Thank you for all the hugs a year ago
It was one year ago today when we said our last goodbyes to Paul. The church, the vicar, the funeral directors, the village hall where the wake was to be held, the caterers, the florists all needed to be available and it was possible only on the 19th of December. Failing that, it was going to be 3rd week in January.
I had 2 weeks to plan the funeral. To draw up the order of service, to get it approved by the vicar and get the copies printed in time. I didn't have a clue where to start. The funeral directors and the vicar were very helpful. Mark helped a lot as he had first-hand experience with it all, having said goodbye to his wonderful wife Anne, less than 4 months earlier. Life has been cruel to both our families; best friends Andrew and N, both losing a parent.
The first meeting with the funeral directors was overwhelming. Do you want a burial or cremation? What sort of a burial? Woodland or churchyard? What about the order of service? Have you thought of hymns? bible verses to read? is there anyone who wants to talk about Paul?
There is one moment in all this planning that will stay with me forever. The boys and I were standing by our whiteboard and I remember drawing a flowchart discussing burial/cremation. As I was drawing the various arrows and writing the choices, one of the arrows led to 'cremation' and Andrew cut me short by saying a very vocal NO. That's it then. We've made one decision. Burial it is.
Next question was where. Paul had mentioned years ago about wanting to be buried in a woodland somewhere. So, I consulted google (as one does) and found a couple of woodland burial sites in the county. The timing didn't work with either of them. Also, they were not near our home and I guess in my sub conscience I was reluctant to go with this.
I can't quite remember how we decided on the church yard, but it was a decision I haven't regretted. Clare, the boys and I went to the church yard and recced the site. We chose a spot from where Paul could look over the rolling fields towards Gaddesden Row; he could see the path which we have taken many a times walking from our house through the woods and fields to the garden centre near the church yard for coffee. That's the second biggest decision taken.
The others fell into place over the next few days. The one thing I wasn't quite sure about was the number of people who were going to attend the funeral service. All who knew Paul were welcome and it wasn't an RSVP event. I was worried that there won't be enough food or drinks. It turns out that I massively underestimated the number of attendees and they'd run out of mulled wine very soon :-(.
I look back and I appreciate each person who took the time out of their busy day to come to the service and join us in saying goodbye to Paul. Most of all, I appreciate the hugs I got from everyone. I was able to feel and treasure the warmth and love everyone had for Paul. These days with restrictions around covid, it makes me realise how much we used to take a hug or a warm touch for granted. I am so glad that there were more than 200 people who were able to give Paul a loving send-off - one that he deserved and one that my children were able to be part of. I cannot even imagine how different things would have been, had the funeral taken place during the national lockdown.
While I am grateful for the love, warmth and hugs I got from everyone that day, there is one I miss the most. The all-enveloping warm hug from Paul. I can still feel it and I can still feel the kiss he would usually plant on my forehead as he squeezed me tight. No words can do justice to the love we shared and that strong feeling of security I felt when wrapped by him. All I have, I will now give to my boys.