WE buried my father on Tuesday morning. He was 101 years old.
The funeral service was held in the small village church where he had been choirmaster seventy years ago. There were yellow and green Spring flowers on his coffin, and vases of daffodils on each windowsill of the church, which was filled by around seventy mourners.
The canon read the eulogy I had written for him, and I added a personal tribute to the man who had been devoted to my mother for 73 years, and who was cast adrift by her death in December.
After the service, we lay his coffin in the grave that had so recently been my mother’s final resting place too.
So, in three months, I have gone from Retired With Parents to a newly-orphaned pensioner. I have written before about the growing phenomenon of people reaching an age to retire from work and still having one or both parents alive.
Again, my new situation would have been extremely rare not long ago, but is one that our increasingly longer-living population means will be become more and more the norm.
When your parents reach such advanced age, their deaths must, surely, affect you differently than if they had died twenty or thirty years younger? Perhaps the sense of loss is the same, but is the grief lessened, both because they were blessed with long and full lives, and because they are finally released from final months of distress and sorrow?
As we left the church, one of the mourners described their deaths as “the end of an era.” Such a statement would seem hyperbolic or vain-glorious; my parents lived out their lives quietly in a small village on the outskirts of a town (later city) in south Wales. They may have lived through major events (in my father’s case, including two world wars, four monarchies and twenty-five governments), but the rhythm of their own lives was the steady one of generations before them in that village.
But I understand what was meant; having lived together in their village home for so long (73 years married and four years of courtship before that), their passing does feel like something significant – not least, of course, in my own life, but also for the village community.
Our daughter, meanwhile, has moved into my parents’ home; life goes on, there is continuity. I’m glad about that.