sea of couples and families.
There were tributes full of affection, remembrances of a man affectionate and generous, commited and respected. There was an unashamed recognition that he was a hard task master, too. One tribute had been written twelve months prior to his death, by a woman who had died eight months ago. He had edited it where her memory was inaccurate, just as he had expressed his wishes for his farewell. He was opinionated even in death.
The congregation sung as I haven't heard in a very long time, proud and passionate. The band made up of old friends, some having travelled many miles, played with emotion and at a standard Harold would have been happy with.
There was lunch after and I felt less the poor cousin talking to Harold's grandsons as M admitted that he'd been forced to wear what was comfortable after abdominal surgery and complications. T wasn't even wearing his own clothes as his own good trousers, unworn for some time, might have cut him in half.
M promised me a disc full of photos, hopefully some Sepia Saturday fodder and I said my goodbyes. One group were people who I knew to be important to the Patriarch and because I see them only rarely I forgot their regular involvement in his life and thanked them for coming. I realised in the same breath that one was actually his daughter-in-law. You can imagine my horror and total inability to graciously fix the blunder. Why hadn't I chosen "good to see you"?
The only course to take in such circumstance is to move on and I did, back to everyday life, back to school uniforms and groceries and dinner, back to my ordinary life hoping that I can do or be extraordinary enough and bear enough fruit that someone will want to give me a similarly beautiful send off.


  1. I know exactly how you felt in this, kylie...believe me. HUGS!

  2. I doubt you have much need to worry about having a grand send off but if you want to be sure of one start setting aside bottles of good whiskey for the wake.

    Take one with you by the by in case you wake to a thirst.

  3. Sounds like a very good send-off. And I'm sure nobody was bothered that you weren't wearing an expensive suit or made a few inappropriate remarks. It's a funeral, everyone's a bit emotional, slightly odd behaviour is to be expected, and the important thing is your own feelings about Harold.

  4. you guys are great!

    setting aside whiskey for the wake is a good idea.......

    *wanders off to examine finances regarding whiskey*

  5. Hi Kylie,

    Sorry for your loss. He sounds like a very interesting person. That was quite a tribute to him.

    Best wishes,


  6. Kia ora Kylie,
    My condolences to you, and what a fine tribute, the recognition of life still unfolding around us as we let loved ones go. The memories and thoughts will live on. Kia kaha.

  7. skeeter!
    he was an interesting kind of a chap

  8. robb,
    in this case the memories will last long, he was an impressive man :)



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