Posted by Lyra Mollington
‘They’re dropping like flies!’
This was Daisy as she came in through our front door on Monday morning. Barry was close behind, shrugging his shoulders by way of an apology.
I replied, ‘You’d better come in for a coffee.’
My (or rather Mr M’s) new espresso machine is proving extremely popular. Daisy is a latte, I’m a double shot cappuccino and Barry is an Americano. Mr M is Earl Grey.
Daisy was in a bit of a flap. ‘Barry’s the last one standing!’
Thankfully, Barry provided the details. When he was a school boy, his best friends were Tom and Richard. The three were inseparable. And, inevitably, their class-mates referred to them as Tom, Dick ’n’ Barry. Tom died in his mid-fifties. Richard died at the weekend – he was only 64.
Daisy was waiting expectantly for me to express my sympathies and ask for more details. However, I found myself on a completely different train of thought. Barry is seven years younger than Daisy – well I never!
I regained my composure. ‘That really is far too young. I’m so sorry. When is the funeral?’
I then discovered why Daisy was flappier than usual. Barry had been asked by Richard’s wife (his THIRD, interjected Daisy) to speak at the funeral.
‘SPEAK! AT A FUNERAL!’ emphasised Daisy. I made a mental note to buy a tin of decaffeinated ground coffee.
When Richard discovered that he was terminally ill, he wrote a letter. He then asked his wife Sally if she could ask someone to read it out at his funeral. Understandably, no-one in the family feels confident enough to do this. Cue Barry, Richard’s oldest friend.
Barry has mixed feelings. He is honoured to be asked. But he is also terrified. Not of speaking in public – as a retired teacher, he’s done plenty of that. The problem is speaking at a funeral, in full view of the other mourners. Daisy and I had thought we’d made a breakthrough when Barry finally admitted that his dislike of funerals stems from when he was a boy and he wasn’t allowed to attend his father’s funeral. Unfortunately, although he no longer dislikes funerals (any more than anyone else, that is) the sight of a coffin unleashes decades of repressed emotion. Or that’s how he views it. We witnessed a burial recently, from a distance, and all I can recall is Barry wiping away a tear. Hardly a torrent of grief. Nevertheless, if it’s important to him that he should be seen to maintain a stiff upper lip, then I was determined to help.
Could I read the letter? Could the vicar or the celebrant read it?
No. Barry believes it is his duty to read it. So I suggested that he reads Richard’s words aloud so many times that they become meaningless. I also offered to come along – I could stare at him menacingly if I see his top lip begin to wobble.
He was willing to try anything. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a trek – a crematorium on the outskirts of Aldershot, in Hampshire. But Barry’s going to drive and there’s bound to be a nice café nearby.