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.
Stuart you have a way with words like nobody else. I know you will all look after each other and that you will get thru, rather than get over, this. xxxxx
Wish you could have written a better speech? Not unless your name is William Shakespeare and even then he’d have been scratching his head. It was perfect, but then so was everybody else’s on the day. IWTD (it’s what Trev deserved).