Funeral yesterday

On 31st December I made probably the hardest decision of my life. Others supported the decision but it was my agreement that the doctor needed. Just over a week before my father had to sign a consent form for minor surgery in which he had to state ‘next-of-kin’. ‘Who did you put?’ I asked. He looked at me in surprise, ‘You of course.’  I sort of knew it would be me but I had to check just in case. After a week when I had seen my father’s health deteriorate on every visit I was faced with the reality that he wasn’t going to get well; the antibiotics had not done their job and his organs were rapidly failing. The last coherent conversation we had had was on Boxing Day and even that had been at times incomprehensive. Now I barely recognised the man in the bed to be the same one we had brought into hospital following a fall. The decision to withdraw treatment and just administer pain-relief may seem like an obvious one, but it was not an easy one.

No one could tell me how long it would be before he drew his final breathe. I went home to sleep thinking it would be sometime the next day, even the day after. At midnight I was driving home whilst fireworks illuminated the sky in the distance welcoming in the New Year. We were still up when the phone rang around an hour later and my sister told me, ‘He’s gone.’

When we planned the funeral we needed to forget those last weeks and concentrate on his life. Since her death he had greived for my mother and life had been difficult for him. She was the communicator, the organizer, the one who kept contact with the rest of the family. Luckily the family wanted to keep contact with him so that many of us discovered  a side of him we weren’t aware of before. I  helped organise appointments for him, deal with companies over the phone, take him shopping, and listen to his reminiscences, often about mum.   Although not a religious man his belief that he would one day be reunited with her gave him both solace and hope. Now, nearly four years since she died, I hope he has been proved right and she greeted him with, ‘Where have you been?’  RIP

Graham Whale 31st March, 1932 to 1st January 2017.

Tribute for Dad

Sonya and I would like to thank everyone for coming here today. When we were planning this funeral we both agreed we wanted it to be a celebration of him and his life. Many of you mentioned your memories of Dad in your kind condolences. Many of you have memories which reach further back than Sonya’s and mine. His life in Arley. His early years with mum. The moving to Cheltenham, leaving the village he continued to refer to as ‘home’ until the later years of his life. Since my mother’s passing he has returned to those memories. Many say it is not good to live in the past, but there are some positives. The argument between a teenage daughter and her father about wearing a bra under a certain blouse may seem trivial now, but through adult eyes the girl can see her father’s love and concern that was not evident in those angry words. We should not dwell in the past but we can find solace in it. The memories of holidays spent together. The times lunching in a country pub where Dad would often order ‘gammon and chips’ and when asked ‘pineapple or egg’ would reply ‘both’. I know many here will never see that item on a menu without thinking of Dad.

His sense of humour was from an era where comedians didn’t swear, at least not on television. He could be dry and flippant. He could be inappropriate. I remember a friend’s wedding where the vicar’s sermon was heavily focused on a third person in their marriage who they would welcome into their home. First we wondered if he knew something we didn’t, but the third person was ‘Jesus who is in all our homes’, to which my Dad exclaimed to us, ‘that’s who keeps leaving all the lights on!’

I hope you like the coffin. Dad was essentially a country boy at heart and, living in a town, fishing became his way of connecting with the countryside. He even gave up smoking branded cigarettes to buy a landing net. His claim that he gave up smoking at this time is undermined by photos of him holding a fish in one hand and a ciggie in the other. He did later give up entirely though. The image of him fishing whilst mum sits nearby reading a book seems so apt for today.

With such a statement coffin we didn’t want to cover it in flowers. Dad preferred flowers growing in the ground anyway. But the woodland basket reminded us both of Arley Woods where Dad spent most of his childhood playing.

Thank you to Richard for the reading, in which St Paul brings together the imagery of care-free childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood, whilst stressing the importance of love. Dad did not express his love verbally. At our wedding I hoped for the usual ‘wonderful daughter’ speech instead, Dad gave the results of a horse race much to the appreciation, and amusement, of his audience. Later I realised that for him to stand up in a roomful of people and give a speech was an act of love in itself, he would rather have left any talking to mum. Just because someone does not show you they love you in ways you expect, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you. I know that Dad loved us all in his own way and that his love will stay with us in our memories.

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