First of all I must thank all my blogging friends for your comments in recent weeks. Even though close to tears I appreciated that you took the time to leave messages.
I have been away too long and now I’m wondering what to write on the blog. It has to be about Joe, of course, and I know it will be difficult. I think I’ll start at the beginning ...
At the end of Joe’s terrible illness, when the cancer spread and threatened his life, he was transferred from hospital to a hospice. He had been admitted to hospital two days before Christmas, on our 38th wedding anniversary. At that time he was still able to communicate and he pleaded with us to carry on with the Christmas arrangements. Months earlier he had ordered and paid for the family’s usual slap up meal at our favourite hotel so following his wishes we dined out - rather sombrely - and then went to see him in the hospital. There was a slight deterioration, not too bad but bad enough for him to show no interest in his Christmas gifts. He was in the hospital for eight days before being moved to the hospice. And that was where he died. Rosanne and I had been with him all day before leaving to come home. It was a half-hour drive but one we wished we hadn’t made. As we walked through the front door the phone rang, the caller asking us how quickly we could go back. He only had 5 to 10 minutes left. We left immediately but got there too late. Joe had gone.
How did we cope? I would say we coped with extreme difficulty. Tears well up when I think of that time. But we had to move on, or sink.
As you know there is a lot to do when death strikes. Arrangements to make, people to tell, all the while trying to live and eat and sleep as well as shed even more tears. I tried to keep the tears private, though, rather than upset others.
But let me tell you about the funeral, which many have described as wonderful. When I made my funeral plan, something like three years ago, I had been impressed by the firm of undertakers that took me through the plan. Naturally, Rosanne and I went back to them. They did a wonderful job and I know Joe would have approved.
The undertaking company is a family affair, brother and sister known as Daniel and Sarah. Both are well trained and have the knack of putting folk at ease. They don’t push, they suggest. And you can’t fault their suggestions. Right from the start they took over, ordered and arranged everything, always consulting us first. Sarah would ring just to see how I was, all the time offering help if needed. She knew I was alone, you see, Rosanne having her own house to stay in when over here from Australia.
On the day of the funeral we were treated like royalty, chauffeur driven and red carpet! But the service was straightforward. We had tried to keep it simple, well known hymns that got people singing, and an interesting eulogy that told people more about Joe than they knew. We had emphasised his love of football, from his playing days to the less energetic interest of watching his team play and in this regard we had requested that people wore a splash of red – his team’s colour. And they did... it was lovely and genuinely approved of by the priest. There was a surprise ending to the service, though. The music chosen to end was the signature tune of ‘Match of the Day’ which produced smiles and tapping feet as the congregation sat and listened. Many people remarked on our choice of music and they all said that Joe would have approved.
There were people there I didn’t know and it was interesting to hear how the word had spread to the business world which in turn brought people to pay their respects. The small crematorium was packed with, I was later told, 70 people, many of whom came back to the house for refreshments.
In recent weeks I learned more about Joe than I knew. What I didn’t realise was how loved he was by people from all walks of life. Many referred to him as a great man with a terrific sense of humour and one who would talk to anyone. They were SO right. My Joe wouldn’t harm a fly let alone a human being, and if he knew someone had a problem he would do everything in his power to assist. Yes, he was a man of simple tastes but with a heart of gold. Is it any wonder everyone loved him?
Yesterday, whilst sorting out his papers I found a folder full of cards and letters. Inside was an envelope full of letters written by me before we were married. He never threw them away. There was also a poem I wrote when he was going through a bad patch. It wasn’t a great poem but it was my first and he must have liked it to have kept it so long.
LEAN ON ME
If I could reach out and pluck stars from the sky
I would feel the desire to plant one in each eye
Of the one that I care for, the one who deserves more
From one who is willing to try
To make life richer and easier to bear
Let me be the one who is willing to share
In your ups and your downs,
Your smile and your frowns,
Let me be the one to care.
Don’t be afraid, there are no schemes
Just a heartfelt desire to be part of your dreams
Of a life full of promise and hope,
Knowing that one day you’ll cope
And your path will be filled with new themes.
These are the words of a very true friend,
Take love and some laughter and make them blend,
a recipe which in time creates peace of mind.
I make you a promise that eventually you’ll find
If you use my strength you’ll succeed in the end.