It all kicked off in January when I lost beloved Alistair, he was my brother in law and he died of legionnaires disease. Then in February I lost my mother to pneumonia and complications, she was 83. Obviously my sister and I were devastated to lose our mum but it is somehow more acceptable knowing that she had completed her journey and left us wonderful memories. Alistair was far harder, he was younger than me and a double blow for my sister, losing her husband and her mother in such a short space of time has been hard for her but we are now trying to look for some light ahead. So I’m not going to dwell on this any more, instead I want to put some happiness into our thoughts.
I’m going to begin by recapping what my sister and I think of as a marvellous comic moment on the day of Alistair’s funeral, it’s almost like he was watching over us and laughing. So here is the tale. Alistair was a true Scotsman, he liked a wee dram with a pint of Stella or two and was an ardent Partick Thistle supporter.
My sister and I met a wonderful priest to conduct the service for him in Christchurch Priory, he was a Texan, and he was just what we wanted, he was off beat, had a sense of humour (essential when dealing with either me or my sister) and as he recapped some of the stories about his American free church experience (Alistair’s parents background was free church of Scotland) we knew he was ideal. He came up with a wonderful service in the knave at the Priory and each time we asked for something special he was very accommodating. I thought I was pushing my luck when I asked him “Do you think it would be in order to a have a bottle of Glenfiddich on the coffin for Alistair?” He pondered for a moment and then said in a wonderful American southern drawl, “Well what are we saying here, are we saying that the good Lord didn’t drink. He drank wine. So are we saying we shouldn’t drink when our Lord did, in moderation, of course, no I think we can only accept the fact that he drank and I really don’t have a problem with this but the verger might.” We asked the verger and he didn’t mind in the least. So it was arranged.
Our next bit of luck was meeting Terry, the undertaker who was recommended by our cousin Pam. Don’t quite know how else you can suss out an undertaker (comparetheundertaker.com?) He was wonderful, we kept throwing challenges at him and he kept coming back with an answer. We wanted a piper, no problem. We wanted his brothers to carry the coffin, no problem. We wanted him to put this bottle of Glenfiddich on the coffin along with a Partick Thistle flag and a picture, no problem. Weirder still, we said to Terry “Would it be possible to come to the chapel of rest on the night before the funeral with his brothers and sisters to have a wee dram with Alistair as we gather around his coffin?” Er? No problem he said. We arrived and it was all set up for us, I came with a bottle of The Balvenie Doublewood single malt, which Alistair had given me after returning from the Outer Hebrides last summer and I had kept it to share with him on a special occasion. I could think of no better event than this, so we all stood around Alistair as his brother 'Roddy' said a few words and then another of his brothers took some of the whisky and put it on Alistair's lips to share with him. It was a very poignant evening that I will never forget.
The next day at the funeral we carried Alistair into the priory, there were six of us and the flag, the picture and the bottle of Glenfiddich was duly placed on his coffin for the service. After the Priory service we took Alistair to the local Crematorium and our Texas priest and piper, followed and really did their stuff, it was an excellent service and in the background, Terry, our undertaker was grasping the bottle of Glenfiddich, which was once again placed on the coffin, with the flag and the picture. At the end Terry once again took charge of the Glenfiddich and placed it into the funeral car for safe keeping.
We had arranged not really a wake, more of a celebration for every one at his local Pub in Christchurch. We did think of going elsewhere but in the end both sis and I agreed that this is where he spent a lot of his time and it somehow felt right to be there with everyone who he drank with, he really did have a lot of friends here. We had already instructed Terry where to take and drop us off after the Crematorium.
As the three cars arrived outside of Alistair's local, the car doors were opened for us and we all began to get out. Sis and I were in the lead car with Terry. We clambered out, helped other relatives and started heading towards the pub entrance. There was a sudden smashing sound and we all looked round, only to see the bottle of Glenfiddich slowly disappearing down into the gutter. Terry, bless him, had put the bottle back into it’s container and when he picked it up, the metal bottom of it gave way and the bottle had simply slipped out onto the ground, right out side Alistair's local. After all the trouble Terry had taken getting it there, it had smashed into the gutter and soaked away! The best thing that I will never forget is the look on Terry’s face. "I'm so sorry!" He said turning bright red and then white. He is a professional undertaker and if the ground could have opened up and swallowed him he would have happily let it! Terry looked from Sis to me and back to Sis, who looked at me and then slowly smiled, then along with me, burst out laughing with tears in our eyes. We somehow knew it was Alistair saying “Look if I can’t drink that whisky there is no way you lot are going to!”
The conclusion to this little tale occurred several hours later … The door opened and Terry walked into the pub clutching a Waitrose bag, he opened it and pulled out a bottle of Glenfiddich and placed it onto the bar, he really didn’t have to do that but he did. So, needless to say I now introduce Terry as “my undertaker.”
As an aside to this I found these whilst researching my mum's eulogy:
Stranger ! Approach this spot with gravity !
John Brown is filling his last cavity.
Epitaph of an unknown dentist
I am ready to meet my Maker.
Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal
of meeting me is another matter.
Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Wild Bill J. B. Hickok Killed by the assassin Jack M'Call
In Deadwood, Black Hills Aug. 2d 1876
Pard, we will meet again in the Happy Hunting Ground
To part no more, Goodbye
J. B Hickok, "Wild Bill"
EVERYBODY LOVES SOMEBODY SOMETIME
SHE DID IT THE HARD WAY
A Genius of Comedy His Talent Brought Joy
and Laughter to All the World.
As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew,
So this old world is made brighter by the lives
Of folks like you
WORKERS OF ALL LANDS UNITE.
THE PHILOSOPHERS HAVE ONLY INTERPRETED THE WORLD IN VARIOUS WAYS; THE POINT IS TO CHANGE IT
WE LIVE TO LOVE YOU MORE EACH DAY
THE BEST IS YET TO COME
Francis Albert Sinatra
And then there were famous last words (Bogeys my favourite) :-
Barrymore, John (1882-1942)
"Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a
conventional thing to happen to him."
Bogart, Humphrey (1899-1957)
"I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis."
Costello, Lou (1906-1959)
"That was the best ice-cream soda I ever tasted."
Coward, Noel (1899-1973)
"Goodnight my darlings, I'll see you tomorrow."
(On retiring to bed.)
Gandhi, Indira (1917-1984)
"I don't mind if my life goes in the service of the nation. If I die
today every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation."
(Assassinated by Sikh militants the following day.)
Presley, Elvis (1935-1977)
"I hope I haven't bored you."
(Conclusion of his last press conference.)
Wells, Herbert George (1866-1946)
"Go away... I'm all right."
Crosby, Bing (1903-1977)
"That was a great game of golf, fellers."
Washington, George (1732-1799)
"It is well, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go."
and finally...My Wings Favourite
Picasso, Pablo (1881-1973)
"Drink to me."