02 May 2023


It is strange how, when people die, they exist in a part of my mind where they would have loved this or where they are smiling or where they are one with something or someone or the very earth itself. 

Devin Gael Kelly

My sister asked if we, R and myself that is, want to join them later this summer for a week or two on a Danish island. They are renting a house big enough for six people right by the Baltic Sea. I admit that I am tempted but while I check the website with the oxblood red wooden house, the white gable trim, the patio furniture on the deck facing west, I can hear myself asking her, possibly on day 2, why after we, three siblings, had deliberated and decided in a string of phone calls on wording and design and procedure, she then had the agreed address for condolences from the death notice deleted just before publication and why she decided to cancel the additional publication in the daily paper of our father's birthplace (first answers: that way we don't have to bother sending replies and why waste money when there's only a handful of old distant cousins living there, probably with dementia). So, an isolated island paradise is probably not the place we should be together. We all grief in our different ways. 


On the day of the funeral, it rained heavily and there was agreement that he would have loved it, maybe even made it happen (joke), how he was always concerned about not enough rain for farmers in spring. As half of the ceremony involved walking behind the urn across the cemetery and listening to more speeches and prayers and yet another sermon by the open grave, we all got the message - and fairly soaked. 

At first, I tried to get to know all the people attending but as always, found the various branches of the family tree confusing, and regarding the non-relatives, no idea. My brother was much better and did the greeting and thank-you round in a dramatic fashion on crutches (just had knee surgery) which was much appreciated. And yet, nobody was able to identify the man wearing green socks. I invited him along to the meal but he declined. 

The bit that was lovely and that my father would have loved happened on the previous Sunday when the soccer club of my father's town, the one he had been a members since childhood and which he so generously supported financially, invited the family for a home match. My brother and his sons went, were led to the seat where my father regularly sat and found it decorated with flowers and various soccer paraphernalia. Before the match, two representatives of the club's youth groups - a young woman from Syria and a young man from Ukraine - came on the field and briefly explained how they remember him and how much they benefit from the financial support and his personal interest in their lives. And then the audience, all 2000 of them in this small town stadium, stood up for a minute's silence and then clapped and cheered him for a good while. 

And now, it's all over and done. Downstairs on the dining table, there waits a box of his last personal papers, a few letters and pictures, the original draft of his doctoral thesis from 1957, a booklet of unfinished sudokus and of all things, his hearing aid. 

We drove the slow way home, with an overnight here and there, a long walk in the chilly spring and some wine tasting for R while I slept in the car. We won't be coming back to Franconia for a very long time.



  1. I missed your original post about your father's death, so my belated condolences. These ceremonies can be a whirlwind, so it's great that you were able to make the drive home slowly and decompress. As for your sister, I suspect there are always small conflicts between siblings at times like these.

  2. I do wonder who the man with green socks was. It was good of you to invite him to the meal, even if he declined. It seems you and your siblings sent your father off in the best possible way.

  3. I find it curious that you ended up with the box of his papers. did no one ask the man in green socks 'how did you know our father'? and what a lovely tribute to your father from the soccer club.

  4. Yes, i do miss my mom, for telling her stuff, that only she would have loved :) It is interesting how she is for me in that part of mind, that you talk about. My dad who died in 2009, is not in that compartment. Yes, we all grief differently, different for different people. All the best in sharing with your sister. And the bench! i would love a bench like that for my aging husband, but alas, it is not the way we live (too far from civilization)

  5. Sounds like your father was loved and respected by everyone. Great send-off. May he rest in peace.

  6. Anonymous05 May, 2023

    37paddington: the melancholy sets in when it’s all done. Such lovely tributes to your dad by the soccer club. I often decide to just forgive my brother for things because he is who he is and the thing is past and it and he are unchangeable and we are orphaned and all we have left of our original little unit. A house on the edge of the sea could be a healing place. Of course staying still at home may also be appealing at this time. Hugs, dear Sabine.

  7. thank you for this beautiful post. Another spring and the darling buds of May are with us. I think about or invoke my father almost every day. The natural world was where he was home...and I am there too. In every flock of crows, a raptor high over head, the spring garden beginning to appear, his lovely baritone singing with his children.

  8. I am one of three brothers. My youngest, Nick, was wealthy, lived 200 miles away, belonged to a stratum of society consisting of managing directors, consultants and advisers. Late in life the three of us met at odd intervals over lavishly chosen meals and even more lavishly chosen wine. Then stayed the night together. It was plain Nick's mental state was deteriorating and eventually Alzheimers seized and condemned him to lingering disintegration; even so it took a long time for him to die. His daughter, who had tended him, asked me to say something at the funeral but with various restrictions.

    I was allowed 11 minutes at a "conveyor-belt" crematorium where the mourners of one event emerge into the crowd waiting to attend the next event. Two days before the funeral I was asked to reduce my 11 minutes to (I think) 8 minutes. At the time I was wracked with massive sciatica and unable to stand straight. I reflected wryly that of all the people attending I was perhaps the best qualified to deal with these exigencies; journalism is often characterised more by what we cut out than what is left.

    I remember hanging on to the lectern to achieve a semblance of physical dignity. As I read my 1½ pages of A4 (double line-spaced for visual clarity) I found myself thinking about the deletions. Did I regret them? Nope. What I spoke was inevitably the core. The format was stark and deliberately in-yer-face. Later, thankfully sitting in an easy chair, I received these various captains of industry who seemed genuinely solicitous and for a while class/wealth barriers dissolved. Despite assertions to the contrary funerals are really about the living not the dead. As I think you discovered when confusion supplanted grief for a while.

    These days phone cameras abound. Might someone have snapped Mr Green Socks? You could turn him into a small mission of identification.