Bob's funeral was held at the end of last week, over two weeks after his death. Was this to fit in with the diaries of the Famous Relatives, we wondered? The funeral was announced in the local paper, and there was a feature article about Bob, too. I've only known him for seven years, and I had no idea quite how well-known he'd been, locally, before his health problems restricted his lifestyle. He'd worked as a paramedic for 20 years, then he ran one of the town's off-licences for another 15 years, and he had been a keen cricketer and footballer, playing for several local teams.
My Paramour couldn't make it to the funeral because of work commitments, so I went alone. As I left the house, I saw a dozen smartly-dressed people in huddles on the pavement outside Bob and Pam's house next door, and a paramedic's car. Judging from the hushed and urgent discussions, it wasn't a former colleague paying their respects. What now, I wondered? I hoped Pam was okay. But I didn't want to stare (well, I did, I really did want to stare, but I didn't think it was a good idea) so I crossed the road and walked down to the parish church.
It's a big church, nice, Victorian Gothic. I've only been in once before, for another funeral. There were around 100 people already seated when I got there. The organist was playing Beethoven's Pathetique. I could see a number of people I knew by sight, but nobody I knew well enough to sit with, so I chose an aisle seat with a good view.
I arrived at 11.50 and the service was due to start at 12. I'd switched off my mobile phone, so I had no way to tell the time, but the wait seemed longer than that. People around me were checking their watches and muttering. I wondered what they would do if Pam, or someone in her house, had been taken ill. Then we heard the vicar's voice and there was a palpable sense of relief as everyone stood while the procession entered. I looked for Pam but wasn't sure whether she was there or not, as several of the women were wearing big black hats.
The vicar had a small microphone attached to his head, which would have been almost imperceptible except that it wasn't a very good one and crackled every time he uttered a plosive, which is really bad news when you're sending off someone called Bob. He did a good service, though, with a nice tribute to Bob, interspersed with readings from Bob's daughter and eldest grandson. I was relieved when he spoke directly to Pam in the front row. One of the Famous Relatives did a reading on behalf of his sister Pam; I wouldn't have recognised him if he hadn't told us he was her brother. Afterwards, the family went off to the crematorium for the committal, and the rest of us dispersed; I picked up my dry-cleaning, bought a card for a friend, met another friend in the High Street and had a quick chat, went home, changed, had lunch, and went back to work.
My Paramour bumped into Bob's son Simon in the pub the next evening. The paramedic had been for Pam's father, who had collapsed shortly before the funeral, but was apparently making a good recovery in hospital.
We haven't heard from Pam. She left a message on the answerphone a couple of days after Bob died, thanking us for the flowers and the card and saying she didn't feel like talking to people. I doubt she will make contact, and I don't think we can go knocking on her door. We'll send her a card at Christmas, as we have always done. I wish we could do more, but we've made it clear that we're willing to offer help and support; we can't force her to accept it. I do feel for her, though; it must be terrible to go to your husband's funeral while worrying about your father who is heading for hospital in an ambulance. The saddest part, for me, was watching Pam walk out of the church behind Bob's coffin, on the arm of the funeral director. How awful to follow your husband's coffin with no friend or family member to hold your hand.