Posted by Lyra Mollington
Our neighbour Keith had no idea that the woman who visited him every day in the care home was his wife of 57 years. Their children and grandchildren were also strangers to him. After he died, Doreen felt guilty that she wasn’t as grief stricken as she thought she should have been. She was also worrying about how Keith was coping in heaven. When the children told her they were going to help her to plan the send-off their dad deserved, she felt a glimmer of hope returning.
The sun was shining on the day of Keith’s funeral. His widow was wearing a cream dress with a pale pink jacket. There was no floral arrangement – instead Doreen, her children and her grandchildren each placed a rose on the coffin before they sat down. Everyone had chosen their favourite colour. The roses clashed beautifully. Jim Reeves was singing, ‘Welcome To My World’.
After some words from the celebrant (a homely looking woman with a warm smile) Keith’s daughter and son held hands and came up to the front to read the poem ‘One At Rest’. The celebrant then told us how Doreen and the family had spent the weekend reminiscing, talking to friends old and new, and looking at photographs going back to 1933, the year Keith was born.
They had decided not to have a eulogy. Instead, there was going to be a slideshow set to Rodrigo’s ‘Fantasia Para Un Gentilhombre’.
As soon as I saw the first black and white photograph of a little boy sitting on his father’s shoulders, I was captivated. We all were. We smiled, laughed and shed a tear as photographs from each decade of Keith’s life appeared: the school boy with a crooked tie; the soldier standing to attention; the beaming bridegroom; the Chelsea supporter with his blue and white scarf; the proud father and grandfather; and the fisherman with his arms outstretched describing the one that got away. We even saw Keith dressed as a pirate. By the time the final photograph of an old man cradling his great grandson came into focus, I was desperately hoping for more.
The music ended. But then there was a short piece of camcorder footage. Keith and Doreen were on the dance floor at their granddaughter’s wedding reception. This was just a few months before the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Doreen was wearing a cream dress and a pale pink jacket. Keith spotted the camera, smiled and waved.
Later, Doreen told us that this was the man she wanted us all to remember. More importantly, this was the Keith she wanted to say goodbye to.