When I was making arrangements for Dad’s funeral – I remember the Reverend telling me about ‘The Golden Hour’. The first hour after a person dies – when their body remains soft and warm to the touch. It’s that magical hour when their spirit is close-by – before they leave the room…
My Father died in the morning and his body stayed at home until after nightfall when the undertaker came to collect him. Two more Fridays have passed since then – and yesterday was the day he was laid to rest in our village churchyard.
In the morning – Friday 20th January 2017 – I was granted one more Golden Hour ‘alone’ with him inside the church – the peace inside was sublime.
Outside the weather too was God-given – not one cloud between Earth and Heaven; how Dad must of enjoyed his uninterrupted view of the day’s proceedings!
I’d gone to the church to light some special incense before the service – ‘Basilica’ from Prinknash Abbey in Gloucester.
As I watched the smoke curl in shafts of sunlight coming through the stained glass – I felt at one – like we were three again.
During the long night before the morning he died – I asked Dad who was in the room besides just us – because he kept looking over to the other-side of his room – like someone was standing – waiting there. He couldn’t say – he could hardly speak; but I pressed him for an answer. I said names of family that had gone before but none met with a response – so I could only think perhaps it was The Good Shepherd himself come to collect him? At my suggestion – Dad immediately opened his eyes wider and nodded his head firmly forward towards me – while his tight lips confirmed what I’d asked. I’ll never forget his reaction – like he’d suddenly recognised – remembered the name of the ‘stranger’ in the room.
My Father stayed in the church overnight facing the altar and towering ‘Sanctuary Window’ up above. Again – I love to imagine that moment when the rising Sun came flooding through the colours – and filtered its rays through the weft and calico lining of his Willow Coffin. I like that about a Willow Coffin – that they are both penetrable and es-capable; my Father’s earthly remains will soon return to nature – to the soil and the little creatures that he loved.
I finished the day in usual mode – with a night-walk with my two sons around the block – about three miles. It was really cold – and slippery underfoot in places – but totally invigorating; the clear moonless sky was peppered with light. When we came back through the churchyard around midnight – we stopped by Dad’s plot. All around a cacophony of noise suddenly broke the stillness; owls from every corner of the churchyard were serenading us – telling us Dad is alright. Although he certainly wasn’t getting a quiet night-in with the racket that they were making! It was the perfect end to a perfect day; Dad’s death – his funeral – has been a positive experience in so many respects – most of all because he is free – no longer confined to his room.
I hope that my entries over the last two weeks will continue to be a comfort to Dad’s wider family that regularly visit here – I hope it brings us all closer. Thank you to everyone that came to Dad’s funeral from near and from far – and to those that were with us in spirit – especially Dear Uncle Peter – Dad’s Brother. Special thanks too – to Dad’s brave young band of bearers – who steadily carried him from the church and lowered him carefully into his final resting place under the expert supervision and guidance of wonderful Mr. Gist – well-done all!
Here are the pictures of ‘The Golden Hour’…
Well, two whole weeks and a day have passed since Dad passed away – and I have involved myself in most aspects of planning his funeral…
The one thing that I had absolutely nothing to do with was the eulogy – so before I draw a bold line under all of this – my final thank you goes to my wonderful mother – Sallie, for her ‘off the cuff’ eulogy to Dad. Mum – you were so composed – so brilliant – only you could have remembered so much and delivered it so eloquently. Why did I – we – ever doubt you. Because you do digress from time to time!
My Mum chose a beautiful parting song that was played at Dad’s funeral – it is called – ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ sung by Isla St Clair – never to be forgotten. Regrettably not available to share here via YouTube – you’ll have to buy it!