My mother had two brothers. Both served in the Forces during the war; afterwards, the family relocated from London to Ramsgate. But the younger of the two took a job at a hotel in the Lake District, met and married my aunt, and settled at the opposite end of England to the rest of the family.
Each summer they would visit, and for my sister and I there would be outings and trips to the beach with our cousins. Our uncle was the best kind of uncle – kind, funny, and full of stories about his adventures as a lorry driver, delivering flour in and around Cumbria. Sadly, those adventures ended when he became ill. He lived just long enough to see his first granddaughter.
By then I had passed my driving test. The annual visits continued, now usually in the opposite direction. However, my aunt travelled to Kent when I married, and for my ordination – she liked the idea of her nephew being a priest. But as the years passed, age and the onset of ill health took their toll. It was during one of our visits that the inevitable conversation took place: yes, I would assist at her funeral when the time came.
Following her ninetieth birthday infirmity confined her first to her flat and then to her bed. Then came the pandemic and all that it has carried with it and finally, last month. There could be no funeral service as such; I wouldn’t be able to keep my promise.
On All Saints Sunday, the first Sunday of November, I will join with others in giving thanks for those who rejoice with us, but on another shore and in a greater light. Then I shall light a candle, and think of her…