Friday, 19 December 2014

Goodbye, My Lovely

In mid November, I heard the sad news that one of our lovely dancers had died. Sue was one of my friend Rose's dancers,and was friendly, easy to talk to, intelligent, vibrant, active, full of the joy of life. She often helped out during dance events, wore leggings and ankle chains and her long, silky, silvery hair in a plaited crown. As another dancer observed, 'I hope I'm that cool when I'm her age!'

My cherished memory of her is when we sat at Rose's house between day workshops and evening hafla. She was having fun combing through my terribly tangled hair while we chatted about our love for Radio 4 programmes, particularly 'In Our Time'. It was cosy and relaxing, a perfect, happy moment.

I felt compelled to go up to her funeral in Cellan, near Lampeter, and met up with other members of the belly dance community who knew and loved her too. We had arranged to car share from the Co-op. As we chatted, we learned more details of her death. Apparently she had fallen asleep in a chair, head cradled on her hand, and had slipped peacefully away. She'd had her 70th birthday at the beginning of the year.

I already knew from chats with her that she lived on a typical, small upland farm, with the only access to the house being a walk (or occasional drive) across fields, and could not believe that there were still places like this. She was to be buried there, next to her husband whom she had survived by seven years or so. The instructions for the funeral were to wear wellies and fleeces, and to bring only biodegradable and preferably garden flowers, but after a cold, wet spell I had nothing in bloom and settled for chrysanthemums, with the cellophane wrapper removed.

It was a fine day, cold and clear. There were quite a few people at the burial, and I realised how little I really knew her. She was active in the church, and as a child safeguarder. It was a Christian burial, without hymns but with additional opportunities for anyone to say some words. I wasn't the only one shedding tears as her wicker coffin was lowered into the grave. As we placed our flowers around the grave, someone started playing something beautiful on a violin. Eventually, we all headed back to our cars parked up on the road, to meet back at a local church hall.

Heading back across the fields - the line of trees marks the road
The WI were in charge, so there were tables set up along the centre of the room, laden with sandwiches, small cakes and other finger foods, with tea (so good, I had to have a second cup) and coffee dispensed from the kitchen at the end of the hall and smaller tables around so that small groups could sit and chat. It was all just right, an opportunity to meet and chat to her other friends and family and felt like a celebration of her life.

As I drove back from Lampeter, I reflected that the only way it could have been better would be for Sue not to have died. As I arrived back, the light was going, so I went to put the hens away. I came back out of the barn to be treated to a final burst of brilliance, a perfect end to the day.

At Rose's classes' Christmas 'Do', we ditched some of the games in favour of a little memorial ceremony for Sue, presided over by one of the dancers who has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister. We wrote our treasured memories or just a few words on cards and placed them in the bowl, and remembered our friend and happy times.

Goodbye, my lovely. We miss you, but no doubt the angels had a party when you joined them!

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