I made my way directly to Thanet the day before the funeral. I parked where I had previously. Later, I walked round to see Lesley, the wonderful woman who had been looking after Greta. She lives on opposite side of the road from Greta. I had been instructed to take anything that I wanted from the now empty home. I didn’t feel comfortable doing so, but took a couple of momentoes and what I could from the food cupboards. I also had a shower.
The day of the funeral went well. The weather stayed dry, despite the threatening cloud-cover. It was a quiet and painless affair. Greta was an amazing and incredibly strong woman. She died just a couple of weeks or so after her 88th. birthday. She had been like a second mum to me ever since she had come into my life some 55+ years ago. She was the mother of my best friend at infant school. Her home in London where we had grown up had become a meeting place for a few of the children in the area. Greta was an only-child. She lost her dad at a young age and didn’t get on well with her mum. She then lost her husband, Dave, at a young age. Then, first, her eldest son, Chris, died after contracting HIV AIDS, then her youngest son and my childhood friend, Nick, in a freak accident. Later, she looked after her mum for many years. Her mum lived to 100! For at least 20 of those years, she had Alzheimer’s! Just three of those children continued to remain in contact and so were present at the funeral. Sisters Janet and Carol, and I. Carol’s husband, Kevin, and Lesley made up the cortège. A couple of neighbours also attended.
Greta had long since arranged everything. A hearse and car met us at Greta’s home. We were then chauffeured to something called the Riverview Natural Burial Ground near a village called Newington, which itself is near Sittingbourne. Pallbearers carried the cardboard coffin and placed it in the ground. We were then left to our own thoughts and prayers. There was no religious nonsense. Apparently, the grave was dug out by hand. A Hazel was then planted over the grave once it was backfilled.
Back on Thanet, we had a meal at a local pub called the Canterbury Bell, one of those modern purpose-built gastro-pubs. It was alright. The food was good and the service friendly.
Not really knowing what to do with myself, I ended up staying put for a few more days.
*photo courtesy of kentfuerals.co.uk