Last week, our family descended on Cornwall, England, to celebrate my grandmother’s life. Here are a few photos, if you’d like to see…
“Hallelujah!” the vicar called out, in the 14th-century stone church, as an opening to Milly’s funeral service. “Let’s begin with that word on our lips.” He described how much she meant to the community and how her love for people was unconditional. “Mary wasn’t perfect; she would be the first to say that,” he said. “But she was wonderful.” What a beautiful way to see people, don’t you think? I want to keep that as a motto when interacting with the world.
Next, my dad gave a speech and shared how my grandparents met: In the 1940s, at a town party, my grandfather spotted a young woman across the room, carrying a large bag of empty gin bottles. He didn’t know what she was doing, until he realized the bottles must not be completely empty and “maybe she had pinched them from her mother’s booze cupboard.” He was intrigued and discovered she was Mary Mac. After falling in love, he proposed marriage; she smiled and, in her patented laid-back way, told him: “I reckon so.” My grandfather wrote in his memoir, “I thought it was an inadequate response for such a thrilling proposition.”
With emotions flying high, I wondered if we’d make it through our speeches and readings at her service. For each person speaking, there was a backup, and a backup for the backup, in case we all dissolved into tears. But the experience was actually very peaceful. People read with strength and clarity. Milly lived a wonderful life, and now she’s with my grandfather in the church yard, or wherever they are within “the great mystery,” as the vicar said.
After Milly’s funeral, we went back to her house for dinner. (My favorite part of the photo above are those yummy toes!)
Over the week, we ate meals cooked by Lulu or others; or fish and chips at the pub; or sometimes a Milly-style “smash and grab,” where you dump leftovers (and lots of toast) on the table and tuck in.
One thing I really appreciate about funerals is getting to see so many relatives at the same time. Above are Lulu and my dad; and then my aunt Lucy (my sister is her namesake).
I also like how busy and hectic the house always is. Everyone talks very loudly and at exactly the same time.
Here, I was teaching my cousins a game, which is why they look studious.
Later in the week, people got into the usual hijinks, like jumping off the quay…
…drinking pints and playing pool at the pub…
…and measuring the littlest ones again the kitchen wall. (It’s surprisingly hard to get babies’ tiptoe-y feet to go flat, haha.)
I ADORED having babies and toddlers around — the heart soars! Side note: holy smokes, I forgot how much care they take. The little ones would do activities for 1.5 minutes at a time — play the piano for 90 seconds, move the pillows onto the floor for 90 seconds, then want to play peek-a-boo for 90 seconds. I forgot how adorable and exhausting that is! Major respect to parents of young kids — and, let me reassure you, it gets SO MUCH EASIER.
Throughout the week, it felt strange not to have Milly sitting on the bench in her garden, but I realized that almost everyone who WAS sitting on that bench was there, in the world, laughing and squabbling and loving each other, because of her. She had six children, nine grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.
We also added to the garden gate a new porthole — which would have made Milly smile — so that smaller children can peek through and see the boats. I love how things both change and stay the same.
Thank you, Milly, for everything. Hallelujah! xo
P.S. Past England vacations, including when Toby was a baby and when Anton was a baby; and how to talk to kids about death.