Goodbye, again

7 July 2010 § 1 Comment

My regular readers will know that last week I attended my grandmother’s funeral. Today, the family assembled again to scatter the ashes of my mother’s parents. Grandpa died in August 2007, aged 97; Granny followed him almost exactly a year later, aged 99. They were married for 75 years.
I had a much closer relationship with them than I did with my paternal grandmother. Granny was a true matriarch, ruling the family as a benevolent tyrant: Grandpa was a quiet, self-effacing man, with a sharp mind and keen sense of humour. To my great regret, I missed their funerals, being out of the country on both occasions: today was my chance to make my farewells and remember two people who have influenced me profoundly.
I read this poem (a rondeau, of which the best-known example is probably John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields) as we stood on the South Downs, looking out over the sea.

Dear Granny and Grandpa. God bless you both.


You are not gone; you’re always here with me
In phrases, photographs, philosophy –
The million tiny details that comprise
A life lived long and well: I close my eyes,
                                                    You are not gone.

An ordered world of quiet and constancy
Created, nurtured, guarded jealously;
On Test Match afternoons beneath blue skies
                                                     You are not gone.

And now it is my childhood you I see
At home, together, as you used to be;
Unchanging, loving, generous and wise.
So though I bid you, now, my last goodbyes
                                                     You are not gone.


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