Today was the funeral of my grandfather James Warner who died at the age of 87. I have never seen such a huge turnout for a funeral.
At age 15 he lied about his age as they all did to sign up for the Royal Navy. He was serving in the mediterranean (where he enjoyed swimming naked with the local girls & once tried to bag a sea turtle for lunch by dropping a shell on it, only for it to shake its head & carry on swimming) when world war 2 broke out. He spent the war serving on various destroyers & minesweepers patrolling the Atlantic & escorting the supply ships. He was part of the crew on HMS Rye that towed in the USS Ohio which was so vital to Operation Pedestal. He didn't talk much about the war, one Christmas I remember how he came out with, "One day we were strafed by 16 German aircraft... They didn't hit a bloody thing."
After the war he worked as a builder & a gardener, he spent his retrement years divided between the golf course, his allotment & the village pubs.
I will always remember my grandfather as a gentle giant, as a kid I would clamber over him as if he was a climbing frame. He used to pick me up in one of his bucket like hands & sit me on his knee. Many people commented on how much the 6 sturdy pallbearers struggled with the coffin. He had a real mischevious sense of humour & would have enjoyed that.
The last year of his life saw him deteriorate quite rapidly, he suffered from skin cancer & leaukaemia. The last time I saw him alive he didn't know who I was, he kept confusing me with my 2 brothers which really hurt. There were times when he didn't recognise his daughter which must have been unbearable for my mother. My eldest brother Andy was much closer to him than I ever was, they shared a passion for golf, darts, local football & most notably local pubs. Andy's first trip to a pub was at age 2 weeks after granddad offered to take him for a walk. My loss seems insubstantial in comparison.
Today was unlike any funeral I've ever been to. It was an appropriate service for a start, it was about my granddad's life & not an advert for Christianity. The vicar was so kind & thoughtful throughout to my nan especially. After the service most people came back to one of his local drinking spots where everyone was reminiscing, everyone was catching up & everyone was actually having a good time. I particularly enjoyed spending time with my cousin & uncle who left England to live in Ireland 15 years ago. It was like getting to know them all over again. My mum who I feared would struggle the most through the day, said after it all that she didn't feel that she had been to a funeral.
Today it really hit home how much I love my family, especially my 2 brothers.