All went well on Monday. Despite everything that was thrown at me, it all went well and she was remembered well. My Aunt is remembered well and laid to rest, and we got there with just 4 minutes to spare.
From black eyes, weather warnings, landslides, heavy rain and wind, to road closures, emotional roller coasters, 160 mile detours, single track roads and sheep – We got it all thrown at us. We got through it all, and it all worked out just fine in the end.
I’d arranged for my best friend and laid-back-lucky-charm-Rhona to come all the way from Inverness to meet me in Fort William, then we’d drove the 60 mile, single track detour to Lochaline in one car.
On Sunday night I realised the A82 was closed due to a massive landslide and Rhona had already decided on a detour for me to take. My 3.5 hour journey to Lochaline would eventually turn into 5.5 hours.
With a good breakfast in me, I left early, around half past 8 after toying with the idea that maybe it wasn’t the best idea for Rhona to drive all that way, on such terrible weather conditions. I’m glad she did. She helped a lot, (and I’m not sure she even tried much!)
The day was mostly grey and wet, and at about 10 past 10, it brightened a little and I thought, ‘This looks like rainbow weather‘. That second, my Dad text me, and the first and only rainbow of the day, appeared in front of me. Spooky.
I drove up the A9, across to Laggan and got stuck behind 3 broken down lorries for a while, before eventually the traffic eased off and I continued the detour to Fort William. Things seemed to be falling into place too easily. With the detours we had ahead of us, I knew I was really pushing it for time.
I had my little red elephant (to drop) with me, and a few passengers too to keep me company. Sysco the Tiger, Juno the Giraffe, and Elephant in the passenger seat. (Jasper and Asda didn’t wang to go). 😉
I was up and down on the journey, teary at points and smiling at other points. Listening to my tunes and Radio Scotland for the travel updates. At 11 o’clock, MacAualy & Co came on Radio Scotland and the co host I’d helped get into work at the BBC came on with Fred. I smiled.
I got to Fort William just after 12, stopped for a quick pee and some petrol before going to find Rhona where she’d been waiting since travelling down. I pulled up and parked and she offered to drive me in her 4×4 (and fast) black Audi along the 60 mile detour to Fort William. I gratefully agreed.
Time could have been against us, but with Rhona driving me I felt a strange and unspoken confidence that we’d get there on time.
The service started at 2pm and I knew we were cutting it fine. I text the Minister to let him know we were on our way, hoping there was enough network to let my message get through.
After the windy roads, rain and wind, traffic and plenty of sheep, eventually we got to Lochaline and took a right past my Granny’s (and Sheila’s) old house. I saw my uncle was in the garden clearing something up. We drove on to the church and arrived with 4 minutes to spare. 13:56.
With no spaces to be had, we parked up on the only space left up on the grass verge, got out of the car, and headed into the church.
Dressed all in black except for a purple scarf, a purple under layer you could just see, and the shiner on my left eye, I went in first and was greeted by the Minister a few locals.
I saw my Mum a few rows from the back. She cowered down low, and I confidently walked up to the front of the church. Rhona and I took our seats alone but together on the front seats, with my Aunt Sheila in her coffin to our left.
The service began, and I felt proud and strong when the words I’d written the day before about my Aunt’s life, were read out by the Minister. Her life story, there for us all to hear and remember. The hymns I’d chosen were sung, and the ‘Remember’ poem I’d written was read out.
Prayers were said, and whilst I’m not religious at all, I felt my Granny’s pride and presence surround and engulf me.
I remembered my Granny’s funeral, held in the very same church, and I remembered leaving that day, telling her I’d make her proud. Today I did that.
My Aunt Sheila didn’t have much, but today she was remembered for who she was, how she lived and how she laughed. How she cared and how she eventually passed.
Rhona was right next to me holding my hand. I was wearing my cape necklace she’d given me, and I was smothered in capes I’d been lent by others. I shed a tear, but felt calm and relaxed, and remembered her well.
We got out to the grave yard, to finish the ceremony. The wind was blowing a gale and the rain was lashing down. I wrapped up in my black Rohan jacket was protected well. We stood for a while, before the coffin came down. I was almost laughing at how bad the weather was. Thinking she’d laughing at us too.
I took the chord at the head of the coffin and lifted and lowered her into the ground, with help from others who knew her. She was laid to rest close to my where my Grandad and Granny lie. Sheila was laid to rest, remembered and all was now at peace.
After the funeral, we were asked by Sheila’s friend Sandra to join them at her house nearby. We went along, rhona, the Minister, another local man and a relation of Sandra’s. We chatted about Sheila and about people we all knew (it’s a small world afterall).
Before we left, I went back to the graveyard, and dropped my little elephant, behind my granny and granddad’s grave stones under a leaf and a rose. All done.
We left before darkness took hold, and got to Ardgour (where the Corran Ferry goes from) at just after 5pm.
Just after we got there, we heard on the radio that the road to Fort William had reopened again, so no need to go back the detour way we’d come. We lined up to get the Ferry across and it pulled right up. Magic.
Straight onto the Ferry, as the darkness came down. We were chatting quietly, and ‘Sunshine’ by Gabrielle was playing. No shining stars tonight, but plenty of sunshine and I felt a magic inside for sure. I felt like I had some sort if forcefield around me making sure everything would be fine.
(Then we were rudely awoken by the cringeworthy Lego theme tune ‘Everything is AWESOME’. I thought of my brother Ewen, and my nephews) and I smiled again.) lol.
We got to Fort William and I decided I’d be best to stay the night. I called the owners of a B&B (Scot & Heather) Fit Girl and I had got to know as friends, and asked if I could stay the night.
They said of course, so I had dinner with Rhona before she drove back to Inverness, then Scot & Heather put me up in their bunkhouse (free of charge) and we spent the night chatting away.
A long, but very good day.
If I was put on this earth to do one thing, this was it.
Ps: Thanks to all of those who helped me (you can have your capes back now), and to all of those I made proud.