Vale John William (Jack) Hamilton

Posted on October 17, 2010

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Not a rant this time, but a reflection.

Funerals are not the nicest of things as a rule and attending that of one of your parents is a sobering experience to put it mildly.

My father passed away quite suddenly recently, a week after his 81st birthday, and I was down in Victoria last week for the funeral. Dad had been ill for some time and had been failing. Fortunately, I saw him in hospital ten days or so before the end. In many respects, it was a relief that it was over. He certainly wasn’t happy, even though he was terribly confused by it all by the end. In short, it was his time.

If there was one thing that my Dad absolutely hated, it was disorganisation. So his funeral was already organised, where it was to happen, his cremation, the presiding minister, the music he wanted played (his own recordings) and he had his eulogy already written.

Other members of the family organised anything that was left to be done. Mum had him dressed, not in a suit as such, but his favourite outfit which was what he looked best in. My brothers, sister, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews did a particularly good job of selecting appropriate images for a picture show that played during the service.

While Dad had written his own eulogy, the problem was that while being accurate, it did not reflect the man that people were going to remember, particularly his humour. I was asked to add to it, which I did with the help of memories from other members of the family. It grew from one page to almost four. On the day, I read the first half and one of my brothers read the second. It had the desired effect, with people laughing in pleasure with these memories of my Dad.

The chapel was a packed house. It was quite eerie to walk down the aisle, to the sound of my father’s voice, singing. When it came to the picture show, people were talking quietly, making comments to each as pictures stirred memories, laughing at the humorous ones. I could also hear people in tears. A cousin of mine cried right through that part of proceedings.

My eldest niece, accompanied by the rest of the grandchildren, gave a short, tearful and heartfelt reflection of what Dad meant to them.

Even the weather cooperated. Threatening rain all day, it held off until after things were finished, although it made up for lost time afterward.

The true joy however was at the reception afterwards. As well as the family reunion that tends to happen on occasions like this, there were just so many people there that I had not seen for years and many that I did not know at all. One was a man Dad worked for before I was born. There was even a man there who had been at school with Dad, taught by my grandmother at their little country school, seventy years ago. How many years had it been since he last saw Dad? Pretty well every aspect of Dad’s life was represented by that great variety of people.

The funeral director videoed the service and provided Mum with a copy on DVD. I am not ready to see that yet but in time I shall want to.

Yes, this was a time of sorrow and of mourning. But it was also a time of joy in remembering a man who touched so many lives, not least of which was the family that meant everything to him.

I’ll miss you, Dad.

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