On our way to Upton Park in the mid eighties Trevor is offering a bag of sweets around the car. As he does so he tells the story of the time, during his days as a detective, when the driver of the vehicle they were travelling in asked if there were any more sweets. “Nothing left” came the reply. Confusing this with an expected update on approaching traffic from his co-driver the unmarked police car speeds out of the junction straight into a van.
Standing in the bitter grey gloom at the crematorium we’re gathered to say goodbye to Trevor. There are faces I haven’t seen for three decades. If we leave it as long next time many of us are unlikely to ever encounter one another again.
I’m no stranger to death as a subject of conversation, so when the celebrant suggests that it’s something none of us like to think about I acknowledge that she’s right, mostly. Although I think about it a lot, in one sense or another.
Death is a broad church. Parts of us are dying all of the time. We experience the death of not just our loved ones, but of our hopes and dreams, and of our younger selves.
Inside the order of service there are wonderful photos. The music and words are full of hope, but it’s hard to rise above the inevitable sadness at the loss someone of significant. There is also the reminder that so much of life has already passed, preserved in nothing more than a memory.
We are invited to spend a few minutes with our own personal recollections of Trevor while we listen to “In My Life”. I find my mind cycling through, not just my particular memories of him, but all of the years in which he was there in the immediate periphery, mourning too the loss of my own youth.
The devastating sense of grief we so often feel at a funeral is not about our past with the person who has died, it is about the loss of an imagined future with them. The past we mourn is our own. Suddenly reliving memories which are jogged by death we remember so much which feels like yesterday but was so much longer ago. Our own mortality a spectre impossible to ignore and its imminence seeming so much more powerful, as if viewed through a telescope.
Next to a wonderful picture of Trevor as a musical chimney sweep, are listed a number of his favourite philosophies.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about dancing in the rain.”
In his last few months he came to see me just prior to his having a CT scan. He must have known he was dying, but he didn’t say so. Outwardly there was little indication that anything was wrong. The storm was not going to pass, but he was splashing through the rain in any case.
This morning I took Daisy to the ophthalmologist. Eventually the notion that her tendency to bump into things and inability to retrieve a ball was just daftness gave way to more sombre realisation. When it was confirmed that she was born with significant ocular abnormalities and that there is a good chance that she’ll lose her sight altogether in the not too distant future, my heart sank.
Later, returning from a walk through the woods I meet a lady with a dog I haven’t seen before and we stop for a word or two. I tell her, as I do all other dog owners, that Daisy struggles to see, not least because it explains some of her erratic behaviour. When I say that she may lose her sight completely in the coming months she says to me “Oh no, how will you cope with that?”. It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t and, of course, we will. I think of Trevor, make straight for a muddy puddle with Daisy trotting close by, and we prepare to dance.