The FH's last journey was made today, and it was peaceful and beautiful, in its own way.
The FH's son, let's call him FHS, and his partner, M, arrived here early and we went to the chapel together. When we got there, there was plenty to do, getting more chairs out, putting out cards on the seats for folk to jot down memories for us, and meeting the various friends who were going to do readings for us. And then we began to greet people - and we greeted people for the whole of the next hour!
We had the slideshow of the photos of the FH playing as people were settling into their seats, and I thought that the undertaker's chap would turn it off when the coffin entered and the service began, but he didn't, and I was really glad that he didn't, because it gave me and FHS something to focus on. We both looked at the photos and thought about those, rather than looking at the coffin so much.
It was better for us to be able to greet people as they arrived, and to share a few words before the stewards seated them in the right places - we had family in one section, the lunch club in another section so they were all together, and the younger, fitter folk we sent upstairs to the gallery! The rest had to slot in where they could find a space.
When the five bikers arrived, escorting the hearse, the coffin looked magnificent. The six bearers took a few minutes to shoulder it, but they managed, and I walked in behind it, followed by the girls and FHS and M. We moved to our seats at the front of the chapel and the service began.
The hymns were lovely, and the organist is a friend who plays each week in a chapel in the circuit, so she knew exactly what she was doing, and they were all good hymns that we loved. The prayers were carefully worded, as well as being traditional, and the FH's heart donor and their family were also mentioned in the prayers.
The YFG and I read the eulogy, which went on for nearly 20 minutes, as it was interspersed with the tributes of others - one from a teacher who taught with the FH in the 60s to 80s, one from a policeman who served with him when the FH was a special constable, and one from friends in Cupar. The slideshow continued, as I said, and it was good to have it whilst we spoke.
Moving from the chapel to the crematorium took a little while, but the service there was short and to the point. The committal there was touching, but it was the Last Post which I can still hear, echoing through the chapel there. It was a really fitting piece to have, but still heart wrenching too.
Afterwards, we went to a local hotel for a wake, a celebration over tea and cake. It gave us a chance to catch up with people who had travelled for miles to come to the service, and to have a chat with more local friends too. We realised that we had people there from Leicestershire [Ang], Lincolnshire [my aunt and uncle, and the EFG's godfather], Norfolk [the FH's sister], Derbyshire [the FH's other sister's husband and daughter], Surrey [cousins], Hertfordshire [old neighbours who moved away], London [his nephew], Edinburgh [our old lodger], and Fife [YFG's godmother]. There were various people who we thought were coming but who were prevented from coming for various reasons, but mostly illness [Sweetblondieblueeyes and her husband, and one of our neighbours] and work-related things.
People kept saying how well I was holding it together, and seemed amazed. They don't realise that I have been grateful for every single day of the 22 years we have been together, and at the moment, my heart is full of gratitude. He hasn't left me, abandoned me or walked away from me - he stayed for as long as he possibly could, and we were both happy that we had as long as we did. I have cried, and still do, but I am afraid I don't agree with the little old lady who came up to me as she was leaving the wake, and told me, "It won't get any better, my dear; you'll learn to live without him, but it won't get any better." We always knew that our lives would only overlap - he was 35 when I was born and had another life before the life we shared, and he realised that I would eventually have to carry on without him, and that is what I shall do, and do him proud in all that he has taught me, shown me and encouraged me to be.
2 hours ago