There’s something very difficult about having to accept a senseless death. The last few days have been a blur of activity – informing friends, cancelling bank accounts, organising the funeral and coping with the waves of grief that still flood through when reality comes knocking.
Flowers have continued to arrive at the accident site, and on our many visits we bumped into several people who knew and liked him, wanting to show their respects. The reports in the local papers were surprisingly surreal. The clearing out of his bedroom is a severe hardship – especially as we’ve discovered he’s a very fine hoarder of everything he could get his hands on. Scanning through his digital camera pictures showed his sense of humour and sociable life, with no expectation of it ending so soon. I think many people are still expecting Paul to poke his head around the door and explain that it was his most elaborate practical joke ever – or at the very least spend a few minutes explaining why it happened and say goodbye.
But slowly the realisation sinks in that he will never come, a fact that hit home yesterday afternoon when the funeral took place.
We all tried to keep busy in the morning, but by two o’clock events were becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. By three o’clock we arrived at his house with the rest of the family, and at four o’clock reality dawned. The black parade of hearses arrived outside, and the most difficult of hours had arrived. We travelled behind the black cars, negotiating the frustratingly uncaring cars through to pull away in front and in the middle of us all the way to Guildford Crematorium. On arrival, the sheer amount of people that had turned up stunned us. Over 300 mourners had arrived, and within a few minutes would be trying to squeeze into a room designed for no more than 150. We joined the front of the queue, and at that moment Matthew, Michelle’s brother, decided that he wanted to carry the coffin. We rallied round in support, and so it was that in the midst of all the emotion of the packed room, Matthew, Glyn, Oliver and I paced slowly down the aisle, a wooden coffin baring down on our shoulders and dusting our suits.
For the rest of the service I stared mostly at the floor, trying to ignore the vicar’s words. After twenty long minutes, we wandered out to view the flowers that had been sent – and then,
not wanting to prolong the anguish, we headed for the wake, which was taking place at his local pub. It was probably the best night the pub had ever had – a full pub, enormous rounds of beer and sandwiches being consumed and speeches and stories of Paul, including a rendition of Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life which summed him up to a tee. The celebrations died down as the pub started to close its doors – but there was no doubt Paul would have approved. Even the taxi driver knew Paul, remembering the many times he took him from the pub to the local nighlife. “He was full of life, top banana. He’ll be missed.” And don’t we know it.
All this, and I’m not even a member of the family. The things I see, feel and decribe are only a tenth of what his immediate family are going through. So what now for them? Tying up of loose ends,
then getting on with life, I suppose. Now the hustle and bustle of morbid planning is done, maybe the reality will hit in the coming days and weeks. On the other hand, maybe now things are more or less over it will be easier to move on. The most useful part of the whole experience seems to be that it brings life’s troubles into perspective, reminding us to make the most of things while we can. The worst part, for me at any rate, is that he never knew how much his family (and specifically his children) loved him. In fact, *they* never knew how much they loved him. So make sure you appreciate and show your appreciation for your nearest and dearest – before its too late.
(A small photo gallery is available here. If you have any photos to contribute, let me know)