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Heaven can wait, reflections on faith and a funeral.

Posted in Aging, Life & Love, and Relationships

Constant arrived at my aunt’s door to pay his respects. He and my uncle had struck up a friendship across the garden wall. Constance is a student at Port Elizabeth University and as big a cricket fan as Gary. Nothing unusual in two fellas comparing notes on the weekend’s sport. What made me smile was that Constant was wearing a black blazer with a distinctive badge. One that I recognised because I had seen it on my father’s chest.

UnknownAcross five decades and a sea change in government – these two men, one in his twenties, the other in his seventies – also had a school in common. A school whose motto is: “Reward is to the Brave”. By wearing that jacket, Constance was paying Gary the highest respect he could: from one Selborne College old boy to another. The next day he was at the funeral. Having altered travel plans home for a long weekend with his parents. He stood at the back of the small chapel. Upright, proud, dignified: representing his school at the passing of one of their own. His voice carried the hymns.


I am not one for organised religion. I grew up Catholic and haven’t attended mass in four decades. My complaint is not a repudiation of anyone’s faith. That is their business. I want no part of a belief system that excludes anyone. Nor one that tells the generally good that they are headed for a long death in hell, unless they behave. That threat is about control. And I am not interested in being controlled.

But religion is often the vehicle for faith and I understand the role of faith. I have seen the importance of it – especially in India and Africa: where so many have so little, and live their lives in quiet desperation. Faith provides hope and hope offers the possibility of a better life or afterlife. If not now, then next time round.

Faith also helps us to let go. The thought that all of this might stop suddenly: and be nothing more than a long beep and darkness, is more than we can bear. Its role in healing the people who are left behind is undeniable. Faith provides relief and, again, hope: “There is more, there is more…”

Gary’s service was simple, and short and led by a female priest. My uncle liked the Rev., she was his kind of girl – enjoys a glass of wine, a match and a laugh. On Friday she did him proud, as did his son, in a sweetly sad eulogy. We sang “Amazing Grace” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, I read a poem and we sent Gipps off in a way he would have appreciated.

After the funeral I spent the day with my mom. We had a drink with my Aunt Shirley and cousins Margaret and Neil. Then we drove towards Mount Pleasant and ate lunch at The Grass Roof. It was a public holiday (Human Rights Day – to mark the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960); the good people of Port Elizabeth were out and enjoying the sun. Our shared salad was delicious and we stocked up on home-made preserves and fresh honeycomb. Mom treated herself to a fudge ice-cream. We even dropped in at Zara for a look round. It was a lovely celebration of being alive and together and I know my godfather would have enjoyed our enjoyment.

I felt peaceful and easy as I flew back to Cape Town. Glad that I had been part of saying goodbye. That I had caught up with cousins and long-time family friends. That I had showed up, that I had been present.


When I got home I was greeted at the door by a thrilled little dog. Which reminded me of the cartoon above – sent by a great friend, because it reminded him of how much I love my dog. I don’t know how it works after the lights go out; but as  I got into my bed that night, it occurred to me that right now, right here – I’m in heaven.

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  1. silvia

    Accomplishment is the first word that I think about reading this.
    Accomplishment in its meaning of completion. Both for a life well lived and for the way you spent the day celebrating life itself.

    March 24, 2014
  2. Harriette Smith
    Harriette Smith

    What a nice way to spend what may have been sad but it wasn’t. It sounded very joyful and you made it sound that way. Even tho it was a goodbye it was a pleasant time with family, friends and loved ones. I admire you .
    Harriette Smith

    March 24, 2014
  3. Sounds like a lovely celebration of a cherished life.
    I think faith above all else is important for the sense of community it provides, the assurance of always having somewhere to turn, someone to listen; organized groups with shared beliefs can stave off loneliness and depression especially for the older generation. Bingo, bazaars, charity dances, raffles, coach trips…it’s a social life for some. Companionship on earth, never mind up there. We’ll deal with the part when if get there!

    March 24, 2014
  4. How beautiful to be at peace with yourself after such an emotional journey. Your godfather was blessed to have such a sincere send off x
    There is nothing quite like the love a dog shows it’s human, my little Dayna makes me feel like the most special person in the world. It is so soothing in times of trouble x

    March 23, 2014

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