Because Blogger's "Adult warning" often goes into a perpetual loop (isn't working properly), I will be making all new posts at my WordPress blog. You can follow it even if you do not have a WordPress Account. There're also my Twitter and my Tumblr blog, my Facebook and my Google+ page and my group.
(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Father-in-law's Wake

A hot Ozzie autumn evening, the currawongs and magpies calling, and the cockies with their raucous shrieks, so different to the endearing twitter they make as they fly in formation. A day Michael would have liked. He grew to love Oz and the Ozzie character; their generosity and scabrous sense of humour; their quiet patriotism; their robust egalitarianism; their honour and integrity. He spent nearly 15 years in Oz, living with us in a cottage we built for them out the back of our property. Although he came to love Oz he never stopped missing Cape Town where he was born 82 years ago, and where his closest friends remained.

It was a lovely wake, if you can say that about such a ceremony. While we were clearing out the cottage (Bay, my mother-in-law who used to live there has gone to live with her other daughter in New Zealand) we found 6 long red candles that she has been carrying around we think for over 50 years since she apparently had them in Kenya and we lit them and surrounded them with oak leaves - and sprigs of rosemary as well because Michael and Bay loved Ophelia's speech - 'there's rosemary, that's for remembrance'.

My two sons William and Nicholas changed out of their usual grunge gear into black pants and white shirts and sang a cappella 'Danny Boy' which was one of the songs Michael used to sing. My daughter Alexandra then read out a poem from one of my wife's cousins, and then my lady's 'Memories of Dad' in her calm, kind voice - she said her work in community radio was a help as you have to learn to carry on regardless (and there were many tears as well as laughter as she read). William then sang 'Jerusalem' at Mum's request as it was one of Dad's favourite hymns, and his pure angelic tenor lifted us out of ourselves and was balm to aching hearts. Needless to say, the champagne flowed copiously all the while. Nicholas finished by singing an impromptu version of 'Rambling Rose', another of Michael's old favourites, and his lovely gravelly baritone was every bit as good as Nat King Cole's. The children carried us through with their humour and gentleness and their steadiness. Our Jack Russell was the only one who didn't enjoy the singing - a very emotional dog, his head drooped lower and lower until he looked like Snoopy on his dog kennel, his nose almost on the ground, his eyes black pools of woe. He did cheer up when we shared some Camembert cheese with him, though. The red candles burned quietly for 3 hours and as the evening drew to a close, we watched them in silence go out, one by one.

We were reminded again of the importance of family and friends at these times. Omnia vincit amor, they say, even loss and sorrow and grief. Bay and my sister-in-law flew out to New Zealand yesterday morning and it was a wrench for all, but we know that in the long run she will be better looked after there. My sister-in-law has plans for giving Bay a whole new life and we know she will be lovingly cared for. We are planning our first trip over to see her in June/July.

The cottage is dismally empty and sad, devoid of the pictures and antiques that made it so beautiful, and missing the ppl who made it so welcoming.

ὣς ἔφατ' εὐχόμενος, τοῦ δ' ἔκλυε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων,
βῆ δὲ κατ' Οὐλύμποιο καρήνων χωόμενος κῆρ
τόξ' ὤμοισιν ἔχων ἀμφηρεφέα τε φαρέτρην:
ἔκλαγξαν δ' ἄρ' ὀϊστοὶ ἐπ' ὤμων χωομένοιο,
αὐτοῦ κινηθέντος: ὃ δ' ἤϊε νυκτὶ ἐοικώς.

(If the quote appears inappropriate, I am very aware of the anger of the God.)

Rest in peace, dear friend.

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