Just because I’m grieving doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

I haven’t posted anything political here for ages, I know.  Births, deaths and marriages have mostly been occupying me on these pages.  But that’s not to say I’ve been living in a political vacuum.

So it’s nice to be able to post a link to an article that precisely sums up what I’ve been thinking with regard to the coalition government (don’t worry, it’s quite a short article and not difficult to understand).

The idea being that almost no-one in the UK voted for what the current government is doing.  That we’ve effectively been lied to and there’s a dismantling wholesale destruction of the UK state going on right in front of our eyes.

Every time I watch the news I’m staggered at the scale of cuts going on all around me, to the point where I’m almost numb at the audacity and sheer cheek of it:

  • Destroy the NHS?  Check
  • Cut funding to all programmes to help the poorest in society?  Check
  • Sell off anything and everything owned by we, the people?  Check
  • Sell it off to big business?  Check
  • Make us then pay through the nose for something that was free or made affordable?  Check
  • Expect charities and businesses to pick up the pieces of this wholesale destruction?  Check
  • Cut grants and funding for those same charities?  Check
  • Lie that “There’s no alternative to the cuts“, as an excuse for all the above?  Check

But what scares me most is that they’re trampling all this stuff through and no one’s stopping it – so few are even questioning it.

And you have to remember that winning these rights for ourselves, forcing the government and big business to listen, fighting to be treated as human beings  – this took decades, if not centuries of struggle.

No government or business ever voluntarily handed out a single one, they were all fought for, and in many cases people died fighting for them.

These same rights and freedoms are being whisked away from under our very noses in just months, and once they’re gone it’s going to be a frightful struggle to ever get them back again.

David Cameron is evil and posh, despite all his claims to the contrary.  And Trev would have agreed with me on this, too.

Sad

I feel a bit guilty for going on about my grief and sadness here.  It’s four weeks to the day since Trev’s death and I’m aware that the casual reader may feel it’s time I climbed back up on my horse and started get on with my life.

And I wish I could.  See, the thing is, following Amber’s third birthday party yesterday – which was fun and an occasion for celebration – I’m feeling sad again.  But the thing is, I’m not consciously thinking about Trev and how awful his death is and how defeated we all feel…I just feel sad anyway.

Even without thinking about Trev and how much I miss him, even without dwelling upon my memories, even without looking at photos of Amber’s party and mentally inserting Trev into them…

Even without doing any of that I just feel sad anyway.

Blogging reflections

Despite me making it look so easy (!) here blogging is sometimes quite hard work.  That’s why so many blog posts begin with “I haven’t updated this blog for ages…” or “Sorry for the lack of posts…” followed by one final entry dated five years previously that reads “I’m going to try and post more often...”

But that’s because blogging can be difficult. I’ve been blogging for so long now that I almost think in blog posts.  Often these hypothetical posts never make it to the internet (I can’t blog everything, after all).

Inversely, and more rarely, even when very little seems to have happened there’s invariably something in life that was amusing or interesting or simply worth remembering to post about.  Everybody has interesting stuff happen to them it’s just a question of realising it’s interesting and making it sound interesting.

And then, of course, there are the times like the past month when a blog is both a sort of therapy and a way to say things that you might not be able to say to someone stood squarely in front of you.

It does feel as though this blog is a bit less innocent now, compared to the halcyon days when I would simply rant about annoying people or government policy or the Daily Mail.  Since I began this blog we’ve had Millie’s birth, we’ve had my Granddad’s death, Amber’s birth, my Dad’s heart transplant, my Nan’s death, Isabel’s birth and…Trev’s death.

The worst thing in living memory for me before all this was probably failing my A-levels or splitting up with my girlfriend in my teens.

Like I said: so innocent.

As my brother, Rich, likes to say: life is just a ride.  It has its ups, it has its downs, occasionally we come close to being derailed.  But for someone like me, fortunate enough to be free of any religious shackles, I think that sums it up rather well.  Just a ride.

And this blog, now stretching back over five years, has kept so many details of the ride that might otherwise have been lost.  A fact I’m obscurely proud of.

It’s rather amazing to think who might be reading these words: Millie and Amber – now grown-up and with children of their own, my grand-children, my great-grand-children, even.  Imagine that.

And hello great grand-children, if you’re reading this.

And hello Millie and Amber – in my world you’re just five and three at the moment; you’re downstairs with your mum eating dinner, having spent the afternoon painting and practicing your dancing for Amber’s third birthday party tomorrow.

You’re blissfully unaware of almost everything I mentioned above and of how terribly sad your mum and dad are at the moment because Uncle Trev’s death is still so recent.  But from the distant past, in case your mum and I are no longer around, we love you very much.  We always have.

And the point of this post?  What is it about, what is it for?

I don’t know.  Sometimes I just like to start writing and see where it takes me.

Wrestling

I seem to have been wrestling with normality over the past couple of days.
Normality began to get the upper hand today, but only just.
Amber’s birthday upset me a bit yesterday – realising that she’s just three and will only know Uncle Trevor from the stories we tell of him. She won’t remember him from her own memories at all.
Millie is the same age as I was when my granddad died and I just barely remember him.
Realising that really knocked me for six all over again on Sunday night, to the point where I couldn’t face work yesterday. I made it as far as London Bridge station but then got off my train, emailed work and caught the next train home.
As I say, normality began to get the upper hand today, but only just.
And sorry about the crap birthday yesterday, Amber – we’ll make it up to you at your party on Saturday, I promise.

Funeral, entry #2

NOTE: this is a very long post.  I make no apologies for breaking the rules of blogging – sometimes posts have to be long.

Right, then: Trev’s funeral.  How was it?

First off, just the words “Trev’s funeral” still take me aback each time I read them.  It’s not a pair of words I’d ever used – or ever expected to use – together.  That might sound like a silly thing but putting the two words together just…jars every time.  It’s so novel it doesn’t seem real.

The Lovely Melanie keeps saying that each time she thinks of Trev being dead the accompanying thought/feeling is “I just don’t believe it“.  And I agree, Trev’s death does seem an impossibility; literally, how can he be dead?  It’s very odd living with this duality of Trevs.  You tell yourself he has died but wonder in amazement how your memories and thoughts of him can seem so bright and so very much alive.

Nevertheless, he was buried in the ground on Friday 18th February 2011.

There were over 250 people at his funeral.  The Wootton Bassett Memorial Hall was standing room only (and many were standing).  When we arrived in the car at just before midday I recall being surprised to see that the large car park was already jammed full (I was later told it was filled a good half an hour before and many more people had parked in Wootton Bassett itself).

We followed Trev’s coffin in, not looking left or right, only straight ahead, and sat down at the front.  I felt very calm, just a little sad, and was trying to keep my mind and my throat clear ready to deliver my eulogy.

After the master of ceremonies finished his introduction first up to speak were my parents.

Only my dad was going to speak – my mum was utterly certain she couldn’t have spoken a single coherent word in front of everyone that day.  I was a bit worried about that myself.

Like me, my dad wanted to say something for Trev, to say farewell one final time and let everyone know how much he loved his son.  He told me that he was going to get through it one way or another, no matter how hard it was or how long it took.

I was so very proud of him that awful day.  It was such a hard and heavy task to undertake, speaking at your own child’s funeral – my own brain shies away from even imagining doing anything similar – but he did a magnificent job of it.  My chest was bursting with pride at his performance.  I wish Trev had been there to see it.  He couldn’t have loved our dad any more if he’d tried, but on that day he would certainly have tried.

Next came Trev’s very great friend Dan, best man at his wedding less than two years ago.

And there’s another of those “impossible” things – that we could have been celebrating so uproariously at Trev’s wedding towards the end of 2009 without any foreknowledge of this…

Dan’s speech did Trev mighty proud, too: remembering Trev as a very good friend and someone who influenced him more than he’d realised.  I think a lot of people realised the same thing that day.

Next came a “Period Of Quiet Reflection” accompanied by the theme to Star Wars.  I was a little uncertain that this was appropriate given that it’s such a bombastic and soaring piece of music, but with hindsight iwtwhw.

Also in hindsight, if they had played my choice for that particular moment, Elton John’s Rocket Man, then I don’t think I would have been capable of delivering my speech.  As it was, with Star Wars still ringing in my ears and making me smile, I took to the podium and attempted to give the most important speech of my life.

And even if I one day win a Nobel Prize any speech given for that will remain the second most important speech of my life.  This was the most important speech of my entire life: to see that my little brother was paid tribute to in the best possible fashion.

I was a little shaky but surprisingly calm as I stepped up to the podium.  I remember looking around the hall but deliberately not meeting anyone’s eyes.  That would have been too much to ask.  But I was proud of myself that day – I think I got about halfway through the speech before I had to first pause and swallow the lump in my throat.

Hopefully Trev would have liked the speech.  It was full of light moments but also a great sense of empty-handed loss leavened with love.

I still wish I could have written a better one, but this was the very best I could do.  That I got through it felt like a minor miracle.  That I got through it calmly and that those listening could hear and understand it was remarkable.

Next I had to read Rich’s speech.  Rich works as a paramedic; every day he sees and does amazing things that I could never ever manage, so I was glad to be able to use some of my own skills to make him proud of me for a change.  Even so, as rough and brief as his speech was, it was the most difficult part for me.  His intensely heartfelt and honest words threatened to trip me up far more than my own carefully crafted and clever speech.
Next came Trev’s old old friend Marky B, flanked by six other old friends. Their speech was about the Trevor they’d known, loved and respected since school. I never knew that Trevor had been such a driving force behind so many of his friends: dynamic, inspiring and determined to succeed.

But the bravest person of the day was without a doubt Conny, who at the end somehow found reserves of iron strength enough to read a lyric Trev had written and which seemed truly appropriate, When The Wind Blows In Strong.

When the wind blows in strong

And it rattles the stones

You try to keep warm

But you’re cold to the bone

When the rain comes on down

In torrents and sheets

The fire burns low

And you just want to sleep

Well it’s okay to wish you were somewhere that’s warm

But this is your home

And the place you were born

You got friends in this place

And friends mean a lot

It’s not hard to grow weary

But it’s no better hot

Don’t spend your short life just wishing away

Live like the butterfly day upon day

These feelings are waiting for you, who can say

Just what tomorrow brings

Well your money’s all gone

And you feel a hard time

You’re on your last crust

And your last drop of wine

But there’s love in your home

And a song on your lips

So gather round people

And dance one more jig

It was a beautiful choice, Conny, and how you managed to read it out to the packed hall that day I will never ever know, but well done – iwtwhw.

The burial was a strange experience.  I hadn’t really thought much about this part of the day, except with a mild curiosity, having never seen a burial before.  Many people were upset at this point, but I was no sadder than previously.  It was only a body in a box going into the ground, it wasn’t Trev.  Throwing a flower and some earth onto the coffin was simply a ritual; I’m glad I did it the same as I’m glad I saw Trev’s body and said “goodbye” to it the day after he died.

But for me Trev wasn’t in that box any more than he’s in the sky playing a harp.  Trev now is in our memories, in our thoughts and in the things we do that we do differently from having known Trev.  The ripples of his existence, if you like.

I did take a morbid comfort from seeing how upset other people were when paying their respects.  It sounds faintly repellent, but seeing just how upset people were made it very obvious how much people had loved Trev.  The misery and grief all around was an indicator of how much Trev had been loved.

I guess what I mean is that no one had a casual sorrow for Trev’s passing.  Those who miss him all miss him deeply.

And then we went to the wake at The Bell back in Swindon, a pub both Trev and I have fond memories of, despite it being quite a different pub nowadays.

The Bell was insanely busy and it seemed I couldn’t walk two paces without bumping into old friends and family who’d made the effort to come along and say goodbye to their old friend.  It was an exhausting but gladdening afternoon.  Almost, but not quite, enjoyable.

The Lovely Melanie summed it up perfectly, saying that it wasn’t sad, rather it was moving.

After we had to leave the function room of The Bell at six my family and I went for some food at a nearby Chinese restaurant before returning to the downstairs of The Bell where much alcohol and Jaegermeister was drunk, many songs Trev would have enjoyed were played on the jukebox and there was much idle banter, a great deal of catching up and even more reminiscing over old times until the wee small hours.

Precisely as Trev would have wanted it, I’m sure.

Now the funeral is over and life is expected to return to something approaching normal.  But it’s not easy.  Just about every single unpleasant thing that’s happened to me before I’ve eventually gotten over; some things have taken longer than others, some things have left a bigger mark than others.  This is the first time something has happened that cannot be truly gotten over.  Not ever.  We will adjust to rather than “get over” this.

Trev’s death, his lack in our lives, is going to be there all my life.  What I hope is that the lack of such a great, loving and generous person will make all of us who miss him better people.  Someone great is gone from the world and it should be the life’s work of those who remain to honour his memory, to make certain that we are better than we were in order to compensate for his absence.

Be excellent to each other.  iwtwhw.