Although my Uncle Willie passed away on 23rd November we had to wait rather a long time to say our final farewells. The reason being that he had died from complications as a result of contracting Mesothelioma, a truly horrendous disease caused by inhalation of Asbestos during his time working as an electrician in the construction of his beloved Cockenzie Power Station, which, like him, has been laid to rest.
Although many tears were shed at his funeral mass and then again during a rendition of Annie’s song by John Denver, yesterday was a joyous occasion. (Amusingly, his granddaughter Lucille told me it was the only song he knew, but it was to open the floodgates yesterday at 12:05; my cousin Georgia and sister Jane somehow managed to sing along through their veil of tears. Me? I was a goner.)
The family will be taking up the fight against this evil disease, but I can only thank the stars that Willie did not succumb to quite the depths of cruelty it can unleash.
But the fact is, Willie’s no longer with us. So I’d like to thank him for what he was. A huge, gentle, giant of a man with a heart of platinum (gold is too cheap an element to use in describing this great man).
His smile, I will never forget it. It was beatific, almost saintly, it emanated a warmth like no other I have ever seen. Although, my daughter Ria has ‘inherited’ some of it I have to say.) And that was, for me, his trademark.
As Ken so beautifully said in his wonderful eulogy, and echoed by the lovable Father Basil, Willie would help ANYONE, do ANYTHING, although his biggest strength was electrics – so many a fridge, theatre power source and bit of wiring was carried out in our house, at Forth Children’s Theatre and at the homes of ALL of his huge wonderful family, his Church family and his youth theatre family.
After the tears though, came the incredible love and happiness that only a great family can bring to your heart.
The wake was a wonderful celebration of his life with more greeting (the letter from his beloved grand-duaughter Madeleine, whose hair he used to prepare for school, was a highlight, although again the tears came – what a beautiful and loving tribute to her Grandad, but also with equal measure to her Grannie, my wonderful Auntie Anne.)
Perhaps the best was saved for last, at the ‘after wake’, with a smaller almost completely family group we swapped stories, reminiscences and updates of our marvellously varied lives. You certainly couldn’t accuse us of conforming to a ‘type’ as a family. A ‘look’, yes, as my brother in law Nik commented, almost open jawed.
And we ran out of whisky, so someone was despatched to raid Willie’s drinks cabinet. A bottle of Glenlivet marvellously appeared and lasted only minutes but that meant we’d had a dram on Willie. A touching gesture.
Willie, this is not goodbye (as CS Lewis said) it’s au revoir.