A sad trip to Surrey

On the 18th January, I wrote a post called ‘A sad end to a Sunday.’ I had just heard about the death of a very close and valued friend, and that was my way of dealing with my shock at receiving the news.

On Monday 9th February, his funeral was held, in a pleasant cemetery in south-west London, bordering Surrey. Of course, we were always going to attend. I had to say goodbye to my friend, and to give my personal condolences to his family, face to face. I had also been asked to speak at the service, along with four others. This was an undoubted honour, and I took it as such. There was also the chance to catch up with his son and daughter; lovely people, and both very dear to me. I was told that at least sixty people were coming. Considering the average age of the mourners, and the distances that many had to travel, this was indicative of the level of grief, and the determination to say their individual farewells. I would know many of them, and be acquainted with others in passing. All in all, this was an occasion not to be missed.

If only it had never had to happen, at least just not yet. That would have been so much better.

Because of the time involved in travelling from Norfolk, we arranged to stay with a another old friend the night before. She kindly offered to take us to and from the ceremony as well, alleviating some of the stress associated with the occasion. On the morning, we left in good time, preferring to arrive too early, than to be late. The sun shone, and the day was unusually warm for February, all boding well for lightening the mood. But my mood was suitably dark. I didn’t really want to say goodbye. I wanted more time with him; a few years, at the very least. But it was not to be. My speech, such as it was, was prepared far in advance. I knew what I wanted to say about someone who had been my educator, my inspiration, my mentor, as well as a cherished lifetime companion.

Although we had been asked to be colourful, and avoid the sombre, I couldn’t bring myself to do this. I wore black tie, black coat, and a black mood inside. Before the funeral, we encountered more old friends and former teachers, many unchanged over decades. For them, identification was difficult. Once seen as children in burgundy uniforms and caps, we now stood before them with receding hair, the wrinkles of stressful lives, and the weight of our experiences showing clearly. The turnout was very good, more than twice what you might normally expect to see these days. So much so, that many had to be content to stand outside, and watch the proceedings through the doorway. After a short introduction, establishing a non-religious, Humanist theme, the speakers were called forward.

A son, who was also a friend, spoke eloquently. His emotion was palpable, and I know that I felt it.

An ex-wife, still a friend, spoke with fond recollection of babies and first homes.

A brother, as well as a best friend, struggled with reminiscences of boyhood, tears flowing.

A colleague, and close friend too, lifted the mood with amusing stories that raised spirits.

In there somewhere, I spoke as a pupil, and great friend also, breaking down as I concluded.

Afterwards, we retired to a pub in the area. A reserved section was packed out; nobody had wanted to leave after the service. We reconnected, discovered new people, and told our tales as only those that knew him well could. Good food was served, drinks flowed, yet there was a sense of a cloud over the room. We had to leave after less than two hours, as the journey back to Norfolk was long, and it had been a tiring day. But we left in the knowledge that most were still there, sharing stories and anecdotes, giving comfort to those around them.

On the way home, I was unsettled, still upset. I had hoped for closure, but it felt too soon still. Despite all the positives of the day, I was left feeling empty. It will be some time before that goes.

Goodbye Pete, my dear friend. It will never be the same without you.

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18 thoughts on “A sad trip to Surrey

  1. I’m glad the service went well. No death can truly be accepted especially if unexpected or too early. There’s no easy answer here. Time allows us to process and move on but a year late I doubt you still don’t miss your friend every day. The time we had I guess we cherish.

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    1. Thanks, Lloyd. Getting older has many benefits. Less frustration with life, some elements of contentment and reflection. The worst part of it is losing those that shared the earlier years with you, and that never gets any easier.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Pete, I was moved by your account, and know it will take time to find a certain degree of closure. You will no doubt experience moments throughout the rest of your life in which you voluntarily or involuntarily evoke his memory and ponder your loss. Right now, this loss is like an open wound. Eventually, it will heal, but not without a tender scar. Our hearts and souls cannot truly dismiss great personal losses, but they can mitigate the impact as we reengage with the routine activities and preoccupations of our own lives.

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    1. Thanks David. It was a celebration of a life as well as sadness at the loss. Perhaps because it was unexpected, the shock element is still prominent. When that goes, things will settle down, I’m sure.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. Writing can be a sort of catharsis, Pete. It will take however long it takes, but your pain will heal, and hopefully the many good memories will sustain you….

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  4. Pete, I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. I too know all about not wanting to let go of a loved one, quite so soon. We struggle with wanting just a bit more time, to get it right or to just know they’re still there. But, just as we cut our finger, it bleeds, then eventually heals, so will this pain in your heart over time. One day at a time dear friend, one day at a time.

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  5. Dear Pete, your sadness is very evident but it is good to be a witness to your sharing of it and of course, it helps so much in dealing with the hardest yet most definite fact of life. All best wishes to you and Julie xx

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