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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Honesty Is All Well and Good -- So Is Funereal Discretion the Better Part of Valour?


On Wednesday last The Man and I journeyed to Girvan in Ayrshire, Scotland to attend the funeral of a very old personal friend and colleague from The Man's days in the Royal Air Force. We were only in Scotland for a little over 24 hours, but to say the least, it was a very interesting visit and a very beautiful part of the world. I had only been to Scotland twice before -- once to an RAF reunion at Lossiemouth and the second a birthday surprise for The Man to the Isle of Skye. I enjoyed both visits very much.

Shortly after our arrival at our hotel -- just before dark -- I managed to take a photograph of the sea with Ailsa Craig in the background. I first saw it as we came down off the hills into Girvan where it loomed before us. Very impressive. The photograph from the front of our hotel complex was from a surprisingly different angle.

Our purpose for the visit was not tourism, however, and most of our time was spent in reminiscences with another couple who was at the hotel with us. Tony was a huge character and definitely one of a kind. He was a man of strong convictions and a colourful personal life! He had been ill for quite some time with cancer and had fought a very brave fight against the disease. Though like many others he never did give up those cigarettes and denied to the end that smoking had caused is condition! Women adored him -- he had a James Bond aura about him and to me a bit of the Noel Coward as well! Against all odds he made it through the RAF training process and through his persistence and determination attained his dream: he was a fine RAF pilot.

The failure of his two marriages led to estrangement from his children and it was only a few years ago that there was some reconciliation with his youngest child. As you can imagine this caused disquiet and tension at the service for family members as well as for others who shared his life toward the end. Not to mention endless speculation as to what final outcomes would be!

To begin with the church service went very well. His closest friend gave a moving and interesting synopsis of his life and the minister's address was very considered and thoughtful. His son was present and his stepchildren and many of his friends and colleagues. We all set off to the Crematorium in the nearby town of Ayr.

At 1.15 we gathered in the chapel. The minister said a prayer, Tony's sister recited a poem and then his son spoke. He told us that he would not be a hypocrite when talking about his relationship with his father. He spoke of the many difficulties and issues in their relationship but also about the joy of their reconciliation and of seeing his children rollicking with their new-found grandfather. Unfortunately, he could not refrain from the build up of a great swathe of emotion as he spoke. He began to repeat himself -- over and over again he would repeat how terrible a father he was and then he would say 'But he was my father and I loved him...' The atmosphere began to feel somewhat uncomfortable -- but he could not stop himself and finally his anger and frustration and the pain of his loss and tears overwhelmed him and he said 'He was a bastard... but he was my father and I loved him.' Honestly, I think we all winced together.

Fortunately, Tony's story was known by all those gathered in the room and much of what was said would not have been surprising. But I hope his son's final outburst was as cathartic for him as it was painful and shocking to hear.

18 comments:

  1. What a touching post Broad. I hope that Tony's son will eventually be able to say...'but I loved him and he loved me...'. Thanks for sharing this. Funerals can make us look at our own mortality and hope that we're doing it right.

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    1. The poor man was so grief-stricken. His parents' divorce was very bitter and the result of this was that the children were deprived of their father and denied access to him. But I do believe he knows his father did love him very much.

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  2. Broad, in my years of taking funerals I've had a number of difficult situations at funerals, but never one quite like this. I can well imagine how painful and embarrassing it was for most of those present. Grief can play havoc with emotional control, as it obviously did for Tony's son. Though it may have been cathartic for him, it's a pity that his outburst cast a shadow over the funeral for others.

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    1. The dear man began his words so well and was very gracious in his thanks to others that had been close to his father. It was definitely as you say -- grief played havoc with his emotional control -- anger and love can be such a dangerous mix.

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  3. I do hope you all forgave this man and his father. Grief makes all rational thoughts inconsequential.

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    1. Despite the shock, there was also a feeling of great understanding and sympathy -- which I tried to convey to him when I met him briefly later. He was so vulnerable -- there was nothing to forgive...

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  4. Hello Katherine:
    Gosh what a shock that outburst must have been. These situations are often, rather sadly, charged with emotion which can result in some strange occurrences. Family relationships can be very complicated and strained, one can only hope for the peace of reconciliation for all concerned.

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    1. The peace of reconciliation is something well worth praying for -- The happiness in all our lives is so dependent on it.

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  5. Dear Broad,
    Perpetual has said so well what I thought as I read about Tony and his son. Like "rosaria," I hope that everyone at the funeral was able to understand the outburst.

    The following is such a fine concluding sentence for your posting: "But I hope his son's final outburst was as cathartic for him as it was painful and shocking to hear." You write with such clarity. I so appreciate your blog.

    Peace.

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    1. Fortunately, Tony's life was not exactly a secret and the reaction of the people I spoke to was that his son's remarks were fair and balanced but that unfortunately at the end he went a bit OTT and it would have been better if he'd stopped sooner. People seemed to be very understanding.

      Your words are very kind, Dee. Thank you.

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  6. A thoughtful and beautifully written post.

    I hope when the shock wears off evryone will be able to understand the outburst and see it for what it was, the outpouring of all the emotions Tony's son was feeling that he was unable to control. Grief does strange things to people.

    He was also in mourning for that 'might have been' relationship with his father, which he didn't have whilst growing up.

    I think acceptance and real forgiveness is needed all round. We are none of us perfect ...

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  7. How awful...for everyone.

    SP

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    1. My husband and I both felt very strange for the rest of the day. It was good to get back home again.

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  8. I think he was not only grieving for the loss of his father but also for the relationship he wished they could have had when he was a child and never did.
    He will probably regret his outburst in the future and that will only serve to add to his loss, poor man.

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    1. Yes, I absolutely agree with you...

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  9. That is so sad, you really do not need outbursts like that at a funeral. I have to agree with Jean. Diane

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  10. That is atrocious bad taste. The son should never have given the eulogy. It would have been so much better for all concerned. The son hasn't done himself any favours, he is going to feel a shit for having sad out loud what he felt at such an occasion. What a fool to allow his emotions to get the better of him at a funeral. That will be a funeral to remember for all concerned and there'll be a lot of cringing in shame and embarrassment to come.

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    1. Unfortunately, he 'spoke from the heart' not from a prepared text and his control went 'out the window'.

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