Yesterday we drove up from Cornwall to the Midlands to attend Dave’s cousins funeral today.
I meant to be at the Dream Plan Do Accountability Group meeting at Chacewater near Truro but I was so full of aches and pains that I cancelled, I was really worried about over doing the driving and then not being able to drive up to the Midlands in the afternoon. I’ve not been sleeping very well either so I was cream crackered.
None the less come 2pm the car was packed and we were all ready for the drive north. Weather warnings were being heralded all over the place and I was anticipating lots of snow as we headed up the A30 and M5 and was not looking forward to a very long drive.
I started the drive and went up Tanhouse Road into Sweetshouse and then past Lanhydrock to the A30 junction and headed East. There were clear skies and a smattering of snow on the verges as we approached Bodmin Moor. It was clear and crisp and an easy drive up and over the swooping hills right up to Jamaica Inn… as we climbed higher the Tors were to our left, both free from snow but in the distance was the higher peaks of Dartmoor and it was like looking at distant snow capped mountains.
We crossed into Devon and there were clouds rushing across the horizon literally dumping snow as they passed over the hills, There were areas in sun and then a patch where the snow was falling heavily… we went through a small shower, more sleet than snow and then it was sun shine as soon as we passed the moors. I drove up to Exeter and then onto the M5 – Dave at some point must have fallen asleep as he thought we were still heading to Exeter when we approached Tiverton. We stopped for a bite to eat and coffee out of the flask at Taunton Deane then I drove on until we got past Bristol at Michael Woods. As soon as I sat in the passenger seat I fell asleep and it was the M42 junction when I woke.
We arrived at the hotel in Kingsbury at 6.30pm and there was no snow anywhere! But it was chilly, so we decided to eat in the restaurant. Unfortunately the bed in our room was awful and I ended up sitting on the chair hugging the heater playing on my phone and reading my book until 5am when I finally fell asleep. I ached everywhere when I woke up, but we couldn’t have a lazy morning as we needed to be all suited and booted for the funeral.
It’s been a long time coming and has been especially hard for Dave. So it was with relief that we could finally get to say goodbye to Michael. We woke to a beautiful clear blue sky and a heavy frost that made everywhere magical. We had breakfast and left our hotel, we had plenty of time so we went to M&S in Tamworth to kill some of it. It was hard, Dave was restless and I could have fallen asleep in the cafe at the drop of a hat! But soon it was gone 11am so we decided to drive away from Tamworth and see if we could book into the next hotel before going to the funeral. The guys at Holiday Inn were lovely and allocated us an unoccupied room on the ground floor, which has a sofa bed too… so if the bed proves to be too small for both of us I can move to the sofa bed and sleep! Yay!
At 12.30 we left and drove the few miles to Streetley, to Michael’s home. There was a lot of family and friends there already and it was an agonising wait for the funeral cars to arrive. There were flowers on the front lawn with heartfelt messages from many people. Inside the house was packed. Bruce was on the sofa being the best dog ever, his eyes scanning the room wondering what was going on, according to Michaels wife Denise he keeps going to the door looking for his best human friend. Eventually the cars arrived and the flowers were placed with others in the hearse. Dave was with the family as he was a pall bearer so I drove on to the Crematorium. As I turned the corner and drove up the drive way there were cars parked all along the road and as I drove around the building I saw the biggest crowd of people I’d ever seen at a funeral before, all waiting in the freezing cold to see Michael arrive.
I found Dave’s family; Gemma, Rob, Rachel and Lewis, plus Sheila all together and waited with them. Not long and the cars arrived and we waited quietly as the guys, including Michael’s two sons, got ready to carry the coffin into the building. To see Dave and the others humbly be part of this ceremony was very moving. Inside it was standing room only, people lined the two aisles and the back wanting to celebrate Michaels life. I looked around and there were people everywhere. The service started and before the vicar spoke Paul, the elder son, stood to say a few words on behalf of the family… it was beautiful, funny, touching and a powerful tribute to an amazing man.
Soon it was over and we filed out of the main room, red roses being laid on the coffin as we left. A final goodbye. Outside the temperature was dropping so Dave and I drove the very short distance to the wake literally over the road at the Rugby club.
The big social rooms were full of paintings by Michael adding much-needed colour to a cold sad day. There was a video streaming with Michael on holiday; at work; playing with a very young Paul and with Bruce the much-loved pug. Along the wall were boards of photos documenting Michael’s life… there were photos right from being a baby in 1957, to his marriage 40 years ago and all through his life. There was one of the wedding that had a very gangling youth at the back which was my Dave next to his dad of which he is the spitting image of now. The room was packed, long-lost cousins, neighbours, friends and family all gathered to remember the funny mischievous man who was Michael.
My favourite part was the giant coffee cups that Paul had done for photos to be taken in front of a blown up picture of Michael supping from his favourite giant cup at Costa…. there was a lot to celebrate today.
Michael, you were an amazing man, your funeral is testament to how loved you were and still are by so many. You were funny, naughty, generous and loyal – oh to have bottled that, we would all be richer for a drop of your love of life in our own lives. Thanks mate.