Fire and snow

We burned him on the first Saturday of the new year, while snowflakes fat as goose eggs twisted from the air. In the distance, white hills faded into white sky, their limits only showing by the lines of black trees poking fingers into the clouds’ bellies to deliver more snow from their pregnant heaving.

It was cold, and bleak, and beautiful. A backdrop of stark otherness that took our loss and framed it in the universe’s great unknown.

Joe, who’s three, danced through the hymns and crunched Smarties through the prayers and counterpointed the agony of death with the pulsing, pristine joy of life.

James, the bereft son, spoke in a strangled whisper of all he’d learned and loved, and what he understood of being a man, and of courage, because of his father. His father the foodie, his father the fisherman, his father the fireman.

I always found it strange that a fireman wanted to be burned when he died. My father, the deceased’s brother, and also a fireman, he wants to be burned, too. Not me. It’s the worms for me and a long slow sleep in the earth, my bones its bones. Maybe the snow will blanket me too one day, and drop as soft as down on my little scoop of earth.

This snow had come the day before the funeral to blanket us in white and in silence, to honour the dead with stillness and monochrome.

People came from everywhere. From England and Scotland, from North America, and from Libya, where he’d worked in the oil fields for years. More people than I expect will come to my funeral. And that’s how it should be, for he was a great man who made great friends, and who took friends and made them great.

Sleep well, old man, and tell jokes to whoever’s there to listen. I’ll see you again.

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