I have spent the last week dealing with the loss of a much loved uncle, hence I have not had the time or inclination to write much for a while.
His death was most unexpected, as recently as April he was out hiking on his beloved moors, little knowing quite how ill he was. He even managed to enjoy a few weeks of trout fishing, which was another of his passions.
His appearance of ruddy health was in part what killed him, because of it the cancer was diagnosed too late to deal with and within less than four weeks he was gone. Kind perhaps that he did not suffer long but, but cruel to those of us who were not prepared to lose him.
His was the third funeral I have attended in less than three years, some may recall I wrote of another one before.
It is true for most that death tends to come in phases in one’s life.
In your early teens your grandparents generation begin to die, one by one the four of them go, usually the men first and then the women, and others of their age group, people who had been around you all your childhood, and who could be relied on for gifts and treats, are suddenly no longer there.
The pain of those losses although acute are mercifully short lived, the lord’s kindness enables children to move on and to somehow understand that old people die.
However, sometimes people die out of turn, and that is different. My beautiful aunt, the wife of my, once equally handsome, uncle who died last week, died thirty years ago, when I was twelve, in a sailing accident which shocked us all, and makes me nervous even now when my eldest son goes near the sea.
My uncle never remarried, and until his death he still spoke of her, as if she was still there and had only gone for a while.
For most people then two or three decades pass before the next phase of deaths begin. I was unlucky in that my parents both died before their time and I had lost both by the age of thirty two. But now in my forties it is the time when my parents' siblings like my uncle and their friends who came of age after the war or in that most hopeful decades, the 1950’s, to begin to take their leave.
Unlike the fleeting grief of childhood, the pain of that loss, the loss of parents, never really goes, or certainly it has not left me yet.
I guess when they have all gone if I am lucky thirty years will pass before my own generation begin to die, and that third phase of funerals will begin. And, then of course it will be my turn to take the journey my faith still tells me I will take.
Some break the circle and die young, like my aunt, and then my first ever boyfriend who died in his 20’s. We had split up some time before, but had remained friends and I still mourn and miss him.
On the other hand, others like my grandfather’s sister, my great aunt, live on into their 90’s, still walking dogs, and holidaying away from home at least once every year as they robustly approach their century.
The cycle moves on and we can never know when our day will come, or what mark if any we will leave when we go.
I suppose that if those we have left have reason to cry that we have gone, as we all had reason to cry this week, then we will have achieved as much as most in life will ever do and have little else to ask for.