Author Niki Stark Devlin
Yes. My husband’s!
Graham (Gra) and I had the blessing of knowing he was possibly dying for 6 months and then another 6 months and 22 days where we knew he was going to die. Shortly before we had the news at 6 months that we were unlikely to grow old together, he turned to me after the children were in bed and suggested a glass of wine in the garden.
Who was I to say no to a glass of wine with the most handsome man I’d ever met?!
So we took a bottle into the garden, watched the sun setting and he told me he wanted to plan his funeral ‘just in case’ and that if we got good news he would let me know of any alterations as we went along.
It was one of the funniest evenings of my life!
He was adamant that he wanted ‘swing low, Sweet Chariot’ the song of the English Rugby team to be sung loudly and with vigour.
We live in Wales. He was tickled about the vast majority of our friends not being able to sing the response song (which is normally sung with ‘sign language’) about where the English can place their chariot…
He wanted people to be able to experience joy that he had lived whilst creating space for sadness he had died…
And so 6 months and 29 days later the day arrived.
We had painted his coffin to look like the welsh hills that he loved. Our three children had spent a day painting birds and rainbows and butterflies and bees and flowers. Each of his friends came over the night before, toasted him and stuck a flower etc on his coffin.
It was a true community effort.
His funeral worked around the Quaker way of having an elder guide the ‘service’ but all are welcome to stand up and speak. Gra had asked our local vicar (a smashing chap about our age) whether he would be happy to ‘MC’ it rather than vicar it. The offer was accepted with such graciousness.
Our children were there and at one point MC Andrew gestures to Gra’s coffin and told everyone there (650+ people!) that he couldn’t do this service without commenting on its beauty at which point our youngest (then aged 3) piped up that she had done the red flower so Andrew invited them up to tell him which was their favourite flower/bug etc then said it was heartbreaking that no one could see the other side. So spun the coffin round on its stand! Gra would have been in hoots!
This was then topped off towards the end by which time I was due to speak and I was struggling. I heard Gra’s best friend stand up. This chap is a comedy writer for the BBC. He’s extremely funny and deeply loved by us all. I heard him stand. I felt his hand on my shoulder as he turned to face everyone who were sat in silence.
“My name is Frank…
and I’m an alcoholic”
The audible gasp was interrupted only by my peal of laughter.
I knew exactly who had put him up to this and I knew he had told Frank to time it for just that moment.
Gra had told him that I would struggle at that point and that he had Gra’s Blessing to use his darkest humour to do whatever it took to carry me through it.
I stood and spoke. It was the only time since Gra died that I have actually felt him nearby. I asked Frank directly (before my MIL shredded him alive) if he had been put up to it and he confirmed that Gra had sent him a text that night we sat in the garden.
My husband made me laugh at his own funeral.
He was a very special man.