Bristol / London: The Funeral

We had arranged to breakfast with H,M,A and J at 7.30 on the Friday morning so I was up early enough to shower and dry my hair first, then Billy had his. We both put on yesterday’s clothes for breakfast though – just in case of accidents. Once again Billy’s cousins helped make the meal go down and the boys were in good form – I think they ate the entire hotel’s allocation of yoghurts between them!

We had worked out that we needed to leave the hotel by 9am but by 8.30am we still hadn’t heard from Raji and couldn’t get hold of him. (We had his suit, remember!) We finished getting ready ourselves and decided that if Raji still hadn’t arrived, we’d check out, but leave his suit at the hotel for him – then he finally arrived at just gone 8.45am – without having had a shower and wanting to use ours! Then we had a call from Billy’s Aunt, asking us to get a book in which people could write condolence messages! AGH! The funeral was at 10 am! I went and got an extra towel from reception and saw Billy’s cousins down there and told them about Raji just arriving and about his Aunt’s call. They immediately volunteered to set off straight away and get a book for us – what absolute stars. 🙂 I went back to the room and Raji asked me for some shampoo! (HOW has this man ever survived alone all his adult life?! ) Billy had just left to put our bags in the car so our toiletries were no longer with us and the hotel dis not supply any. I suggested he use shower gel this once – only to be told he didn’t have any of that either! Eventually, I remembered that I was a good Girl Guide and kept a little “Be Prepared” kit in my bag – complete with sachet of “hair and body shampoo“. Leaving Raji and his cousin J to check out for us, we set off to the church in a taxi.

    PART 1: Bristol

We arrived at the ideal time and were present to greet most people as they arrived. G and J, (Cousin M’s parents) had come up from Dorset to offer their support (they are almost surrogate parents to Billy and Raji and very much loved) which was wonderful of them. Billy’s Uncle J, (his late dad’s brother) and his wife also came, which again was much appreciated and they hadn’t seen each other for a long time (just due to life getting in the way.) There were friends from Bristol who had supported Rani through her illness, friends from the early days of Billy’s parents’ marriage, living in Brunei, members of the church congregation who knew Rani, and of course, the family of her siblings, nieces and nephews who had travelled down from London.

We all started getting twitchy as 10am approached and there was still no sign of Raji and J, and indeed, the hearse with Rani arrived before them. This was a bit of a problem since Billy’s family always have their coffin borne into the church by the male relatives, so Raji was needed. Fortunately he arrived just moments later, so I went inside to sit ready for Billy and Raji to join me.

The church was beautiful and we could imagine Rani appreciating it as she worshipped. The vicar knew her well, from her visits to the church and his to her home and bedside, so was able to make the service very personal which was an extra comfort to everyone. It was quite a long service with several hymns, a Reading from Raji, a word from C and H, the two nieces (aged 11 and 9), the main tribute from Billy, a poem from Rani’s sister C and a final Reading from a friend. It was perfect for Rani, and therefore perfect as a whole. Billy had fretted over his tribute and had not managed to write anything down – but what he said was brilliant! From the heart, in keeping with both his and her characters, and he received many compliments on a job very well done.

After the moving service, refreshments were served in the atrium, courtesy of a couple of Rani’s friends, who had taken over this task. Billy, Raji and I were too busy circulating and thanking people for coming to eat, though young Cousin A did grab us each a coffee so we at least got a drink which was much appreciated. We didn’t really get as much time with people as we’d have liked, though I did exchange contact details with a few (a little surreal as I didn’t know some of these people at all.) Naturally, over the course of the morning, there were tears and I tried to give what comfort and cuddles I could – this family have had 4 bereavements in just a couple of years now, so it was very hard on them and memories of Rani’s parents and sister inevitably surfaced.

All too soon, it was time for the family to leave for the actual burial in London, so off we went, with Billy and I hitching a ride with Rani’s sister C and her husband, and cousin A’s girlfriend, M.

    PART 2: London

The journey to London passed with idle chatter and a weird air of being in a little bubble. We just had time to use the loo and grab a glass of water at C’s house before going to the cemetery where Rani was to be buried next to her parents and sister. Everyone had arrived about the same time, even the London vicar who had previously presided over the other family funerals. In fact, this man had travelled to Bristol of his own accord, and been present at the morning service, sitting quietly, and then travelled back to London for the afternoon’s ceremony. There were also a few London based friends who had not been able to travel to Bristol (the Bristol contingent had not travelled to London, by the way – it was family only that travelled.)

There was a short ceremony, well organised by the undertakers and vicar and it all went smoothly. More tears, and cuddles of course, and then we all went back to C’s house for refreshments.

There followed a very mellow few hours with wine, good food and relaxed chat – an occasion which Rani would have very much enjoyed. Despite the awful circumstances of the gathering, it WAS nevertheless lovely to see the family again and they are a very close-knit family who support each other and draw everyone into their circle, seemingly effortlessly. Everyone relaxed, including Billy and Raji, and the youngest three cousins (all girls, aged 3, 9 and 11) had their older ones (Billy the eldest, Raji and cousin A at 29, J at 20 (all men) and F 26) entirely wrapped around their little fingers. (By the way, you’ve never met such a gorgeous looking lot – they have all inherited the very best of the genes from their parents, both Asian and European.)

Billy’s aunt S, and I were wiped out and at 6.30pm it felt like at least two hours later! Some (mainly men!) were talking of starting the family card game (3-0-4) but quite apart from the fact that I simply cannot grasp this game at all, I was far too tired and said I’d sit out. Apart from one Uncle, it was the cousins that were up for it so they started to talk about moving on to A’s flat to play , and since this was where Billy and I were staying for the night, I liked this idea as I could then escape to bed when ready. By about 8.30 pm, I could tell that our hosts were beginning to want their house back (not unreasonably – it had been a very long day after all) and apart from having to persuade Uncle that he really DIDN’T want to play cards, it was a relatively easy decision to move on.

Billy and I, Raji, cousins J and A, and A’s girlfriend, all got a taxi and went to A’s flat where they all continued drinking and played cards, and I went thankfully to bed. A had given us his own room which had an en-suite shower and loo so I was able to relax and against expectations, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I heard Billy come in a while later – how he could still stand after what must have been 3 or 4 bottles of red wine over the day, I don’t know, but if ever there was an occasion where he was perfectly entitled to get drunk, then this was it. He fell asleep straight away – and commenced snoring 😉 – and when A came in a little later to fetch some things, we exchanged smiles. Billy’s snoring not withstanding, I still had a great night’s sleep.

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