Sunday, June 07, 2009

Making amends

"The moving finger writes, and having written moves on. Nor all thy piety nor all thy wit, can cancel half a line of it ...but you can make amends."
Omar Khayyam (amended slightly.)

I am afraid that I have committed the sin of omission. The Memorial Service for Keith went off extremely well. Unfortunately, in my nervousness I left the key words for my eulogy in my bag and stood in that spot where I stood 8 years ago to deliver the eulogy for my mother. With every eye of the congregation on me I felt it encumbent to carry on without the notes, trusting to luck to remember the various points I had agonised over for almost two months whilst setting up the service. By so doing I made the most horrendous mistake.

Two promises I made stood in my way. The second, made only a few days ago, was to avoid if at all possible making any of those attending cry, as I managed to accomplish last time. The thing is that there are many types of tears stemming from emotion. The normal one associated with the passing of a loved one is, of course, grief; then there is pain; but the ones that I experience when I think of family and friends are those engendered by pride in their achievements, and love for them.

The first promise, the more important one, in this context, was made in 1951. On that day my brother, Keith and I were left alone whilst my mother and father attended a very important appointment, one that was destined to change all our lives for ever. We were into pirates in those days and we swore a blood secret that the naughtiness we had got up on that day we would never reveal to anyone, especially Mom and Dad. I seem to recall that we actually pricked each other's wrists and mixed our blood to seal the promise, but I cannot be sure. Whatever we did, that promise, as far as I know was never broken, certainly never by me. On Saturday, 6th June 2009, I decided to break that promise. By leaving the key-word paper behind I kept the promise but left out the event, the tumultuous, important event, that occurred on that day. It is amazing that after 57 years a childhood promise could hold such weight and power.

This is a pity for what I had written in my notes whilst preparing to speak, expanded so as to make sense to all, went along these lines, leaving out the subject of The Promise

“Then, on 5th November, 1951, an event occurred that was to change both Keith and my lives forever. For on that day our young brother, Mal, was born. Dad at been away in the Navy serving during the second world war apart from occasional leave periods at home. From late 1941 to early 1946 he had not seen the members of his family. He had missed the early formative years of his sons. The birth of Mal was, to him, a momentous occasion, for here was the opportunity to witness in Mal those years. He had already given up a secure and lucrative job on a large tobacco estate because we would have to go to boarding school and he refused to miss more of our lives. Mal's arrival was the cherry on top.

Whilst Mal's birth was a cause of great rejoicing to Mom and Dad, the three of us were amazed at the way in which Keith reacted. One would have thought that Mal was his sole creation, so proud was he of the baby who was brought home to us. Keith retained this pride throughout his lie, although at times he could be, perhaps, over bearing.”

I think anyone reading these lines will appreciate that my second promise would definitely have been broken, even if only by me. In fact I might have had to end the eulogy in 1951!

As I was driven back home with the Kennedy Clan, I recalled that I had left Mal out of my eulogy and was mortified, but decided that maybe no-one had noticed.

When I got back home I opened up my emails for the first time on the 6th and found one from Manuela, Keith's widow. It had been sent earlier in the day but due to my early departure I had not seen it. It included the following:

“The unfortunate thing about memorial services and funerals in general, is that, the tributes and eulogies are for the ears of the living and not the person being honoured.

Keith was a unique and very special man, of great integrity and honour, loyal and
with a great sense of responsibility and duty, to his family, his country, his job
and his friends. That never changed or wavered throughout his life. To the end and especially during the horrid suffering with his illness, he never lost his positive and fighting spirit.”

Although the last paragraph was inspiring and if I had received it I would have read it out, it was the first that hit me like a thunderbolt, so here and now I attempt to make amends.

You see, like Keith, I have also been intensely proud of my younger brother, watching his career in the Police and in civvy street, his raising of a family and especially his marriage to his life companion, Rozanne, with intense interest and pride. Today he has made his mark, in relatively few years, on the railways, starting off as a part-time ticket seller and working his way up the ladder to become a very successful Station Manager, running and organising some very important stations in very difficult times. Like Keith, he is a natural born-leader of men. Mal, I salute you. Please forgive me for leaving you out of eulogy, when you have played and continue to play, such an important part in our lives.

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