Monday, 2 February 2009

An early memory.

One of my earliest and happiest memories was of my great grandfather's funeral. I remember my older relatives talking about me as if I wasn't there: "He is not old enough to understand." The irony is that the same relatives would make daft statements like, "He looks as if he is at peace now."

My greatgrandfather had a big family. He had twelve children and I was three generations removed, so you can imagine! I used to visit him once a week. While I can no longer remember what he looks like, I do remember some small details. He used to have these big bottles of lucozade that were made of glass. They came wrapped in crinkly paper from the chemist. He would pour me a small glass and I felt that a special honour was being bestowed upon me.

That day is significant because of the happiness that I felt. I remember running about with other older children that I will never meet again. My maternal grandfather, who was related to my greatgrandfather by marriage, kept sending us off to the shops with money when something significant was happening. I was never so spoilt in my life.

People, of course, find death very difficult to deal with. What makes matters worse is that people are expected to behave and feel in a certain way. There is also the awkwardness of how to explain to young children what has happened. This was my first funeral and the one that has made the biggest impression. While I probably was too young to feel great sorrow, I was still able to feel delighted that I was related to and loved my such a significant man. There is a lesson here: sorrow is secondary. Happiness is our most natural inclination.

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