Saturday, August 16, 2014


Funerals are strange things. I went to my father's funeral with sadness and anxiety and came out feeling uplifted and at peace. 

My sister Yvonne asked if I would put together some words for the eulogy, and perhaps a photo display of my dad. I wrote most of the eulogy before I left for England, and I put together a video of the photos I had of my dad and our family. I had also made the memorial card for people who joined us at Colchester Crematorium. When I told my brother that I was including memories of the grandchildren, he seemed upset saying he only wanted it to be about Dad. But I explained it was about Dad, because they were his grandchildren.

A few days earlier my sisters and I sat down with the vicar Peter, the same one who did the funeral for our mother 10 years ago.  He asked us questions and I gave him the eulogy which he read aloud to the 3 of us. I had made one or two changes, as new information became available.  He seemed happy with it, even stopping occasionally to maintain his composure. Then he asked if anyone was going to be speaking at the service. My sister Lorna wanted to read a poem, so he asked her to read it. She got very emotional and in the end she was unable to finish it. Peter said he would read it if she was unable, to which Lorna responded gratefully that she would like that. Then I said that I would  read some excerpts from a love letter I wrote in 1997. He looked it over and smiled.

A day or so before the funeral, my nephew James had asked if he could carry the coffin into the crematorium, to which Thomas said he would also like to do the same. I made a point of letting everyone know that I did NOT want to walk the hurst out of the neighbourhood like we did my mother. That was just too painful to do, and just felt wrong.

So the morning of the funeral, the family gathered at my dad's house and we each got into the cars after looking at the beautiful flowers that Yvonne had ordered for us. As we drove the short distance to the crematorium, I was beginning to get anxious about reading my letter, and I shed a few tears, knowing this was the last farewell for our dad.

We got out of the cars, and James, Thomas, my brothers in law Kevin and David all carried the coffin into the service. We followed and Lorna could not hold her composure any longer. The music that was chosen for the service seemed a little strange to me, Strangers in the Night, Brown Eyes Blue, another that I forget, and a hymn, Abide with Me.  But the Vicar read the eulogy and I felt proud that I was able to capture my dad in a those words. 
These roses were on top of the coffin, and were given out to those in attendance
Then he read the poem that Lorna had requested. It really did sum up our feelings, and I will add it here when she sends it to me. I read my letter but stumbled once, so Lorna came up with me for support. Then Lorna had chosen Dance with my Father for the last piece of music, and people started to leave the chapel.  I stood at the door hugging all the people who came, some I had never met, but most I had. We looked at the flowers and chatted a little to our guests and then went into the cars and returned home where we had a lovely catered lunch with our friends and family.
Flowers from my brother David and his family. My dad loved to fish, especially with his son
I felt at peace. I'm not sure why, but it was a good feeling. I know not all of my family felt that way, but for me it was wonderful. Also, my brother told me later that he loved the eulogy, and realised that it was all about our dad.

Here is the eulogy if you care to read it. It is long!

Phil, or Chick as he’s known to many, was born on February 3rd, 1927, lived in Hatton in Warwickshire, with his parents Alfred and Della Hicken. He was brother to Mary and Audrey.

For his antics in school he learned how to knit and sew, when he was put in those classes with the girls as punishment!

He joined the army and served England for many years. While in the army he studied and completed his trade to become a mechanic.  He worked in various firms in Colchester and retired in 1997.

During his service, while in Colchester he met Eileen and their first date was at a cafe for tea. After a romantic courtship Phil proposed to Eileen. He sold his motorbike to buy an engagement ring for the woman he loved.
They were married at St. Botolph’s Church on March 7, 1953. He was still in the army when David and Mary were born. Later Lorna and Yvonne arrived, much to his delight.

Phil was an uncle to Ann in Australia, Della in New Zealand, Kathy in Ireland and Johan in South Africa. His closest nieces and nephew were Marilyn and Felicity and Glenn, here in Colchester.

Phil embraced all the things his late wife suggested: students from all over the globe, travel to many parts of the world, the many family walks in Friday woods, the dog Fluffy Lorna brought back from London, the dreaded slideshows. One of his favourite quotes was, “When I was in the army...” followed by groans from the listener.

Phil’s friends were many, but most of whom have also passed on. One friend in particular, a Superman in fact, who meant a lot to him was Trevor and his wife Lynne. They lived next door and could be counted on in times of need. Shortly after Eileen’s death, Trevor spoke to a friend who later showed up at Phil’s door with a gift that changed his life, Lucy. Lucy was the Sprocker Spaniel who was his constant loving companion.

Phil, Grandpa to his grandchildren, loved them and their visits.
On one occasion Jenna invited him to watch a show she was putting on in Southend. After the show Grandpa was gushing about how talented she was with her singing and dancing. She has since changed her focus and although he wasn't there earlier this week for her commencement, he was always proud of her.

Chris will miss him a lot. He produced him his latest great grandchild, Koby.

Thomas takes after his grandpa with the love of photography, now making it his career.  There were always admiring comments when Phil saw Thomas’s work.

James was probably the closest grandchild to him. He spent some time living with him and taking care of his every need.  Phil often talked of the trips to the barber for a haircut and shave that James took him for.

Sophie always took Talia to visit her great grandpa. The three of them sometimes went out for a meal and talked often of grandma.  There was a special bond between them.

Vanessa would go by on occasion to visit and cut her Grandpa’s hair. He loved those visits learning more about his other great grandchild, Lucas.

When Megan popped round her grandpa’s, she really missed her grandma but would take Lucy out for a walk.

Jack took his grandpa to the Clacton Air Show, and they shared their interest in the aeroplanes. He has fond memories of Grandpa tinkering in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

Phil’s hobbies always included gadgets. He once made Mary a transistor radio. He loved fixing his friend’s cars. He loved photography and developing black and white photos. He loved fishing with his son David. He loved making and fixing things around the house. He also loved watching sports on TV, from football to darts to snooker.  Did you know he was a DJ for a while?  He also loved animals, the dogs from his childhood, always named Molly. Two dogs more recently, Fluffy and Lucy. The bird Fred, the hamster Tiddles, the rabbit Pebbles. Also Lorna’s dogs Rocky and Buddy and David’s dog Dexter.

The last few years of Phil’s life, his children did all they could to make him comfortable and happy. Lorna, Yvonne and David all visited regularly making meals, going shopping, trips to the pub and local fishing hole. Mary being overseas, made phone calls as often as possible and occasional trips home to spend a couple of weeks catching up.

Phil had a good and long life, especially this last year, due to the care he received from Sally and Janet from Nayland Care. He will be missed. 

However we can take comfort in knowing he has been reunited with his first and most important love, his wife Eileen.

1 comment:

Beatriz said...