Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

Tragically my brother died a month ago. It was good for him that he was finally free of pain and died peacefully. I was lucky enough to sit with him for his last three hours.

I was told that hearing is the last sense to go so I rabbited on about goodness knows what until he died.

I use the word died because that was what happened. Other people have different phases which they use and of course it is their choice and can vary from people of any country or creed.

Some have different ways which we should all respect. If asked how my brother was I simply answered he died.

Organising a funeral is very upsetting especially if it is a very close friend or relative. The undertakers could not have been kinder and certainly helped ease some of my pain. My brother had requested that “Somewhere over the Rainbow” be played as we all entered.

I asked if that was possible and the funeral director said it was one of the most popular songs people asked for. Jem also wanted the song ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and it started we all filed out of the Chapel of Rest.

Jem wanted to be cremated and the funeral director very kindly made a booking for us and it was agreed that we would drive behind the hearse.

We were bemused when a chap came and gave us all a little flag to put on the car so that everyone knew that we were going to a funeral and therefore not to overtake us.

Rather amusingly my friend Chloe somehow managed to end up driving in the front of the hearse which turned into a farce as she didn’t have a clue where we were going.

We had a simple ceremony, Jem never wanted a fuss. All the same it was very touching we laughed and cried and made it a celebration of his life. He also requested that no-one should wear black, so we didn’t. We wore clothes in a myriad of colours that he always loved.

Afterwards we had a gathering at one of the cousin’s house. He would have loved it, he was always fond of a party. This celebration was just what he would have enjoyed – we toasted him, and many of us told tales of his marvellous sense of humour.

How he made a baked bean risotto which was deemed to be the worst dish ever invented, how as children we make him eat a spider sandwich! We raised hilarious tales of what he had done when were children, and more about what a gentle man he had been.

Four days later the Funeral Director told us that the ashes were ready for collection. We went back to crematorium and his ashes were strewn. We had taken a bottle of champagne to toast him farewell, but we forgot to take any glasses so we had to swig it from the bottle!

I hope that I do not sound as if I am taking this lightly – people mourn in different ways and should not be criticised if they don’t seem to be sad and break down when condolences are given to them. Everyone grieves, some in public or in the privacy of their own home.

All funerals are different – one of our friends was rather large to put it mildly. The crematorium was booked, however the undertakers checked the size of the coffin and gently told his widow that she would have to find another crematorium with larger doors for his coffin and eight burly men to carry him in. Mike would have loved it as he had a great sense of humour!

My cousins and I went to clear out my brother’s flat as it was needed for another tenant. It was both happy and sad at the same time, we laughed and sometimes shed a tear as we worked out who should have what – the Charity shops were more than grateful for the bits we gave them.

We were working away quite well until I came across two carrier bags just stuffed full of documents that he hadn’t even opened. Coping with them was a nightmare but I was lucky to have the family to help.

Some of us have had the luxury of a partner who dealt with all the paperwork necessary to run the house, the car, Insurance, the bank and everything else. For those of us who are left behind and don’t know where to start should politely ask for help with sorting everything out and at the same time teaching you how to manage to pay the bills plus the whole host of papers that are necessary for running a house. Most of us have never done that before which makes it all very different.

What is truly difficult to handle is the feeling that there is no partner to walk in, kiss hello and sit together sharing their daily news. Looking at their favourite sofa or chair is very upsetting and then guilt sets in.

Could we have done more for them, could we have called the doctor or hospital sooner? How we could have made sure that they were comfortable?

Guilt is inevitable after losing someone. Could we have kissed them more and told them that we loved them?

There is no easy way to deal with death; everyone is different but united in the feeling that they are not alone with their grief.

by Jane Buckle