November Memories

  • Judy Dixey

John Neville Dixey

John Neville Dixey

November is very much a month of memories. The year is winding its way to its darkest days and the jollifications of Christmas are not yet in sight. So this is the time when in Catholic tradition, we remember our deceased loved ones - and of course we will be marking the awful loss of life in wars of the past hundred years or so when we come to Armistice/Remembrance Day.

This year was the thirtieth anniversary of my father's death - 31st October, so not quite into November. Our family remembers it well as it was sudden and unexpected. He was only 68, a heart attack which resulted in his death 72 hours later, so we did have the chance to say our goodbyes. The immediate aftermath, the seven days before the funeral, were marked by tears (of course), but laughter, and practicalities. Since then, we always phone each other up on 31st, reminding ourselves of particular incidents:

My sister driving round a double roundabout the wrong way in a panic of confusion, as we tried to find a shop with food open late at night to sustain us as we waited around the bedside (nothing available in the hospital).

The bewilderment of the young registrar at the grieving family immediately asking about organ donation (they were only able to take Dad's eyes, as his major organs had failed; we got home and discovered he'd been donating to an eye charity in India for years).

After a sleepless night, visiting the Funeral Director; as we waited, we could hear sawing and then a loud knock. My mother's comment "that's another nail in the coffin" had us - exhausted and stressed - collapsing in hysteria to yet more bewilderment from the Uriah Heap of a Funeral Director.

My teenage niece spending so long in the bathroom that at 11am I had to entertain the priest in my dressing-gown; I apologised for my appearance, and also asked if he'd heard of our bad behaviour at the Funeral Director's? He hadn't, but said they were unlikely to be fazed by it because of their own black humour.

We worked on the funeral service together as a family; my youngest niece asked if the children could read, as they read at church at home. They then wrote and read their own prayers - not a dry eye in the house.

Last Thursday, 30 years on from that time, she said to me that our practical reaction to the sudden death of our father is one of the important aspects she remembers and how as a result they as children didn't feel afraid.

Could it be that our faith means we really do think that death is not the end?

Judy Dixey is a blogger and contributor to ICN. Visit her blog here:

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