REMAINS OF THE DAY: RALPH'S LAST TUNES
shot and processed iPhone 3GS
FOLLOWING SYLVIE HOME
shot iPhone 3GS, processed iPad
shot and processed iPhone 3GS
The past month has been a time of saying goodbye in the most final of ways. On February 18th, my family gathered in a tiny Welsh chapel to sing "The Old Rugged Cross" and pay our last respects to the memory of my mother's "baby" sister Sylvia. Because her mum was a passionate supporter of the Llanelli Rugby team who are also known as "The Scarlets", my cousin Ann, Sylvie's only daughter, dressed for the funeral in a beautiful Red Trench Coat: a bright and fitting tribute to the most sweet-natured women I've ever known: always smiling, never complaining, despite suffering considerable disability due to Diabetes. What none of us, including Auntie Sylvie, knew until just before she died, was that she was also suffering from Cancer.
Last Wednesday, we said goodbye to my wonderful "father-in-law" Ralph who, for several years, had been putting up a brave fight against Prostate Cancer. Ralph was a shy man of many talents, not least of which were his skills as a Magician. We wanted the funeral to be a celebration of his life, so Mollie, my "mum-in-law" wore black "but only because he liked me in the colour" with touches of red and white, to match the silks they used in their magic act. In remembrance of Ralph's happy National Service Days in Hong Kong, we chose a bamboo casket, adorned with flowers that were white with touches of red and black. My partner Michael made the broken wand that traditionally sits atop the funeral casket of a magician and travels with him to the grave. Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" greeted us as we entered the crematorium for the committal and we smiled, knowing that Ralph would be pleased we hadn't chosen anything solemn and sad.
As I write this, Tinky, our little, old cat, is sleeping on the garden bench. For several days now, she has hardly moved, eaten or drank. Every so often, I stoke her for a while and whisper that I love her, but she's an independent little soul and it's quite clear that she wants to die in her own way: quietly and with as little fuss as possible. For the third time in almost as many weeks, my heart is breaking and I cannot stop the tears, but I know one thing: our loved-ones are temporary gifts that we must cherish while we may, not just at life's end and by the grave-side. These "goodbyes" have reminded me that life is short and precious. It seems only yesterday that I was thanking my Auntie Sylvie for a fifteenth birthday gift brought all the way from Hong Kong; meeting my lover's father for the first time; or sitting in a Summer garden, enchanted by the beautiful little tortoiseshell cat who had just jumped over the garden fence to say "hello". My Nan used to say "We only pass this way once" and when the pain has passed, I really do have to try to get on with my life, despite all its challenges.