One reason I did not get round to much blogging the past week is that I had a funeral to attend on Friday – a cousin of my dad’s, who was rather like a brother to him (and thus also like an uncle to me and my brother).
Dad had no siblings of his own; Sten did, but he was the oldest, and dad and he were the same age, only four months apart. And when just one year later, Sten had a baby brother, and then another, and then a sister… it all got a bit of a handful for his parents occasionally; and then sometimes big brother got to stay with his aunt and uncle and cousin for a while. The families did not live all that far apart and I also think dad and he went to school together. Anyway, they kept in touch throughout life. The last time I met him face to face would be at dad’s funeral back in 2011. But we also spoke on the phone occasionally after that.
So I was sad to learn from his sister that he had passed away (at age 84); but I also felt honoured to be asked to the funeral, as (in accordance with his own wishes) it was to be a ceremony for family only. So there were only a dozen people present: his partner, siblings with partners, and some nieces and nephews (me included). He had no children of his own.
The ceremony was non-religious in character and held in a small chapel in the same village churchyard where my own parents are also buried (and where we have quite a few older family graves as well). The coffin was beautifully decorated in a nature theme, with spring flowers + a little hand carved canoe (he used to love canoeing). A niece who is a professional pianist provided the music and a couple of the others also contributed with singing and readings. It was beautiful sunny day with a clear blue sky, a hint of promise of spring in the air, and birds singing so loud that we even heard the birdsong inside the chapel!
After the ceremony in the chapel, we went back into town for lunch, in a lovely old building which is often used for such occasions as weddings, funerals and the like.
At the luncheon I was talking (mostly) to my (sort-of) ‘aunt’, and two of the nieces (second cousins to me). We did a bit of math and worked out that I am 18 years younger than the former, and 18 years older than the younger of the latter. It struck me – not for the first time – that I’ve always been in a somewhat odd position in my family context, that way. My parents were both firstborn, and got married rather early. The first 6 years of my life, not only was I an only child to my parents, and the first grandchild to both sets of grandparents - but also ‘the one and only’ child within the whole extended family circle. Some years later, however, there were suddenly lots of littler ones! and the whole world no longer revolved around Me…
My impression is that my ‘uncle’ Sten whose memory we were celebrating on this day was quite good at keeping up with the whereabouts and doings of all his nieces and nephews though.
We weren’t in the habit of exchanging gifts for birthdays or Christmas. But I have one book I think I got from him when I was about 10 years old: Robinson Crusoe. (There’s no written dedication to prove it but I’m pretty sure.) As his love of nature as well as of literature was mentioned a lot now, perhaps rather a fitting keepsake!
Rest in peace.