Things I’ve learned today:
1. K’s nan was born the day before Armistice day in 1918. I knew her birthday was November 11th (we have, after all, been sending her birthday cards for years) but never realised it was actually the day before WW1 ended.
2. K’s nan was a dinner lady when her children were small.
3. Catholic services are quite different to C of E. There are bells and smelly incense stuff and sprinkling of water. And words you’re supposed to know and say when the priest says certain things.
4. Burials are not too bad. And not as dramatic as on TV. True to the word of my funny friend (you know who you are) there were no men handcuffed to a police officer and no fights broke out and no-one fell in the hole.
5. My husband has a sick sense of humour (ok, I already knew this).
6. I can’t go anywhere without getting into a slightly awkward situation (again, I already knew this).
It all went very well. We made it there in time and met at K’s nan’s house. Bit of a wait during which K’s mum made a few inappropriate remarks. My favourite was aimed at one of the great-grandchildren who she hadn’t seen for a while and confirmed this by saying “Hasn’t Jessica changed? Or is it just all that make-up she’s wearing?” Classic.
We then headed off in the funeral cars, at which point A had a little wobble but after a magic pastille (Rescue Remedy) she was ok. At the church there were a few moments when she cracked a bit and she did ask if Grandma was actually in the coffin…. “Yes, but only her body, remember. She’s all around us now, looking after us.” An idea which was reinforced by the priest and the tone of the service. Who knew? I’ve been an unwitting Catholic all this time ;-). I found it a little awkward not knowing all the responses and the genuflecting but on the whole it was a nice service. Nan had chosen all the hymns and K’s dad did a lovely eulogy (imparting the info in points 1 and 2). During the service they had communion which I would normally partake in (I was confirmed during sixth form, in an uncharacteristic and not since repeated religious phase) but stayed back with the kids. It was during this that I spotted an elderly lady in the row behind us, who was the spitting image of K’s nan. Assuming she must be one of the remaining sisters, I discreetly pointed her out to K. To which he replied that yes she must be a sister….. unless…..maybe nan’s not really dead?……Sick, I tell you.
T and A bravely went up to place their roses on the coffin before the four male grandchildren carried it out to the car. ( I say carried but it was more “wheeled on a trolley”.) The kids then stayed with mum whilst we went off to the burial. It was here that my awkward moment occurred. K had gone ahead carrying (properly this time) the coffin again and I followed behind everyone with the rose that he was going to place on the coffin. He didn’t come to find me so I had to squeeze past people to give it to him. The graveside bit (plot?) was quite close to a large row of high bushes and I had to manoeuvre my way between the people and the bushes, thinking I would pass it to him and then go back. But no, the priest started while I was handing it to him and so I had to stay there, in the bushes. The whole time. I had to bend my head to avoid injury and so I’m hoping I just looked quite respectful and somber and not like I was some nutter lurking in the hedgerow. Awkward.
I didn’t mind the burial too much, despite a terrible fear of enclosed spaces, and no-one got too upset which was a surprise. However, I did find it a bit perturbing when a few of them stood looking down at it once the service bit had ended. The moment was soon lightened though when some joker (guess who?) piped up that they should have “chucked a goody bag in there for her” – nan was famed for always producing a sandwich bag filled with treats for every young visitor, even on completely unexpected visits.
We then headed off to the “wake” and the kids drank “pop” and scoffed their body weight in sandwiches, having not eaten since 7am. The usual “them and us” (loving the quotation marks tonight!) situation, with one side of the family sitting miles away from the other, ensued and of course more inappropriate remarks from certain members of the clan.
All in all, we couldn’t be happier with how the day went. Two unfazed children, but glad grandma was there on hand, and the right decision made.
R.I.P. Edna 1918-2015