Today the clouds broke a little and the rain, which has battered this little corner of the world all week, stopped for a breather. A little convoy of cars snaked up through the wet hills to the hidden church, that by some quirk of chance came to be the place my thoroughly secular family comes to for private goodbyes and quiet conversations.
To passing hill walkers it must have been a puzzling sight, ashes thrown over a wall and then dampened down into the earth with glugs from a bottle of whisky, which then passes hand to hand. To us, this wall is the boundary line, the final hurdle to be crossed.
The dog frolicked through the grass, stayed out of the ashes but pinched a shot of whisky and then walked with a wobble, escaping the eager cuddles of the little ones. The event had the air of an spontaneous picnic or impulsive day out.
I felt a bit out of step. Not feeling so festive, I was asked ‘why so solemn?’ but settled for just quirking an eyebrow in reply. I thought any words might stick in my throat.
I have dreaded this day as another ordeal, another funeral to be endured. But this ritual, the circle, the whisky that passes from mouth to mouth, was so familiar, so much a part of my family that I could no more resent it than I could dislike the long past Sunday dinners with my nan, or the rip of paper just past midnight on Christmases.
Some had words to say, goodbyes and thank yous to offer. I half thought I should have prepared something, and then realised I talk to dad all the time. Our best conversations were and will probably continue to be private.
I didn’t cry. No tears welled or brimmed this time as the rains held pause up above. I feel like the hour before thunder, stretched taut, tight with all I feel and all that cannot yet be felt.