The Week That Was

We held Alf’s funeral service on Tuesday in Grande Baie, at l’Église de l’Ange Gardien (Church of the Guardian Angel).

I chose it because it’s situated right on the bay, and I hoped that a beautiful setting might somehow brighten what was such a dark day.

Alf is a Protestant and divorced, yet the priest, Père Brown (Father Brown), didn’t hesitate to hold the mass for him.

Daniel, Sandra, Gillian, Christine, and I arrived at the church immediately after seeing Alf for the last time to say our goodbyes, so we were all very emotional. I had told Meggie that she should remember Alf as she knew him.

Père Brown completely calmed us.

He made us laugh, and said that although Alf wasn’t a Catholic, he was very welcome in his church.

I couldn’t have chosen a better priest if I’d tried.

As Père Brown didn’t know Alf, I (with a lot of input from family and friends) wrote a short biography for him to read during the mass.

After reading it, Père Brown said he was sad that he’d never met Alf.

I was unable to read what I’d written to Alf, so our friend, Heather, did it on my behalf.

Both Meggie and Daniel read their final messages to their father.

They were both so strong and so perfect.

Alf would have been immensely proud of them.

That they were able to stand up in a church full of people under such devastating circumstances, means that there is nothing in life that they can’t do.

I hope that whenever they’re faced with a difficult decision in the future, they think back to that moment, and tap into that inner strength.

After the mass, we went to l’Hotel les Orchidées, where Alf and Kieran had spent a few happy afternoons during Kieran’s holiday with us earlier this year.

Alain read this out on behalf of Alf’s friends:

How do you describe Alf? You can’t, he was a character larger than life.

He was a loyal friend, a sincere friend.

Whenever you met Alf, he would smile because he was happy to see you.

Whenever people met Alf, they would smile because they were happy to see him.

Everybody knew Alf – the corner grocer, the plumber, the carpenter, the builder, even the banker – all of them enjoyed seeing his big smile.

Alf was a smart man, a very smart man, and he was always ready to help you solve a problem.

Alf was a generous man, and would give you anything to help you, or just to please you.

Alf was larger than life, indeed, and made the lives of those he touched, richer.

We will miss you, mate – will we miss you a lot.

Adieu, my friend.

That evening, there was only laughter – we celebrated his life as he would have wanted us to.

Some of Alf’s ashes have been returned to Belfast to be scattered on his mother’s and brother’s graves.

Some will go back to Perth, to be scattered along with Kieran’s ashes.

Some will be in our Mauritian garden under a beautiful plant.

The rest we decided to scatter at sea, so I hired a catamaran for a twilight cruise on Wednesday.

I invited Alain and Robin, Sam and Lyn, and Jean-Paul and Savita to join us, as not only are they our closest friends here, they were there with me from shortly after it happened, up until the first of the family arrived on Sunday night.

Unfortunately only Alain and Robin were able to make it, as one of Sam’s relatives died the previous day, and Jean-Paul was too upset. But I know their love and thoughts were with us.

Daniel invited Kent and Nadine because, through conversations with Alf over the years, he had picked up on how much Alf liked Kent.

The weather that day deteriorated – it rained a little and became very windy.

I explained to the skipper what we were there for, so he took us out of the rain to a calm spot off Mon Choisy beach.

We were all very sad and tearful as Meggie, Daniel, and I settled ourselves on the edge of the cat.

Then one of the crew accidentally hit the urn that Meggie was holding, and she thought he had smashed it. The fright of losing the ashes caused her to laugh hysterically, which quickly became contagious.

Then as we were scattering the ashes, the wind picked up, and blew Alf all over our feet and legs, and when Daniel told Meggie not to “hog all of Dad”, it set everybody off again.

The icing on the cake was when, out of the blue, the crew suddenly started to hose us off.

So instead of being what could have been a heartbreaking moment, it became full of laughter, just as Alf would have wanted.

Kent brought along a bottle of Jameson’s Irish whiskey which Alf loved, so we toasted Alf and wished him well on his journey.

So although many tears were shed, there was also a lot of laughter.

Alf would have been very happy with us.

Everything went perfectly – just as though Alf had organised it himself in that magical way that he had about him.

During this unbelievably difficult period, all our friends have been there for me, and for the last time, for Alf.

You helped me enormously, not only with your love and support, but for organising everything at a time when I couldn’t – I can never repay you enough.

My thanks and love to you all.

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