Family, Friends, People

This post has got nothing to do with travel, or food, or fun adventures. I started this blog as a way to help me remember important memories in my life and have them recorded in a way that allows me to look back at any time.

Yesterday was one of the most emotional days of my life; the day of my brother Frank’s funeral. Even though the day was of course incredibly sad, it was also a lovely and very special day in many ways and I don’t want to forget. So I am writing this post for me. I will re-read it often.

I woke up early and felt pretty rough as I had not slept well at all. I don’t think many of the family would have had much sleep. My mum had been coping through denial – simply pretending that it hadn’t happened. She’d been dreading the funeral because she knew it was going to make it real and she’d have to face reality.

The tears were flowing, the mood was very sombre. The funeral car drove at what felt like about 1 mile an hour, it seemed to take forever. It felt like the worst part of the day.

However, as we pulled into the crematorium we saw an enormous crowd. My brother had not exaggerated when he told us there would be about 200 people there.

Mum and I were in the front row along with her ex husband, my brother’s dad. They are 88 and 93 respectively and both still going strong! But of course losing a child in any age is just wrong, not the way nature designed so of course it was so difficult for them and there were many tears.

I held onto Mum all through the service. The service though, was so well done. The lady who did the speaking used just the correct amount of sensitivity and also injected humour. It really captured the essence of his life.

Four people spoke – my brother, Frank’s twin, his two daughters and his best friend. All of the speeches were heartfelt, emotional and wonderfully delivered. There were tears and there was laughter too.

Really, the service could not have been better. Outside, a few family members approached Mum to say their condolences and then we went back into the funeral car to be taken back home.

The mood on the way back was lighter. We all loved the service, and it was wonderful to see just how many people had come.

Mum didn’t want to go to the wake so I took her home and she said she was already starting to feel better. I got her settled and then headed off to the wake, which was absolutely packed!

I spent several hours chatting to all the family and I also took a couple of photos. I especially wanted to get one with me and my brother. I feel bad because I had been distant from Frank in the year before he died, and when I looked back over photos I couldn’t find a single one of me and him.

That is in the past and I can’t change that now, but I can learn from it. I have been guilty of neglecting family, of being distant. I’ve always been very close with my Mum, but not so much other family members. I guess I just took them for granted and didn’t make the effort.

Me and my bro, always my superhero!

My Mum is French and there were a few family members from France who had come over for the funeral. It was very nice of them but Mum just didn’t want to talk and preferred to be alone to grieve.

However, my brothers dad is very different. He’s incredibly social and he loves languages. He spent several hours at the wake chatting with them in French so they weren’t left on their own!

After the French family left, he decided he’d also like to go home and so one of my nieces, her boyfriend and myself went back with him and spent a few hours with him at home. He’s always very entertaining as he has so many stories, and still has so many ambitions even though he’s 93!

A few hours later I had a text from my ex letting me know she was on her way. I wasn’t really sure if she was going to come so it was very nice that she did. I met her back at at the wake and we spent a couple of hours socialising with the family again.

This evening I also had a very special moment. In the lead up to the funeral there had been discussion about what songs should be played. And my brother and I had asked for The Hollies, He Ain’t Heavy. I absolutely love that song and it’s so fitting.

But it was decided that it was a bit too sad for the service so wasn’t played. In the evening though we had a jukebox and it was played for us. I grabbed my brother from outside and we slow danced to the song. He doesn’t really like cuddles (manly man!) but he did cuddle me the whole time and I felt closer to him than I ever have. He told me, “it’s just me and you now”, and we reminisced about the times he rescued me from school bullies when I was young. I will treasure this memory.

By about 8pm I was starting to get hungry as I hadn’t really eaten. My ex and I decided to go to the pub next door to grab some food. It was much quieter in there and had a relaxed atmosphere so we were able to chill out and chat for a couple of hours which was really nice.

I got home just after 10pm and Mum was in bed but still awake. We chatted and she asked me about the day and was very happy to hear about how lovely it had been.

This whole experience over the last two weeks has been a massive wake up call for me. On the value of family, and of friends and of people in general.

During the service and the wake, we weren’t talking about Frank’s work, or how much money had had, or what stuff he owned. We talked about what he did, about all his passions, his hobbies and about the times he’d shared with all of his family and friends.

He lived a very different life to me. Both of my brothers have always been incredibly outgoing and social. They must get that from their dad. I on the other hand am more like Mum – very introverted and quite shy around strangers.

I don’t make friends easily, I have a small circle of very close friends. The number of people at Frank’s funeral was really staggering. I don’t even think I know that many people!

But this has taught me how important people are. Even though I have lost a brother, I feel as though I have been given a second chance with the rest of my family.

It seems almost ironic now that I’m now making preparations to leave everyone and travel! However, I still have several months before I leave, I’ll be back often for visits and these days technology makes it easier than ever to keep in touch with people across any distance.

People and experiences are the most important things in life. Not money, not stuff.

3 thoughts on “Family, Friends, People

  1. Michel Vandenburie

    Many thanks Caroline for this summary of Frank’s funeral yesterday. We could not be there so it helped and I felt reading this that we were actually there with you all.
    With love,
    Fabienne and Michel

  2. Gemma and Jaime

    Gemma and I have just read this and we think it is absolutely beautiful. The moment you spent with Herve sounds so special and sacred and brought tears to my eyes. We love you Caroline and we wholeheartedly agree that life is about people and experiences, not money and stuff. We look forward to seeing more of you as we feel we have kindred spirits. Xxx

  3. Teresa Doyle

    You are absolutely right Caroline! Sorry about your brother, the people we love are so precious, every moment is valuable. Good luck to you.

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