Final thoughts as my dad joins the ancestors

order of service pic
Eddy as a young man.

I wish there was something else I could write about, but there’s not. My dad, Eddy Stone, passed away just over a month ago.

His death was sudden but not unexpected. His grip on life was becoming more tenuous by the hour. I knew as early as May that he wouldn’t last the year. Even so, when I got the news, it came as a complete shock.

It was my sister who told me. She said, something honest and simple, like, “he’s dead.”

“It’s for the best,” I said, in my most reasonable voice. But grief is entirely without reason. The next thing I knew there was a great animal wail erupting from my chest and I was in floods of tears.

So that’s it. I haven’t had time to get involved with anything else. I haven’t had time for research. I haven’t read any newspapers. I’ve hardly watched the news. I’ve been fully engaged with the process of dealing with my father’s death, both practically and emotionally.

I wonder if they do this on purpose: make sure there are lots of things to do when a loved-one dies, in order to keep your mind off the grim reality?

There are some bits that I don’t understand. For instance, why does everyone act in a such a solemn manner when you tell them your father has died? It’s not their father. Sure, you don’t want them skipping down the road and doing bad Morecambe and Wise impressions, but neither do you want them acting as if they’ve suffered a bereavement themselves. Simple empathy will do.

Also, why do the undertakers wear top hats, and why do they stop the hearse at the bottom of the road and walk up? It all seems a little unnecessarily showy to me, and it doesn’t diminish by one iota the extent of your grief.

The whole death industry is based upon a model that is literally centuries out of date, being grounded in the Victorian era rather than the 21st Century.

The registrar – who doubles as the head librarian apparently – was much more appropriate in his response. He was very precise, both in his demeanour, and in the way he dealt with the issue. There was no false solemnity there. He got on with the business, making it as clear and concise as possible.

The funeral service was arranged by the family with the help of a celebrant, Tara Snedden.

There was one thing we did that we are all proud of. We arranged for Rabbi Cliff Cohen, of the Thanet and District Reform Synagogue, to say a Hebrew prayer.

My dad had a Jewish father, and a Christian mother, which makes him not Jewish, officially; but he went to synagogue on a Saturday for the first nine years of his life, and he was proud of his Jewish heritage.

Having a Rabbi recite the Kaddish as our Dad’s body was committed to the flames was the most important symbolic moment in the ritual. It was the still point around which the events of his whole life turned. It connected Dad to his ancestors through a prayer that goes back to Biblical times.

None of us knows what happens after death. The body is real, and the body dies, but if you’ve ever seen a corpse you’ll know that the body isn’t the person. Whatever it was that animated my Dad, it has long since departed.

But I like to imagine that he hung around long enough to witness the funeral, and that his final thoughts were:

“They did me proud!”


We Are Wiser Than the Angels: In Memory of Mary Stone 16/11/1930 – 20/04/2013

CJ Stone’s Columns: The Home Front

From The Whitstable Gazette 09/08/18

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