As I spoke to our oldest member at our church here yesterday morning, to tell him you would not make it after all, he had tears in his eyes.
I know that you and he had decided that you would celebrate being 100 one way or another. Various hilarious suggestions having been made!
He is now 96. And you would have reached 92 later this year.
You always made him laugh, and he and his wife always asked about you.
That seems to be a recurring theme. These are some of the things I have received in the last few days:
"Always interested in people........great raconteur.......always cheerful, and always
had a story to tell.........had my mum and dad in stitches, and I can still visualise them all laughing now, never a dull moment................... lucky to have had a such a lovely caring and funny uncle, the best, and a privilege............
Your dad had a full life, was greatly entertaining, and enjoyed company, will be greatly missed."
We miss him, warts and all. Another silence, where there was his voice at the end of the telephone, answering "Mr Smith" Another empty place.......
Another end of an era. A passing of a different age.........
A multitude of impressions in my mind.................the clash of wills between us........his stubborn black and white views at times, his pigheadedness!! Yes, but he was loyal to a fault, determined and courageous in his last couple of years, as his health and age took their toll.
I was there, in his beloved Valley, in my mind, the other evening, smelling the damp of the old stone walls on the hillsides, hearing the wind, looking at the lights twinkling down in the town, and along the roads which snake their way through until they reach the outskirts, where they climb up and then disappear out of sight eventually dropping down to the other side of the boundaries.
One into Yorkshire, one into Burnley, and one meandering along the Valley floor towards Manchester, the other into Accrington.
He never wanted to leave Rossendale, and his beloved hills. He and mum chose their place in the local cemetary and it comforted him to know he would be buried there.
My mother is already there, since 1990.
So, dad, we are going to say our very final goodbyes on Thursday this week, April 8th. and you will have your wish to have the service at St Mary's Church.
I must digress here and tell a very well-known story amongst the family which sums up how dad could be at times. He had been in his life time, an active member of three different churches, (not all at the same time! ) spending some years at the local Baptist church after the death of my mother. When his sister died, he decided to go back to his roots, where his family had worshipped, been christened, married and died. His sister, (my aunt) and her family being regular attenders at St Mary's Church. And we ourselves were members there and married there before we moved South.
Some time after his sister's funeral service, dad went to see the vicar at that time and said he had decided to "Come back to St Mary's, and did the vicar mind? and "Oh, by the way was it alright for him to have his own funeral service there?"
The vicar, David Parkin, who already knew dad, said "Certainly Mr Smith, " and then got out a small notebook and asked him "When would you like it?"
Dad, of course had been outwitted, but told the story with great relish, laughing at the telling!!
And I dreamt about dad last week, in the midst of all the multitude of things which had to be done, as I stayed with my cousins.
I dreamt that I was with dad once again, walking along the track to the local farm, and for some obscure reason I noticed he had cut himself when shaving!
It was a beautiful day, and the wind was stirring the leaves in the trees, in the warmth of the sun.
I asked him "What are you doing here?"
"I've been doing all this organising for you to have your funeral. What shall I do now?"
" Don't cancel it" said dad, " You all go ahead and enjoy it! The doctor says my heart is fine" !!!
Well, dad, to me that just about sums up how you were........and on Thursday, we will go ahead, as you wished when you first asked David some years ago.