Farewell Caroline

Back at the house, we ordered take-away pizza. By we, I mean O. I am not long home after the funeral. It was great. As a send-off to the afterlife, you couldn’t wish for more.
The wicker coffin and the flowers were beautiful. That was the moment when I think I really began to comprehend that Caroline is dead. This is it. There will be no more random meetings in local shops; no more exchanged texts or gifts of squash. Caroline is dead. But. The crematorium is a distance away. O had first organised a fleet of limousines and then, in an inspired and radical moment hired a Routemaster instead. We traveled in style behind the hearse. The front of the bus said “Goodbye Caroline”. In the two hundred history of Albin’s this was their first Routemaster cortège. They took photographs. For once, I didn’t.

On the way we chatted, exchanged Carloine stories, commented on the weather, admired O in red suede and full frontal personality.
It was cold, damp and grey at the crematorium. We shivered after the warmth of the bus and huddled close. Other people huddled putside the chapel. Ours, or another funeral party? We eyed each other doubtfully until O moved forward and into their embarce.
The chapel was full; standing room only at the back. It began. C came in carried on the shoulders of Albin’s men. We were silent. It was true. This wasn’t an elaborate practical joke. After today Caroline would be rendered back to the earth. Sobriety.
Three addresses. I enjoyed them all, but my favourite lines are from her brother who spoke of his extensive postcard collection started by a postcard of a gorilla from Caroline in Gibralter; “Fancy seeing you here!”, and from her brother-in-law “Her love of Cumberland sausages distinguished her from other vegetarians.”
Family members sang solos. Lesser mortals sniffed and wiped our eyes. The order of service is a joyous celebration. A document to treasure. We file out and into the cold again. We make introductions. Friends, neighbours, colleagues, relatives. We are all there. We excahnge stories. Back on the bus and it hurtles now, heading for a restaurant patronised by Caroline and O, where the staff are also grieving, but happy to serve drinks and nibbles to the funeral party.
I am thinking of going home, so is another neighbour. We start to plan, and then it becomes clear O intends we go back together. We drink more wine.
So it goes.
At the house, Caroline’s absence is more marked. True, we have been saying all afternoon that the one person we need to make this party go with a swing is Caroline, but the lack of her in the house makes me, and I suspect, others, tearful.
Champagne; celebrate a life! This is a good move. we cheer up and again exchange our stories, talk of now, realise, even if we don’t say it, that life goes on. Memories of Caroline are carried with us. She lives by our memories. small comfort to O who faces a life alone after being one half of a very united whole.
But for all that, it was a great day, a day to remember, a day to celebrate as well as to mourn. Get the funeral right and the memories will folow.
Goodbye Caroline. I shall miss you. xxxx

38 thoughts on “Farewell Caroline

  1. Caroline sounds like a great person. Your penultimate sentence “Get the funeral right and the memories will follow” is so true. Yes, champagne is completely appropriate too.

    Just talking with a colleague at work today about how those we have lost never really leave us – there are there still, in frequent teeny fleeting memories or times, places,music, sayings, laughs shared for ever afterwards.

    • This may sound silly, but I don’t think I realised how much I had come to enjoy her company and like her until she died. My affection for her grew gradually, knowing her first through O, the friendship between ourselves evolved through long acquaintance.
      You are so right about how people remain alive in our thoughts. I often imagine my father gleefully enjoying the Internet, something that came into its own after he died. He would have loved it.

      • Yes 🙂 It’s a warm and comforting thing to remember and know how they would have reacted.

        I often hear the music my dad loved and it will always be a link directly to him.

        Similarly, when i do something stupid or inept in the kitchen, i know that if I burst out laughing, so would my mum… like the time we made robust wholemeal home-made bread rolls… and they were so heavy on the tray she had a job to get them out of the oven! Both got terrible giggles about the fact that they were more like the boulders the Romans used to fire at enemies. 🙂

        • Just had a v long conversation with Sue in Texas about many things, but partly about death and funerals. Those links are what keep people alive in our heads. Sheep May Safely Graze gives me an instant hit of my dad, but boy, he’d have loved the web!

  2. I can see by this post how deep her loss runs with you. But it sounds as if the funeral was what it should be about…uniting in your rememberances. Take care Isobel.

  3. A routemaster: inspired 🙂 Funerals are so very important in helping us take a step without our friend, knowing that we’ll never be really without them.

    We didn’t know each other when my mum died; you may recognise some of this, despite the differing rituals http://memineandotherbits.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/the-party-for-sad-people/
    I nearly got left behind in the scarmble of folk to get to the graveyard (why, yes, I was chatting) and I just opened the door of a car stopped at traffic lights and piled in. Luckily they were mourners and not just goths on their way to do the weekly shop. That probably wouldn’t have happened if we’d thought to get a routemaster

    • Just popped over to yours. Yes, a different service, but the same sense.
      The Route master was such a good move. It was a fair old journey, and travelling in limousines would have been fairly oppressive I feel. Coming to terms with a death is hard enough without weighing it down with more and more mournful trappings, and ways things ‘should’ be done.

    • Where they celebrate as well as mourn, I feel they are healing things, but the real struggle begins the next day when the majority of mourners disperse and the most closely affected have to come to terms with what the loss of that person means in their lives.

  4. I’m sorry for your loss, also, Isobel. What a wonderful funeral – it gave lots of opportunity for you to rejoice in her life. You definitely have a lot of wonderful memories that will help heal the pain of loss. Thank you for sharing an experience that was very personal.

    • After my father died, I really really needed to talk about his death, about the funeral, about him. I found some people would shy away, try to turn my thoughts, as though I could be thinking about anything else for long. So, for me, I know that articulating and reflecting on a death helps me and is part of the grieving and healing process. A good funeral is something that is so important, and as someone said yesterday, since families have had a greater say in the way they want the services to be, they are more personal.

    • The good thing about this time of year is that people have time off work and get together, so there is a natural level of support, but I agree it is hard to go through a death when all around you the message is to party and enjoy yourself.

  5. I’m sorry for your loss, and for your friend O who will have – as you so rightly say – a much harder time now that the funeral is over.
    Here in Ireland they do these things so well – the wake is all important, and rightly so. It gives everyone a chance to laugh and cry and remember and talk – just what you have done today.

    • When my mother, who is from Northern Ireland, attended her first English funeral she said she wanted to be buried in Ireland. Fortunately things have changed, though in my own family, on the English side, all the funerals I have attended have included story swapping and laughter.

        • One of the sobering things about Caroline’s death is that she is my near contemporay. In the last eighteen months, funerals of friends in my age group have made an unwelcome appearnace. Moving towards the frontline.
          I am wondering about signing up for a poetry course. it’s not my main interest, but i was too late to get into a fiction writing one. Any advice?

        • In my area I ma lucky that the poet who takes my class was already known to me and came highly recommended. It does depend on what you are looking for in a class…. inspiration / knowledge / etc.

          I’d ask around to find out who is a respected tutor. Have a look out for a local Stanza group and see if you can join. They usually offer excellent feedback and will be knowledgeable about local poetry turors.

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