Funerals, fish balls and a Caterpillar

When you’ve been to as many funerals as I have been in the last few years (8 at the last count) there comes a point where you have to start enjoying the little moments of levity. Black humour is not to everyone’s taste, but I think that most people who’ve suffered a severe loss do find some occasional comfort in it, in the right circumstances. Today it was the personalised numberplate of the hearse “DII NOT” that raised a little smile. That and the constant flow of freshly battered fish balls at the wake.

In a strange way I find myself a kind of connoisseur of funerals, I’ve even thought (vaguely seriously) about going into business as a funeral planner – helping to ensure some of the daft mistakes I’ve seen over the years don’t affect other people. Maybe I still will.

For the moment, I’m sat on a train on the way back from another funeral, which was a reasonably simple but touching affair. Great Uncle Hugh, whose eyes sparkle no longer – not on this mortal plane at any rate – was a fine character. He was a member of the Caterpillar Club (those pilots who’ve had to bail out of their planes whilst on duty), spitfire pilot, and keeper of the clocks. Even today I learnt new things about him. Having had his RAF career cut short by a bout of tuberculosis (that he’s lucky didn’t kill him), he ventured on through life with just one lung. Bereft of his chance to fly, he went into business, and on his regular trips to Iceland, befriended the pilots, who apparently not only let him into the cockpit, but even let him fly their passenger-laden commercial 727s! That’s the sort of story you’re not ever likely to hear again, not while we’re all on “high alert”…

I will always remember that sparkle in his eye, the hint of mischief. The fact that the last time I saw him, he was in a wheelchair, connected to oxygen tanks, but he was still determined to stand as they drew the curtains on his wife’s coffin. Dignity, loyalty, love, right until the end.

Rest well Hugh.

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