Community, friends, thank you’s and goodbye’s

I had to organise a “Service of Thanksgiving” (a nicer name for a funeral)… I am not the first and I wont be the last.  That said, it was my first experience of this type and while it was emotionally and physically draining, there are a few things which I have learned about our community, local businesses and my own friends which I would like to share.

Firstly, I must let you know that I sadly lost my mum on the 25th February.  I live in Wallingford, she lived in Benson with my dad – her husband of 40 years.  One day she was here, the next she was gone.   Unbeknown to us she was riddled with pneumonia (she had no outward symptoms) and then by the time she displayed signs of illness it was too late.  She died of blood poisoning.

My mum and I had a tempestuous relationship to say the least.  We loved each other fiercely and were so close.  We were almost identical in temperament and on the one hand we could read each others minds / finish each others sentences and on the other hand we could enrage each other in a way that only two such similar people could.  We could laugh and laugh and laugh at things, finding humour in the strangest of places. We enjoyed jokes that were personal to us and yet we could wind each other up and make each other so cross.  My mum was my best friend in many ways, but when we fell out we could go weeks without speaking.  The one thing that I doubt she ever questioned, and I know I didn’t, was that we loved each other with all our hearts.  The loss we all feel is utterly devastating and there really aren’t words to explain how drastically all our lives have changed since she passed away.  Our family has been rocked to the core, our equilibrium has been shattered.  We have lost the heart of our family, the person who held us all together and was the center of our existence   We wonder if we will ever be the same again, I guess we wont, but I know that for her sake we must carry on and find a new way to live without her.  I can’t tell you how hard that is going to be.

After my mum died, the majority of the funeral arrangements fell to me.  We found out that a small house in Crowmarsh is actually a funeral home… Chadwick’s it’s called… I have never had a reason to visit one before and all I can tell you is that we were looked after very well indeed.  My brother came for the initial visit and we seemlessly managed to make decisions, book dates and leave with a plan in mind.  The whole thing was surprisingly easy.  We were also given the option of having the cremation before the Thanksgiving Service which suited our family perfectly.  It meant that only our immediate family would be there to see her off… we all traveled together in the car and we said our final farewells in private – just as she would have wanted.

Although the funeral home will gladly do the Order of Service, I felt very strongly that this would be something I would want to do to make it personal.  She would have appreciated that and I needed to do it because I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak on the day.  I had some very helpful advice from a friend, who emailed me his own mums Order of Service to have a look at.  Thank you Stef.

Albry Printing  – Thank you.  There aren’t words really… The Order of Services were done on time, with flexibility and for a very reasonable cost.  I can’t recommend them enough.  Really, really friendly… You wont get a more personal service.

My mum was not a lover of anything morbid, somber or depressing… So I knew I would have to put a spin on her send off and decided to organise things with her in mind.  My mum and I used to laugh that her motto was “if it moves, feed it” and I am sure that her friends would agree that my mum was a hostess who ensured everyone who walked through her door was fed and watered – or rather fed and wine’d.  We decided to hand out individually packaged brownies at the end of the service with a tag on saying “because Anne wouldn’t have wanted her guests to leave with empty stomachs”.  We then went into the centre of Wallingford and released 40 white balloons ~(my parent had been married 40 years).  We went on to The Partridge Inn and enjoyed some light refreshments and a significant amount of champagne.  During this celebration of my mums life we had a plasma screen showing a slideshow of all our family pictures.  It was perfect.  To organise all this is such a short space of time required some help… I went out on an almighty begging mission and discovered that I have indeed got some wonderful friends in this little community of ours…

Emily, thank you for making your famous brownies.

Ruth and Jo, thank you for helping to cut, and package the brownies… for sourcing the ribbon, doing the labels and listening to me waffle.

Mel, thank you for having Violet, being there during the service and organising the collection of balloons.  Thank you as well for having a couple of cocktails with me in the afternoon and depositing me home.  I was a drunk, soggy, sobbing mess at the end of the day, but I guess that was so be expected.

Keri Harvey The Florist, thanks for doing the balloons.

Rosie and Lou, thanks for helping with the balloons, the kids and just being there in the afternoon… your presence was a comfort to me.

Lou, thanks for picking Ava up from school, getting her changed and bringing her to the Church.

Katie, thanks for picking Seren up from preschool, getting her changed and bringing her to Church and thanks for my first glass of wine of the day!

Erica, thanks for coming all the way from “up North”.  I appreciated it and my mum would have too.

Paddock’s Preschool – thanks for being so flexible and keeping Seren for those extra hours… thanks for getting her to have a nap and just generally being the best pre-school in the world!!  I get continuous support and help with Seren (as I did when Ava was with you and I am sure you will still be helping me out when Violet starts!) I am very grateful…

Reverend David Rice (St. Mary’s Church) – thanks for coming all the way out to the crematorium and doing the service.  My dad was really pleased with how both went and he feels very strongly that my mum would have loved the send-off she received.

Kinvara, thank you for doing the most gorgeous flowers.  We all loved them and my mum would have done too.

The Partridge Inn – thanks for making the post-service celebrations so perfect.  Thanks to Matt (the owner) for sourcing a plasma screen for us to use… It was a totally stress free afternoon, the food was perfect and our glasses were never empty.  The staff were lovely and I can’t actually remember leaving!! I know I haven’t paid yet though, so I will be back soon 🙂

Save Your Past – thank you Emma for getting all our family photo’s scanned on and in to a presentation form, which was played on the plasma screen in The Partridge for friends and family to enjoy.  It was a lovely personal touch and everyone enjoyed watching it.

Howard Chadwick Funeral Service – thank you for everything.  It all went so smoothly and it was completely stress free.  There was no “sales pitch” which left us emotionally free to make simple and easy decisions.  I would also like to thank Alistair for coming to our rescue with the CD’s for the Church… beyond the call of duty and funnily enough thanks to Piper that he found out we were having the difficulties in the first place!

Thank you as well to all the messages, cards, flowers and gifts that have been arriving in a steady stream since my mum passed away.  It is a comfort to know that people care… It is also very sad to discover how many people have lost parents.  It is a unique pain and experience which I can’t believe that most of us have to go through at some point or another.  Life can be so cruel.

Finally, thank you mum.  You have made Antony and I the people we are.  I know life is made up of a series of choices, each one influencing the future we make for ourselves.  I will now choose to carry on, raise my family with as much devotion as you did and make you proud.  Antony and I will pull together to take care of dad and Gra, so please don’t worry about them, as I know you will be doing.  You have left the most phenomenal legacy and you wont ever be forgotten… Despite what anyone else’s belief system is, I am confident that I will see you again.  There is no way that our two souls can be so alike not to bump into each other in the next life.  Love you mum x

 

 

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