Just over a week ago Daisy asked me to go with her to visit her neighbour John so we could help with the arrangements for his wife’s funeral.
Barely had we stepped across the threshold when Daisy disappeared down the hall with a cheery, ‘I’ll make us a nice cup of tea shall I?’
I followed John into the sitting room. I pretended not to notice the hospital bed along one side. With its dark blue pressure-relieving air mattress.
‘They’ll be collecting that soon. In the next three days they said. I’ll be so pleased when it’s gone.’
I nodded. Why was Daisy taking so long?
As if he could read my thoughts, he continued, ‘Daisy’s amazing isn’t she? Popped in every day for a chat with Sandra.’
I nodded. But my mind was elsewhere. In my eagerness to help arrange a funeral, I hadn’t thought to ask Daisy about the circumstances of Sandra’s death. I had assumed she’d been in hospital – but now it seemed that John had looked after her.
‘John, I hope you don’t mind me asking but where is Sandra?’
Glancing at the ceiling he replied, ‘In a better place I hope! Or at least she will be when the funeral’s over.’
‘What I meant was…’
‘I know! Just my little joke. They came to take her away – ha ha! Do you remember that song? Sorry, I really think I might be losing the plot.’
‘So Sandra’s at a funeral home? And they’re taking care of the funeral?’
‘Oh yes. They’re just round the corner. Perfect. Couldn’t be doing with all that shopping around Daisy’s been going on about. It just delays the inevitable. I’m doing all the paperwork in the morning – if you and Daisy want to come with me, hold my hand, that sort of thing…’
In the blink of an eye we’d been demoted from funeral consultants to hand-holders. Which was quite a relief, even though I agreed with Daisy about the need to shop around. And snoop around too.
I was just about to say, ‘It’s your funeral…’ when Daisy appeared with a pot of tea and a packet of HobNobs.
‘John was telling me he’s keen to finalise all the arrangements as soon as possible – we’re seeing the funeral director in the morning. ’
Fortunately, the funeral arranger was excellent so John needed hardly any advice from Daisy and me. However, before John signed anything, I did insist on a tour of the premises. Although, by then, unless he’d seen naked corpses piled up in the back yard, I don’t think anything would have put him off. I also suggested that we make a separate visit to the florist rather than choose an arrangement from the catalogue. The florist’s was only round the corner so John agreed.
The funeral took place on Wednesday at our local crematorium.
Yes, I was a little disappointed that John hadn’t taken his time. But after the most traumatic and distressing six weeks of his life, that was the last thing he wanted. And it really was a beautiful service. The flowers, of course, looked stunning. Even the retired minister (who came highly recommended) was wonderful. Like John he was a down-to-earth Yorkshireman with a passion for cricket. And, like John, he knew how it felt to hold hands with someone who was cherished and loved, whilst she was dying.