Sunday, 15 November 2009

Death, thou shalt die.

Sunny, beautiful day, temps 13

Went to a tiny village called Tibenham yesterday for John Buxton's funeral. It was a beautiful event. Emotional, but didn't feel catastrophic. He was 75 and had seen his death coming, as had we all. And he talked about it easily, though admitted to Michael in private moments, that there were times he was afraid, and times he was in a rage about dying. And we felt that same way about losing him.

but finally, like with most death, it was a celebration of his life. And all the people he loved. And who loved him, including his wife Moira and children Jocelyn and Nigel and Dee and Patrick. And his grandchildren. And his friends and family. And Michael.

We sat at the back of the very old church. It's tiny and was crowded. The rafters and ceiling looked like the hull of a viking ship. It is a very simple, very clear church. Very lovely. And in the background were the bells John and Moira had had re-made a few years ago. The church was founded centuries ago by one of John's ancestors...another John Buxton. Many of his ancestors are buried beneath of the huge stones of the church floor. That wasn't possible for our John, but he did ask that he be allowed to lie there for one night, in his coffin, before being buried as close to the church as they could.

And so he did.

the service was simple as well, with his brother in law George doing a very lovely eulogy. And John's two sons reciting a Sonnet by John Donne - chosen by John. The one that begins, Death be not proud...

It was very moving to see his two boys, grown men now, so dignified.

Then the graveside service.

It was blowing a gale...the worst storms of the year for England. Rail service was disrupted, trees and electric lines down. Lashes of rain at the grave intermingled with huge leaves torn from trees.

It was very, very Gothic. I think we all appreciated how macabre and dramatic it was. Especially standing amid moss covered old tombstones beside the tiny church.

In fact, as we entered I noticed the marker commemorating the men of the parish who had died in the world wars. And I remembered that that was where I got the inspiration for the memorial window in the chapel in Three Pines. Beneath the list of names was written, simply, They Were Our Children.

After the service we went back to the Swan pub. Very old, half-timbered...small, comfortable rooms, each with an open fire. and out the leaded glass windows the storm continued. Then Peter, a friend of the family, who has helped us a great deal in the past two weeks on our visits to John and Moira, drove us to the train station. Thankfully our train wasn't disrupted. We made it back to Liverpool Street station, then home on the underground. By the time we emerged the storm was over. And today we awoke to a brilliant, sunny, new day.

Spent the morning on the last 20 pages...almost finished. Need to be so careful, so clear, at the end. We're off now for a Japanese lunch, then more editing this afternoon. I'm determined to be finished this draft by bedtime tonight.

Be well. Thank you for holding our hands through this, and coming to the funeral. We so appreciate it.


Bev Stephans said...

Dear Louise,

If a funeral can be called lovely, John's fits. The church and the churhyard somehow seem to be a part of him now. Give Michael extra attention at this time. He will need it.

Glad to hear that you are almost finished your edits. I know that's a relief to you.

You and Michael hold on tight to each other.


Lee Ann said...

Funny, I always forget to ask you if you had based that scene on something in real life (I use the term "real life" loosely. Sometimes the interior life is a lot more real than the physical one.) The village and church sound wonderful--I do love England.

Lee Ann

Marjorie said...

Thanks as always, Louise for including us.

The churchyard you talk about reminds me of my trip (or should I say pilgrimage) to the Bronte Parsonage to pay my respects to Charlotte and all of her family. The ancient gravestones in the churchyard were all coated in moss and all the same amazing color, all pewter gray stone and age and yet alive with green.

My best to Michael in what has to be a difficult time. Being reminded of one's mortality so strongly is never easy, is it?

--Marjorie from Connecticut

lil Gluckstern said...

If something like this can be called lovely, your description of the day was that and very striking. The storminess of the day reflecting some of the emotions of the day, and the peace of the end of your day hopefully reflecting the peace as we gain acceptance. I'm glad you are progressing on your editing, it means we're closer to seeing this book. Comfort to both of you.

Louise Penny Author said...

Hi all,

Yes, it was beautiful - and the weather added a certain pathos...there were more than one chuckles at the graveside as the wind howled and dead leaves rolled across the grass. Quite over the top atmospherically.

Pierre said...

As I read your thought about death being an oppotunity to celebrate life, I wonder if building a life worth celebrating should be our main goal. Wondering if our actions are worth celebrating is certainly food for thought. At least for me, it is.

Louise Penny Author said...

Dear Pierre,

So perfectly put. Thank you.