My aunt, my mother’s sister, died last week at age 49, from a cancer that first seemed beaten, then was discovered untreatable in her spine.
The family rallied round at the crematorium on Friday. My mother’s family all share a distinct sense of humour that’s obviously very similar to my own, so such events, whilst still being very sad, are underscored with hardly stifled laughter all the way through.
A few years ago when we all gathered for Grandad’s funeral (at the same place, I think) the service was taken by a preacher who didn’t know him, but who had come to meet my aunts and hear about him. The resulting service was odd, partly because none of us could quite work out whether the preacher was a man or a woman, partly because s/he misunderstood some bits, and partly because s/he mixed up her/his notes, and gave the eulogy meant for someone else’s Grandad. Se referred to recent holidays in Benidorm and Cyprus, which didn’t sound like our Grandad at all. And she misunderstood his “interest in glass” – he was an academic physicist, and the author of “The Physical Properties of Glass” – she thought he liked looking at stained glass windows. I mention this to highlight my families’ response – which was to joke about it rather than to complain or get upset. So much so, that when planning my aunt’s funeral, my uncle even considered feeding the next minister more misinformation – or even the same misinformation – just to make us laugh.
The sense of humour also shows through in merciless teasing of each other. Which means it’s very unfortunate that my brother programmed his sat-nav wrong. He should have been headed for Newcastle (under Lyme) Crematorium. He ended up well on the way to Newcastle upon Tyne. Text messages about the progress of his journey up from London worried me a little, but it wasn’t until he said he was stuck in traffic outside Sheffield that I twigged what was wrong. When he eventually arrived, there was lots and lots of mickey-taking.
More about my aunt. She had a marked Potteries accent, like most people in Newcastle. So much so, that just hearing her work colleagues talk like that in the pub after the service really reminded us of her. A family anecdote has me, meeting her when I was wee, noting her pronunciation of “book”: “Oh, auntie, I could have sworn you just said ‘b-euw-k'”
She like frogs. On the day she died, this hopped into our lean-to at home: