My grandfather was 106 when he died on December 15 2013. Of course, he’d been around my whole life, while I’d been around exactly half of his. As he made it that far on the clock, many told me I should not be sad: ‘He had a good innings’. Indeed he did, better than the current men’s England cricket team (something that would have cheered him). Not enough to propel him into the top 10 of the UK’s oldest inhabitants (something that would have vexed him); but still, none too shabby. Undoubtedly, it was his time to go. He knew it, we knew it. He left before he passed his best before date. So, 22 years to the day that my grandmother (his wife) died, my sister and I held his funeral. The Reverend Peter Evans officiated non-officiously and very humanly. A small group of us then went to The King’s Arms where I drank whisky: ‘Because it’s what he would have wanted’. And that was that. Only it wasn’t and still isn’t.
In the weeks leading up to the funeral, my sister and I, together, took care of business. For the final week, we spent all day, every day together doing just that. Grandad’s belongings were moved out of his room at the residential care home where he’d lived for the previous 15 years. All the boxes, furniture, suitcases were stacked away. We went through everything. But nothing brought home that he’d gone more than finding that Room 45 was now home to Frank, not George. Keeping busy and drinking tea are the great British standbys in sad times. They always work for me. When they stop, what then? Well, after my sister left, I started crying because I missed her. By early Monday morning, in the bus on the way to the airport, I was crying proper. There was nothing to keep me busy and I had no tea.
You see, when you love someone, it doesn’t matter how old they are or where they are – what’s important is what they mean to you. That love, the one that always demands the present tense, that’s the real business to take care of.