The news media has been full this past few days of tributes to David Bowie and Alan Rickman after the announcement of their deaths. This morning I received an email to say that Archbishop Barry's wife Hilary had died after a two year struggle against cancer, and then this afternoon, another email from my cousin Dianne to tell me that another cousin, Thelma, had died.
We all grew up together in the fifties, at a time when Dianne's mother, my godmother Celandine, was living in her parents' home, and the family home of cousins Thelma and Ros was next door. I lived a mile down the hill on the edge of Ystrad Mynach, and used to go to the grandparents' house to play. Of all the extended family members born and raised in the area, Thelma and Ros were the two who married and stayed settled in the Rhymney Valley. Since the death of their parents, they've been the only remaining personal link to the place of our childhood.
After a brief spell in the CBS office this afternoon, I had a bereavement visit to make, in relation to the funeral I've been asked to take at St German's next Friday. Sadly, this will clash with Hilary Morgan's funeral, so I won't be able to attend and pay my respects to an able and courageous woman who had her own career as a lawyer as being Archbishop Barry's mainstay.
I spent an hour with three sisters of the six surviving children of an eighty year old widow who had two dozen grandchildren and at least as many great grandchildren, getting them to tell me things about her life which I could weave into a tribute at the service, as it seems no family member was inclined to do this on their behalf. Without the story told, a funeral would be very impersonal. The absence of a tribute would be noticed by mourners after the event, even if they hadn't thought of this in advance. So, I patiently press on until I have enough information to make a recognisable sketch to value a life. Could I do the same for my cousin Thelma? I hope I don't have to, as there are too many gaps to fill in since childhood days. When it comes to family I'd rather hear someone else tell their story.