As read out at his funeral 30/07/18
It’s Wednesday 25th July as I’m writing this, four days before the funeral, seventeen days after you died, one day after Helen, Robert and I went to see your body at the funeral parlour.
I’m sitting in your house: the house you and Mum shared for twelve happy years, and then, latterly, where you lived out your last days.
I’m in the chair where I usually sat: the one by the fireplace, near the shelves with all your pictures on it. The room is full of pictures, most of them of your family.
Just glancing around I can see Beatrix, Marley, Jake, Danni, Kirian, Sam, Isaac, Carissa, Joe and Bella: all your grandchildren and great grandchildren. It’s a testament to the future and to the hope you nurtured for the generations to come.
The house is quiet now, at peace, though I can still sense your presence everywhere. It’s there in the chair where you sat, where you ate your meals and watched TV. It’s in the remote controls lined up on the coffee table: too many remote controls for too many devices, which caused so much confusion in the end. It’s in the TV and video player, in the BT box and sound bar, in the wireless hub, all quiet now, a nest of wires in the corner, switched off at the mains.
Seeing your body was very strange. You didn’t look like you. Your nose was too thin and your eyes were too sunken, and the expression on your face was too solemn, too fixed, too grave. I never saw you with such a look in the whole of my life.
Robert and Helen both cried when they saw you, but I was being all brave as the older brother, giving Robert a hug, and Helen the space she needed; but when I was alone with you, I spoke your name, and it was then that all the suppressed grief from the last three weeks came welling up, like a wave of anguish and loss.
Dad, I knew you were going to die. I knew it from April or May, or even earlier, when it was obvious that you’d lost all heart, all enthusiasm for life, and there was hardly anything any of us could do to coax you out of that chair and out of the door. I’d make arrangements over the phone, but then, when it came to carry them out, you were too tired, or your legs hurt too much, or you just didn’t feel like it any more. Yes there were a few good times left, but they were becoming rarer and rarer and I knew that eventually they would stop altogether and that you would never get out of that chair again.
Your personality changed towards the end too. There was something distant in you which gleamed out of your eyes when I found you still in bed at three in the afternoon: something vulnerable and appealing, like a child, as if you had reverted back to your younger self, when you were a little boy and there was only Sam and Alice and Leon in your world. I know you spent many hours in bed remembering the past. The past had become more real to you than the present. Memories of your childhood in Birmingham, of the synagogue you used to go to on a Saturday, and the Church on a Sunday, being the child of a mixed marriage. Of the war. Of your evacuation to Wales and the Methodist family you stayed with there. Of your life in the Navy. Of your many trips abroad, to the Far East and beyond. Of getting blind drunk with your brother on shore leave. Of your exploits in the Korean War, being shot at by hostile forces. Of when you first met Mary at a dance in the Swan in Yardley. Of your courtship and marriage. Of Arthur and Edie, and your brothers and sister in law, David, Enid and Robert. Of your entire extended family.
So many memories. So many good times. So much love. It’s like you were born into an ocean of love, so vast and all-encompassing it was easy to forget it was there.
Now the house is busy again. Julia and Peter have just turned up with Jake and Kirian. Everyone is over for the funeral, so I’ve asked Julia to add some words to this.
She says she remembers you as a hard-working family man who always had two jobs so you could take us on holiday. She has fond memories of helping you to decorate, scraping wallpaper off the walls – that was always our job – and how you loved to take us out for meals, enjoying it most when the family was all together. She says that, unfortunately, living so far away, she didn’t see you as much as she would have liked, but that she always enjoyed your visits to Tenerife. She says your grandchildren and great grandchildren will miss you. Sadly you never got to see your new great granddaughter, Kali, born just before you died, but then she adds, philosophically, “It’s one in, one out I suppose.”
So that’s it, Dad, you’re gone, where to no one knows.
Me, I think there’s more to life than what the theologians of materialism preach, and while our individual existence might come to an end, life itself goes on. So I like to imagine that you are still here, on some level, still with us, entangled up in our memories, evoked for us every time we speak your name.
I called you Dad most of my life, but you were Eddy to all your friends, and as I got older, and you got younger, so you became Eddy to me too. Steady Eddy as Julia always called you.
So it’s to you Eddy, Eddy Stone, I speak: I hope even now you are floating in that ocean of love from which you were born, and to which we all must return.
The next thing I’m going to read are Eddy’s own words, dictated to me about two years ago, before he had his pacemaker fitted, when his heart was slowing down and he thought he was going to die:
“To all of you who’ve come to see me off, I want to say a big, big thank you for putting up with me for what have been some years. I’ve had a good life, I’ve made some good friends and I’ve been lucky in many ways. My time in the Navy taught me to to grow up and become a man and it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten. You’ve all been so good to me and so helpful over the years, especially after my wife died. To my neighbours Roy and Marilyn, Terry and Janet, Dave and Sylvia: all of you helped me in various ways over the period of time when I moved down with Mary. A big thank you to all of you. Moving down to Whitstable was the best thing we ever did and made all the better by meeting such nice people as you. To all my friends in the Labour Club I’d like to say thank you for your friendship, your time, and especially the Pusser’s Rum! I have had some very good nights down there. Thank you to Hutch for doing my garden, and to Carol for looking after me. With a bit of luck I might meet Mary again. I’m not sure, but nobody else is, but I hope that I will. And now, goodbye and thank you all again. End of story. Eddy.”
Reading from Helen Stone
To Those I Love by Isla Paschall Richardson
If I should ever leave you whom I love
To go along the silent way,
Nor speak of me with tears,
But laugh and talk of me as if I were beside you there.
(I’d come – I’d come, could I but find a way!
But would not tears and grief be barriers?)
And when you hear a song
Or see a bird I loved,
Please do not let the thought of me be sad
For I am loving you just as I always have
You were so good to me!
There are so many things I wanted still to do
So many things to say to you
Remember that I did not fear
It was just leaving you that was so hard to face
We cannot see beyond
But this I know;
I love you so
‘twas heaven here with you!
Reading from Robert Stone
Just A Common Sailor
Adapted from a poem by A. Lawrence Vaincourt
He was getting old and paunchy, and his hair was falling fast,
He sat around the table telling stories of the past,
Of a war that he had fought in, and the deeds that he had done,
Of his exploits with his Mates, they were heroes every one.
And tho’ sometimes to his children his tales became a joke,
His wife she listened carefully, for she knew of what he spoke.
But we will hear those tales no longer for He has passed away,
And the worlds a little poorer for a sailor died today,
He’ll not be mourned by many, perhaps by his children and the family of his wife,
For he lived a quiet , ordinary, uneventful life.
Who worked to raise his family, till to old to earn his pay,
No the world won’t know his passing, tho’ a sailor died today.
Finally, a special thanks to Rabbi Cliff Cohen of the Thanet & District Reform Synagogue for the closing prayers.
El malei rachamim
God full of compassion
whose presence is over us, grant
perfect rest beneath the shelter
of Your presence with the holy
and pure on high who shine
as the lights of heaven, to
Eddy Stone who has gone to
his everlasting home. Source of
mercy, cover him in the shelter
of Your wings forever, and bind
his soul into the gathering
of life. It is God who is his
heritage. May he be at peace in
his place of rest. Amen.
Let us magnify
and let us sanctify in this world
the great name of God
whose will created it.
May God’s reign come in your
lifetime, and in your days,
and in the lifetime of the family of
Israel – quickly and speedily
may it come.
May the greatness of God’s being
be blessed from eternity to eternity.
Let us bless and let us extol,
let us tell aloud and let us raise aloft,
let us set on high and let us honour,
let us exalt and
let us praise the Holy One,
whose name is blessed,
who is far beyond any blessing or song,
or any consolation
that can be spoken of in this world.
May great peace from heaven and
the gift of life be granted to us
and to all the family of Israel.
May the Maker of peace
in the highest bring this peace
upon us and upon all Israel
and upon all the world.