I attended a family funeral in England at the end of last week. My uncle, a year younger than my darling dad, had enjoyed a long, adventurous, happy life, but that made it no easier for the family to say goodbye. It was a bitterly cold day, with a low red winter sun, and a wind seemingly blowing straight down from the Scottish Highlands, to carry the soul of my dear uncle home.
After the ceremony and the final farewell, to the skirl of the piper playing the Flowers of the Forest*, we returned to my cousin's home, and hugged, laughed, and cried our way through the afternoon, sharing family stories and memories, looking at old photographs, and marvelling at the life of these two fabulous brothers, the eldest and second eldest of seven siblings, born in 1921 and 1922 respectively, whose blood flows now in our veins. I looked at my cousins; there was my father's laugh; my uncle's voice, my brother's eyes. I looked down at my hands, there were my grandpa, my uncle and my father in the tapering shape of the fingers, the square thumb nails. That night, flying home, trying to read on the plane, a kaleidoscope of images and memories played out behind my eyes. I gave up reading, and let the memories flow; tumbling, jumbled and disjointed, like a crackly cine film: my uncle singing; my dad laughing, tears running down his cheeks, a dram in his hand, my cousins arriving from London to stay with us, climbing out the car after their long drive, us swimming in the peat-brown burn, those long summers of childhood, where six weeks seemed a lifetime.
As well as saying goodbye, and reflecting on a long life, well lived, how do we honour an day like this? If we are lucky, as I consider myself to be, we re-connect with family, and we decide that we will maintain this connection, both for its own sake, because we like each other, yes, very much! and also in faithful, loving memory of those two brothers, who through their many adventures, valued family above all else. I'm sure they would approve.