I attended a friends husband’s funeral this morning.
The chapel was full to bursting. We were delayed in starting as people were being gently ushered into another room so they could watch the service being streamed as the pews were full and it was standing room only.
The photo on the front of the service booklet shows a young man standing nervously in his wedding suit, hands in his pockets, he looks like he’s going to nod at you in recognition. You can see in his eyes and gentle grin, him. The cheeky chap that he was; we heard tales of his practical jokes, his unending sense of fun, the volunteering for duty, helping fundraise money. The room laughed along as his brother in law shared not only stories from work and play, but who also shared his wife’s memories of growing up younger sister to her big brother – as she was too upset to talk.
His daughter wrote a letter the celebrant read out, hoping that her Dad knew how much she and her brother loved him – he knew. We heard about how he worked his whole life, but gave back to his family, friends and volunteered with the CFA, including on Black Saturday. I lost count of members of the CFA leaving evergreen on his coffin after the Fireman’s Prayer, all three officers’ voice broke as they spoke about and for you.
My darling girl, you put your arm around your daughter, but had a spare seat next to you. Your friends sat watching you, aching to come and sit beside you, to put an arm around your shoulders and to hold your hand. I hope you could feel the weight of our love coming your way. Watching you as you whispered ‘I don’t want him to leave’ as he was carried out to his honour guard broke our hearts all over again.
A single car accident, on a dirt road, returning home from a weekend fishing trip with his son. Everyone in that room was acutely aware that it could have been us at the front. One thing we also know: that to fill a room to overflowing, to have 100s of people want to help a family through the first flush of bereavement, and to continue to support them as they get used to the hole in their lives, you have to have been someone special.
I never got to meet you, but in the three years I’ve worked with both your wife and your sister in law, I am blessed to know them both. I will continue to support them, to look after them and your family.