Saying goodbye

For years I hadn’t been to many funerals, except mainly for grandparents. The last four have seen several, many of them sudden and untimely.


My partner and I have been to a lot of funerals in the last few years. This weekend we were at a friend’s – the mum of my daughter’s best friend who died after a sudden cancer diagnosis. Another awful thing for her best friend to undergo at such a young age; another link to my daughter broken.

The two girls were firm friends ever since nursery and our families spent many weekends together. My daughter and her friend went on holiday together in their late teens with another friend, arriving back always dressed in identical clothes, a bit like Charlie’s Angels. I found a card from her best friend from that last Christmas saying how much she was looking forward to getting old and sitting together on rocking chairs looking back at their lives.

Both her best friend and her mum were at my daughter’s funeral in the front row. And there we were this weekend, less than four years later, with her mum’s picture up on the wall instead of my daughter’s, saying goodbye, although I can never say goodbye to my daughter. It still feels so unreal. Like a parallel world which can’t possibly be real.

The response from some is to say that all this death must make you want to embrace life more. It would be good to look at it in that way and maybe that will be part of the mix of emotions in due course, but mostly it just makes you hyper aware of how heartbreaking and fragile life can be.

Funerals are a weird thing. My partner has just come back from one in Spain and he says it was a grim affair. Very perfunctory. The funerals there generally take place 24-48 hours after the death so there is little time to prepare. He likes the personal touch he has seen here – where we take a bit more time and celebrate the person.

To me funerals feel like a strange party you don’t want to be at but which you have to host. You get to see people you maybe haven’t seen for a while. I remember driving up to my daughter’s funeral and two people I had shared a flat with way back in the day parked beside us. There is such a mix of emotions and such a feeling of it all being completely surreal. You are also trying hard to keep it together for everyone else and to do the person who died justice. It is all about them after all.

But the after bit can be hard. In our case the whole world closed down for Covid soon after and we were cut off from everyone, including my mum. When all the people at the funeral go back to their lives, which they must, of course, do, and doubly so in Covid, it can feel very isolating. That is really when you need friends and family the most, just to check in and it is when distraction comes into its own. Those who have been through it all know how much that matters and how much we can support each other because we know.

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