There are so many decisions to make when someone has died. You have to tell everyone you could ever possible think to remember that would need to know. You have to arrange the funeral thinking about music –Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody or Peter Gabriel’s Solisbury Hill? One is him and one is us but which one should you chose? I remember deciding on the day, this will be etched in my memory for so many weeks and months; Wednesday. As each subsequent Wednesday that came and went I would count the weeks since his funeral; ‘This Wednesday makes 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 5 months…’
I had to decide what coffin to choose. I mean really have you ever sat down and thought about what coffin you would like? As neither Michael and I were really ‘let’s talk about our funerals’ type people I never had the reason to know about such things. In fact, I was just pleased (smug) that we had wills after all that’s the really important thing isn’t it? That’s the protection for your family sorted out what everyone says you need but actually when you’re sat in an overly hot room with someone who is being very sympathetic and you’re having to choose a coffin this is the thing you wished you’d discussed. Why? Because this is the last thing you actually want to think about. Quite honestly I really couldn’t care what coffin Michael’s buried in. Putting him in a mahogany coffin with brass handles or an ‘eco’ cardboard one doesn’t matter. He’s not going to know and wouldn’t have cared either. Choosing a coffin is a realisation that he died and I’m not ready to accept that yet. I’m living from moment to moment; I’m not thinking about tomorrow or paying the bills or anything that’s not related to the here and now. He’s gone and that’s all I can think of.
So I settle on an oak one. I could say that it’s because it made me giggle when she said ‘Oak’ as our bed is a running joke between us. We thought we’d bought a cherry wood double bed and, in fact, an oak, king-sized bed turned up and filled our bedroom in our tiny flat but really it was just so I can get out of there and leave the room to breathe fresh cold air. The kind lady showed me to the door with a parting comment of ‘remember to let us have what you would like him to wear…’ And with that I collapse against the brick wall with the cars driving past on the busy road and just want to die myself.
Still, there was humour in those first few days. Yes it was black but there was humour even in the darkest of times. I went home from the undertakers thinking about what I should have Michael dressed in. He loved James Bond so maybe black suit and tie? He was a bit of a scruff bag when he was at home which always slightly irritated me as when he made an effort he looked handsome but over the years I grew to love the scruffy side of him and we often joked about the time we went to buy my engagement ring as he looked a sight and the lady behind the counter hesitated a little before serving us. That sort of thing made us laugh and during those first few days after he died it still made me laugh. Weirdly I found the t-shirt he wore and I think my sister found me on the floor our bedroom crying furiously into it as I could still smell him. No, I decided, I’m keeping the t-shirt.
What I would have really liked to have put him in was a made to measure suit. This was the thing that he was always talking about getting made for himself but the one thing he never did so maybe this is the right time to have it made. Some would say ‘what a waste!’ but this was the last thing I could do for him, the last dream of his I can ever make come true so I did it. I phoned a tailor, explained the situation (through sobs, the chap was wonderfully patient) and, miraculously, he managed it. A tweed suit –Michael was never into country pursuits he just loved the tailoring – with a waistcoat backed in green silk was made and I bought him a brand new (he would have hated wearing them in) pair of Church’s shoes. I dropped them off at the undertakers feeling I had done something good, something special and something I couldn’t ever do again.
I was exhausted in the first few days. I felt so alone yet the house had never been so full of people. They cooked, cleaned, did the washing and played with the boys. There were cards and flowers in vases in the kitchen but as you got further into the house there were jars and milk bottles with randomly stuffed bunches of flowers which again made me smile as I’m more of a jug and jar person than cut glass vase. I had in our bedroom a small, green, jug with a single lily in it and was waiting for the beautiful scent to fill the room. Michael knew I liked lilies so I took one from a beautiful bouquet on the stairs and put it on the windowsill.
The one thing I agonised over was his wedding ring. Should it be buried with him or should I keep it? I had been given it by the hospital in a clear plastic bag full of his things he was wearing on the day he died so I had it on the wooden child’s chair that I used as a bedside cabinet – again it’s the weirdest things you think about isn’t it, why had we never bought a proper one?? Now’s not really the time to think about things like that I know. I woke up to it gleaming at me every day as it rested on its side on the chair. I chose to keep it and put it on a chain around my neck. I forgot about it and fell asleep with it on and woke up with an angry red circle pressed on my chest which after I’d rubbed it I laughed. My wedding ring fitted perfectly inside his ring and we always joked about what a wheel nut his was!
I’d made it to Wednesday, the day of his funeral but I wasn’t sure I’d actually make it through the day…