MAY

A FAMILY GATHERING on this most gloriously sunshiney day, for funeral thanksgiving for my Dad’s younger sister, May. A wonderful commixture, as all funerals are, of both sadness and enjoyed reminiscing. 82 years old Dad and his just-shy-of-90 years old brother Alan are the surviving two of ten siblings. Members of a large and spread-abroad family often only gather for arrivals, weddings and funerals. Some will barely know the day to day realities of each other’s lives – and the vast wealth of experience represented in such a gathering.

I met a delightful second cousin, Shropshire dairy farmer Neil, for the first time today. And Uncle Alan told me of his landing in Normandy at 6am on DDay – and his wondering most every day since how he ever got out of there. May was profoundly deaf for much of her life (30 years of which were enjoyed in Toledo, Ohio). The presence of some of her similarly deaf friends reminded me poignantly of the way she always made close eye contact in conversation. I was well into my late teens before the importance of eye contact for a deaf person dawned on me, and stayed with me, in all human relations.

I’ll especially remember May’s searching eyes – and the mind’s eye picture I have of her as a 5 year old clutching the hand of 7 years old Bob (my father) and boarding a train bound for Criccieth, North Wales – evacuated for safety on the eve of the Second World War – only a couple of years after the desperately sad and unexpected death of their young mother. Something about the sight of little ones then, as in parts of the world today, wide-eyed, with cardboard boxes strung about their little necks and modest little suitcases, ought to have taught humankind more about the folly of war.

Yes. There’s a thread woven in each and every family-life that binds, and a gladness – and a learning to be had – in little remembrances of shared histories. Something of life in the 1930s and onwards and upwards to the present day has been celebrated by members of my own family today – and by innumerable other families all over the world, too. It’s a gift, this remembering. A golden thread through good and ill, remembering still. A reflective love that binds.