99. The Fast Blacks

Four and a half weeks after my father died we had the funeral.  This had been pre planned with Dad, after his terminal diagnosis we had an “O group” – a meeting where his great friend Trevor and the family discussed how the funeral was to be carried out.

The run up to the funeral had been frenetic for me.  I have returned to work.  People say “you look well” and I do (as long as I keep my clothes on.. without them it is a different story).  The first couple of weeks have been hard as I have had to meet new classes, put together my class folder so I know who has what additional need and who has to be challenged more, set my alarm for 6.30am and get up, put on my suit and assume the role.  So far so good – no tears at work.

Thursday was a hard day, we had one youngster who was extremely distressed and had to be sent home and I did an observation of one of the newly qualified teachers.  Giving feedback was tough but receiving it must have been much worse.  I had four lessons to cover (where you set work which one of your colleagues can deliver) and to be frank setting cover is harder than going in and teaching.  I had to leave school at 4.30pm to meet mum, my brother and sister in law at 5pm at Pier One.  Great cafe, fabulous views and a real log fire (the views over Plymouth Sound aren’t that great at 5pm in the dark).

There had been a bit of tension between myself and my brother.  He’d been on holiday in the Caribbean and I’d gone back to work, to be frank I was quite resentful as our holidays had disappeared this year due to my rebuild. My resentment was close to the surface but well controlled as my sister in law said it had taken then a good few days to decompress when they joined their cruise ship.  I let it go.  We will have holidays in the future, I’m back at work and love my job.  I’d written and re-written the Eulogy and then my brother sent me his version, which I pinged straight back to him as I didn’t feel it was appropriate. He has his own demons to fight and didn’t need to fight me too. We had coffee, had a very amenable chat and then went home – my brother took mum back to the flat and we said we’d see them the next day – 22nd November – Funeral day.

Once home it took a while but eventually I set my cover, sent out various emails, shared Google Docs and about 9pm sent my brother the final version of the Eulogy.  Sleep was evasive that night and I felt very stressed.  Stressed about setting cover and stressed about what was to come the next day.

Funeral day – my youngest son and fiancee were home, as was my daughter who’d put together a great presentation of family photos.  They were going to make their own way to Weston Mill Crem. At 10.45am Nick and I drove up to mum and dad’s flat, met my brother, sister in law, nephew and niece and waited.  Mum was stressed and couldn’t find her keys, I couldn’t find my phone… we calmed down and found everything.  My friends came to pick up my niece and nephew and that was that, the 5 of us who were going in the car.  The time started to come round towards midday and my sister in law wondered if we ought to phone the funeral company. No need as the two “fast blacks” (as dad called them) duly turned up.   Mum who had been so stoic became tearful as suddenly it was all terribly real.  The funeral director, complete with Top Hat, invited us out and into the family car – before we went we could see the hearse with Dad’s coffin, the Royal Marine Flag, the yellow roses which he’d always bought for mum, his medals and Green Beret.  We got into the family car and followed the hearse down Tavistock Road, onto the A38 and along the Parkway.  Time was ticking and we had to be there at 12.15pm.  So far the “O group” plan was in place.

Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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