“Family and friends, we are gathered here today for a celebration. Yes, I said celebration and meant it, for today is a celebration of the life of Beryl Covid. Beryl was a wife, mother, grandmother and much more. She arrived on this earth 78 years ago and was raised on a dairy farm in the Bega district. Throughout her school years she was a good student and participated in community activities such as netball and the Girl Guides movement. Beryl finished school after completing her Intermediate certificate because it was not common in those days for girls to go on to senior high school. She did a secretarial course at the local technical college and upon completion headed for the bright lights of Sydney. But, being some man’s typist and tea maker was not to be Beryl’s future. Shortly after arriving in Sydney she started seeing a young man who was a constable in the NSW police force. Their relationship only lasted a few months but long enough for her to become interested in joining the police force. There she rose through the ranks to deputy detective. Later...........”
The family were gathered at the crematorium where newly introduced health rules now allowed up to 100 persons to attend provided the Covid-safe four square metre rule was enforced. Beryl had been in no way religious, so a civil celebrant was engaged to conduct the memorial ceremony. Daniel was too distraught to speak at the funeral so Jason spoke on his behalf.
“My Gran...” Jason paused until the lump in his throat cleared. “My Gran was not the most fun person in my life when I was growing up, that was my Gramps. But, and this is a big but. She was always there with a helping hand, a bandaid and a hug when I fell over and scraped a knee or two. She baked love into her biscuits and Christmas puddings. She made sure Gramps found the biggest Christmas tree on offer and she never forgot a birthday, a speech night or a sports final.
As you have heard she was a detective in her younger days. Well, she was always a detective really. There was not much you could sneak past Gran. Dad told me that when he met his first girlfriend he tried to keep it a secret from his parents by telling Gran, when he dressed up to go out, it was because the movie theatre had a dress code. One call to the local cinema manager put an end to that pretence. She had no need to interrogate Dad she had already gathered her evidence.
But Gran could be a bit naughty herself, especially in her later years. Her best friend Anthea, who is her today, having recently recovered from Corona virus, warned her when they had both been in contact with a confirmed case. I even tried myself to get her to go for testing, but she refused and that is why we are here today. In the end her heart failed her but it never failed her family and those around her. She lived a full, happy and caring life so that is what I ask you to celebrate.
Jason walked to the casket, placed a bunch of carnations, her favourite flower, and said “Will miss you Gran” then added “And yes, since you won’t be around to remind me anymore, I will marry Colleen, if she accepts my offer.”
Those gathered gasped then smiled, prompting the celebrant to ask, “Jason, is that a proposal?”
“I guess it is.”
“Then it looks like I might have another booking coming up folks. But I will not embarrass the lady with a decision to make. That is a private matter.”
After the crowd settled the celebrant further announced “It is common at a celebration such as this to play a piece of appropriate music while you all say our private goodbyes to the departed. Over the years that I have had the privilege to officiate at such events I have been asked to play a variety of music. Often it is the departed’s favourite song, be that anything from a hymn to Opera to a pop song. But Beryl’s family had some difficulty deciding on what Beryl might have chosen, so for the first time in my career we will play a compilation of theme music from Miss Marple movies. This lightened the mood a little and as the music played the crowd slowly made their way out of the venue and mingled in the carpark.
Family and close friends gathered afterwards at Beryl’s house for a less formal celebration of her life. When everyone had a drink and seemed relaxed, Jason called for their attention.
“Thank you all for coming today. Now my Dad would like to say a few words. Dad.”
“Thanks Jason. It’s good to see so many of you here today, and a special thanks to those who had to travel so far. I know how difficult is to make travel arrangements and still comply with border closures and other quarantine restrictions. There are of course some who could not be here because of those restrictions so the tech expert in our family has set up a camera and a computer so they can be participate, from a distance. Steve, please do your thing.”
“Certainly Mr C.” While Steve logged in and made contact with family and friends of Beryl’s in states with closed borders, Daniel continued.
“I won’t keep you long, I’m not a man of long speeches. I do apologise for not speaking at the funeral, I was just not up to it. But I would like to thank Jason for stepping in at late notice and I think he did his Gran proud.”
Someone called out “Let’s hear it for Jason.” and applause followed.
“So many of you have said good things about my mother today, I wasn’t sure if you were all at the right funeral.” Those that were not giving Daniel’s speech their full attention were suddenly engaged.
“My mother was many of those things that have been spoken about but, on the other side of the ledger; she was also a very stubborn woman. Jason has already mentioned her refusal to be tested for this virus and this contributed to the delay in her getting medical treatment. However, as they say, the apple does not fall far from the tree, and I may be guilty of that myself. While I believe I am normally a fair minded man, sometimes when I come up against my mother we both dig in our heels and don’t compromise. That happened a few months ago when we had a disagreement. We both refused to give in, did not speak again, and now I will never have the opportunity to resolve that disagreement. I will have to live the rest of my life knowing I should have sorted it out or at least agreed to disagree and returned to our normal relationship.”
Everyone was silent for a while, then Henry, Beryl’s brother said “Please raise your glasses to Beryl, may she rest in peace, and to her loving son Daniel, may he find peace within himself.”
“To Beryl and Daniel”
“Thank you all, now please enjoy the food and drinks.”
Henry asked Jenny “Do you know what this disagreement was about Jenny?”
“That was between Daniel and Beryl, I don’t think it’s my business to discuss it, especially now that Beryl has departed and can’t give her permission.”
“It sounds very mysterious and must have been a serious matter for them to have fallen for so long. I know Beryl could be difficult at times, but we were usually able to works things out.”
“I don’t wish to discuss this Henry. Now, I should be a good host and hand around the platters. Good to see you again Henry.”
Jenny took a platter of sausage rolls and offered them to the guests, eventually coming to Daniel. “Hi honey, you’re doing a great job, the foods great.”
“Thanks, but I want to warn you to keep clear of Henry if you can, he’s digging for dirt. Do you understand Dan? It probably wasn’t wise to make that speech, it’s just set tongues wagging.”
“You may be right, but I needed to get it out. I often advise my clients that forgiveness can be curative. Time I heeded my own advice.”
“That’s good Dan, but just the same, keep an eye on Henry, looks like he’s doing the rounds of the guests, fishing for info.”
When Jenny saw Henry approaching Jason she made a beeline for Jason and arrived at the same time as Henry. “Sausage roll guys, you know these were Beryl’s favourite snack. She always liked the way I made them.”
“Thanks Mum.” Then turning to Henry “Haven’t seen you for ages Uncle Henry. Pity the only time some of the family gets together is at funerals.”
“Yes, we should see each other more often. Can you excuse us Jenny I want to have a boys’ only chat to my grand-nephew.”
“Actually I need Jason to help me. Can you pass around the sandwiches Jason? Looks like everyone is too busy chatting, to come to the buffet.”
“That wasn’t very nice Jenny, I just wanted to chat with the boy.”
“I know what you’re up to Henry, so just keep away from by children.”
“Well, I’ve never been so insulted in my lifetime.”
“Oh come on Henry, you must have been.”
“You bitch, how dare you speak to me like that?”
“I dare because you deserve it you nosy old bastard.” Henry huffed, and Jenny continued “Oh I’ve been meaning to ask, how are those young teenage swimmers you used to sponsor? Their parents must have been very grateful to you; doing that for their boys and expecting nothing in return, or am I wrong about that. Maybe you did get some reward. Do you understand me Henry? It would be a shame if people started asking questions about that arrangement; might be particularly embarrassing at a family gathering. What was it you were called around the pool, Hands on Henry?”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Just try me, if you go anywhere near my children in your quest for information about Beryl and Daniel’s rift.”
Jenny left Henry to ponder her threat and went to the kitchen to attend to the desserts. She was soon joined by Daniel who asked “You and Henry seemed to be in a heated discussion, what was that about?”
“I’ll tell you later, this is not the place. Now help me get these sweets out and then we just have coffee left to serve.”
As the guests started to drift away, Daniel did the farewells while Jenny and the children started cleaning up.
“Well that’s the last of them finally gone.” said Daniel “I don’t like to sound uncharitable, but I think some of them only came for the free drinks.”
“Yes, I’m glad we ran out or some of them would never leave.” offered Jason.
“Not quite.” answered Kevin. I stashed a few bottles away for us to have as a reward for doing all this.”
“You cheeky bugger, but I’m glad you did. Let’s take them home and relax there. Jason, I’ll come back tomorrow and finish the cleaning. I can’t expect you and Colleen to do it all.” suggested Jenny.
“Ok Mum, Colleen should be home soon. I’ve saved a few sandwiches and cakes for her. We’ll have those and relax with a bottle, if the guardian of the grog will allow us one.”
“Take your pick brother.”
Daniel dropped the boys at Steve’s, then he and Jenny went home to relax. “So what is this big deal between you and Uncle Henry?” asked Daniel.
“As you know he was fishing for information about why you and Beryl had a falling out. I just managed to steer him away from quizzing Jason so I thought I needed to make sure he wouldn’t return to the matter.”
“How did you do that?”
“Luckily I know about his dirty little secret.”
“You remember when he used to sponsor those swimmers and was always hanging around the pool when they were training.”
“Everybody knows about that, it was very generous of him to support the aspiring Olympic athletes and healthy sports in general.”
“Yeah, well that’s just it, his intentions were not all healthy. Around the pool he was known as Hands on Henry.”
“You mean he was...you know...with those boys?”
“But how do you know this about my family when I don’t even know?”
“Your mother seemed to know all the family’s secrets. You know how interrogative she could be. Once a cop always a cop, they say.”
“True but why did she tell you?”
“It seems that she felt she could trust me with the secret because she knew my secret. When we were going through all that stuff about me and Anthony, despite her displeasure with me, we became close and used to have long chats. It was during one of these chats that she told me about Henry, but made it clear that as the keeper of the family secrets she had the power to ensure my silence about anything she told me.”
Daniel sat in silence while he absorbed this revelation, then finally said “It seems my mother kept so much from me, her own flesh and blood, yet found a confident in you; amazing.”
“Yes, Beryl could use information as currency, when needs be.”