If you’re wondering about the title, it’s a line from a lyric from a song written in 1931, and also the name of a time-travelling sitcom. Goodnight Sweetheart, the show starred Nicholas Lyndhurst, who played Rodney in Only Fools and Horses, as Gary Sparrow, a music shop owner. He accidentally found a time portal which took him back to London in wartime, and ended up with two relationships, one in the 1940s and one in the 1990s.
Goodnight Sweetheart was one of Tony’s favourite TV programmes – and mine. It’s an appropriate title for this post about my personal goodbye to my estranged husband. Although we had been separated for a year, it wasn’t a case of me airbrushing him out of my life. We were together for 30 years, married for 20, and for at least 25 of those years, we were very happy together, until age and illness took my husband from me, leaving an uncaring, somewhat frightening stranger in his place.
Since Tony’s passing, I feel like I have the old Tony back – caring, happy, and sorry for the circumstances that caused our split. His energy came to me before he passed, asking for forgiveness, and since he passed, he’s been back several times as the warm, loving, husband and partner I fell in love with all those years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, he had his faults – don’t we all? – and I’m not canonising him just because he’s on the other side of life. My point here is that what those of us who are privileged to ‘talk to dead people’ already know is true has been demonstrated to me at first hand. You do leave all your pain and troubles behind when you step through the veil. We often say ‘his cares are gone now,’ when someone close dies, and it’s lovely to be reminded of that on a personal level.
Losing someone in lock-down is surreal, as many people have sadly found out. The usual type of funeral is out of the window. You can’t have limousines, because of the risk of cross infection through close contact. Also, you’re limited with the number of people who can attend, and they must be socially distanced if they are from other households.
It was clear that there weren’t going to be many guests at Tony’s funeral – I refuse to use negative terms like ‘mourners’ for the attendees. When you’re 86 and have been ill for a couple of years, and have spend most of the last decade in Spain, there aren’t that many friends left, and those who might have come are shielding at home. Also, the thought of not being able to have a comforting hug when you need it most is just unacceptable to someone like me. I would be a strong contender for the gold medal if hugging was an Olympic sport, and they weren’t cancelled because of Covid-19. But I digress.
Someone suggested it may be better to just have a cremation with no service, and that felt better to me, but I wanted to say a personal goodbye to Tony, as I hadn’t been with him when he passed. I would have been, given the opportunity, even though we had lived apart for over a year, but it wasn’t possible. And even though I know that what’s left behind is only Tony’s shell and his soul is free, I felt his circle of life was incomplete without an earthly farewell.
Graeme at West Country Funeral Services in Saltash said he would conduct a commital service in the Chapel of Rest, for up to 10 people, but again, it would have to be a socially distanced affair. I decided Graeme would be, to quote another song lyric, Playing to an Audience of One. I invited nobody to the service on 12 May – not even Glenys, who has been such a support over the last few difficult years.
In preparation , I printed off one of my favourite photos of the two of us, taken in 2015 at Algorfa’s patronal festival. On the evening before the service, I was given a poem by Spirit which Graeme read out, as well as another poem that I feel was suggested to him, as it addressed a concern with bothered Tony quite a bit.
When he was well, Tony liked to be busy, pottering in his shed or the garden, making things, problem solving, you name it. He’s not the type to sit on a cloud with a harp all day, and I felt him around me at the weekend, rather agitated. He asked me what he was supposed to do now, and I explained that time was for us on Earth, it didn’t apply to him now, and he would never be bored, only happy and healthy.
One of the lines in the other poem – His Journey’s Just Begun – speaks of the other side of life as a place ‘Where there are no days or years.’ There is no such thing as coincidence in the Universe – Graeme chose that poem because Tony needed to hear that message.
The energy in the chapel was amazing, full of warmth and love. And when I told Graeme I wanted Tony’s favourite song played, there was some laughter too. The song doesn’t appear on any list of Most Popular Funeral Songs, and it’s not surprising really, given the back story.
Back in the late 1960’s, Tony went on a lads’ night out with his local social club. The highlight of the show was a stripper, dressed in full Welsh national costume. At the end of her spot, all she was wearing was the iconic tall hat and a smile! Every time Tony heard the song she performed to, he smiled, thinking of where he first heard it. It was the 1968 hit by O. C. Smith, The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp, and although it was a solemn occasion, we both had to smile.
So, it was nothing like a funeral service, but it was everything I needed for my personal farewell to someone who was part of my life for almost half of it. We made some wonderful memories together which will always be with me, and we had a memorable ‘hasta luego.’ too. I am at peace, Tony is at peace, we have both learned valuable Earthly lessons, and we can both move on, on both sides of life.
I am content, and so is Tony. Goodnight sweetheart, and I am so pleased that sleep has banished sorrow for both of us.