When I picked up my messages from the answerphone that day, I felt my heart skip a beat listening to the funeral arranger’s voice asking if I would be free on the 1st September to take a double funeral for Ethan and Joshua, aged 13 & 11.
I immediately knew who she was talking about as it had been all over the local news that these two boys had been killed in a terrible accident alongside their Mum and step sister.
It was past 5pm and so I had the evening to ponder my reply before calling the next morning to say yay or nay. A part of me just wanted to say “No” to not have to deal with the trauma and grief that I already knew was going to be immense. And I knew I would say “yes” because if it felt difficult to me, there was no imagining what it must be like for the boys Dad and other close family and friends.
There was a large crowd gathered outside the chapel as the two hearses pulled up, the first carrying Ethan, a great sic-fi lover is his “Tardis” coffin and the next with Joshua who loved lego, in his colourful lego brick designed coffin. stunning black and white photographs accompanied them and many many floral tributes.
As soon as the cars came into sight the crowd fell completely silent, school friends, teachers, family, neighbours the hush was all encompassing as we watched the slow approach. The silence stayed, the shock and pain palpable, as the final preparations were made, flowers brought into chapel, candles prepared, trestles set out to bear their precious loads.
I was doing okay, nervous, but very well prepared emotionally and practically, the ceremony read and re-read, tweaked and re-tweaked every word carefully thought through and filled with as much grace and love as is possible in words.
One final thing to do before we started, and this last thing was to almost be my un-doing. I had the sacred task of collecting Ethan and Joshua’s teddy’s from the hearses, to take into chapel and place next to the candles, which their Dad would light to mark the beginning of the ceremony.
I picked each of them up with utmost tenderness. they were so well loved, you know how it is, soft from years of being stroked, grubby from the tears and laughter of little boys who have shared their joys and fears and deepest secrets with them. I carried them to the place where they would sit alongside their beloved owners in the chapel, for their closing duties as confidant, comforter and friend. With an aching heart I left them there to return outside to bring their boys, Beautiful Ethan and Joshua into chapel for their final journey.