You might remember back in late 2014, I got involved in my aunt’s funeral, arranging the order of service with the minister, when I realised my Mum had not been in touch with him.
Well I realised the other week, that my aunt won’t have had a headstone put in place. After all this time, it just didn’t get done. And I’m now making steps to get one arranged for her, to remember her forever.
(This is another personal post, so if you don’t want to read it, don’t.)
Back then in late October 2014, a storm from hell came and nearly prevented me from travelling the long journey to Lochaline near Mull to pay my last respects to my aunt, but it didn’t stop me. I managed to get there, with some help from my good friend, with 4 minutes to spare.
When I found out my aunt had passed away, I contacted the funeral director and the minister to check they had everything they needed. But it seemed my mum had not been in touch with the minister to tell the story of my aunts life. So I imagined the funeral ceremony, full of words that didn’t mean very much.
In my mums family, there was her dad and mum (my grandad I never met, and my granny who became a pivotal force in my life), my mum, my aunt and my uncle.
I knew that my mum didn’t get on with my aunt and vice versas, but I thought she’d do something to remember her. Turns out I was wrong. I was angry at the time, but looking back, I guess it doesn’t matter, at least I was there to write some words to remember her.
The day of my aunts funeral I had a rather embarrassing black eye after falling / fainting in the gym and hitting my head a few days before. A good look – not. The journey there seemed to take forever and it seemed like someone didn’t want me to get there, but I was getting there, and I got there.
We drove up past my granny’s house to see my uncle out clearing it. He didn’t go to the funeral. I accepted this at the time, and realised now it was because he had the mammoth job of clearing out the house (which took 4 months, partly to do with its size, but also because it was so far from anywhere).
When we got to the small church and went in, there were a few people from the local community, maybe 8, in the back rows of the church. Many people hadn’t been able to get there due to the weather. Then about 3 or 4 rows from the back, I saw my mum. There was no one else there, apart from the minister and the pianist at the front (and my aunt Sheila in a coffin). In a church with 10 small pews, my mum sat 3 or 4 rows from the back?!
I thought to myself, why isn’t she up the front? But it was 4 minutes from starting and I instead walked proudly up to the front. I heard my words read out and felt proud that I’d been able to do this for my aunt and for my Granny.
When we went out to the graveyard, about. 1-2 minute walk away, it was torrential sideways rain. My mum didn’t go to the grave, she got back in her car, which was parked as close as it could get to the church. And I didn’t see her again. I stood at the head of the coffin and lowered my aunt into the ground.
In my head I made up all of these reasons for my mum not contacting the minister, not sitting at the front, not going to the graveside.
But looking back now, I realise she was about a year from death herself. She probably ‘couldn’t’ have got to the front of the church due to breathing difficulties. And she probably ‘couldn’t’ have made it to the graveside.
I hadn’t been in touch with her for about 10-15 years, and it just didn’t cross my mind that she was an old ill woman herself. 50-60 years of smoking took their toll.
It’s funny how you can think one thing one day, then looking back you realise you were wrong (me being angry at my mum, thinking she was being nasty) and you realise it wasn’t the way you thought it was, that maybe the other person was ill and going through lots themselves.
I didn’t really know my uncle much, we met only a handful of times, but I knew him the most out of my siblings, so I contacted him to let him know my mum had gone. He didn’t go to the funeral, but I did go and visit him and I thought on the way to Kinlochleven to see him, I wondered if my aunts headstone had been arranged.
He confirmed it hadn’t. For one reason or another (which don’t matter), it just hasn’t been done. She doesn’t have a headstone. :-( and now with my mum gone, I doubted there would be much chance it would be arranged, maybe unless I got involved.
Now (as long as my uncle is ok with it) I’m going to arrange one to remember her properly. She’s buried in the middle of no where, in the west coast of Scotland, but I know it’s important for me to sort this for her, and for my Granny.
My 4 siblings have all agreed it’s the right thing to do and are wiling to pay a share, I just need to get on and arrange it when I can (my first phone call will be to my uncle to make sure he’s ok with me sorting it and to ask if he wants to do it / help to do it).
I’d always made an effort to keep in touch with my granny and aunt who lived together. Through a tough childhood, I reached out and got input from my lovely wise granny and from my ever witty and usually caring aunt.
I remember in 2002 when my granny died and I went to help my aunt. At 22 I was the only one there from my family for a few days, until my mum and brother and uncle turned up. I remember my aunt saying to me that she thought I was her ‘Guardian Angel’. Well I guess I am, and I’m proud to be.
I also remember standing on my own on the cold crisp day after my granny’s funeral service, looking out over to Mull. And I said to my Granny I would make her proud.
Rainbows and elephants all the way. ;-)
I feel a strong sense of pride that I kept in touch with my Granny and my aunt during some tough times growing up.
After the last few months, I feel like my shoulders are a bit broader, that I’ve been brave, and that I can do anything I set my mind to. I’ve come up and out the other side stronger.
And I feel immensely proud that I’m able to be the catalyst to do this now for my aunt. I know they’d both be very proud of me and I’ll be pleased once it’s all in place.