Today started fairly normally with the alarm going off. It was not going to be a normal day though by far. I fed the dogs and fed myself and had a coffee. I then drove to the station and picked Megan up. I finally settled on what I was going to wear, went for the suit trousers, my yellow Pikachu t-shirt and a Pikachu hoody. We drove towards Shipham, that’s about the slowest I’ve ever driven down the M5. We made it in good time, I parked up and we walked across to the church. On the church path we met Nat’s dad Denis. He shook my had hand and I introduced him to Jamie. He said ‘slipped disc’, we took her into A&E and expected to be taking her away and that’s when they found it straight away. We exchanged a few words and then he said, that she was waiting inside.
We walked into Shipham’s lovely litte church. This was the same church they were married in a few years ago. At the alter was her coffin. I’d already seen pictures of it, but it was still a hell of a shock. Dan was up by it, complimented me on my wardrobe choice and asked us to write away. The lid was already covered in messages but I found a space. I choose a red marker pen and wrote:
“1..2..3…wide awake”. If only it worked now. It didn’t work out for us, but was so happy when you met Dan and all your dreams came true. We always remained friends. Remembering the good times, there will always be a special place in my heart for you.
This was very odd. I was writing on the lid of a coffin, the coffin that contained a real body. The coffin that contained the body of one I loved.
We took our seats. Teresa came over in tears, this was Nat’s best friend. There was a CD Dan prepared playing in the background, playing Nat’s favourite tunes. Dan came over when ‘creep’ started playing and said he’d put this one in for me (It’s the only damn song I can sing in my key apart from ‘My Way’, and it’s the one I used to sing with her). Full respect though for putting in the uncut version, I smiled when it came on “Your so fucking special”, perfect church version. There was also Monty Python’s ‘Galaxy Song’.
Natalie’s parents arrived and too their seats. The service itself was pretty standard, lots of god talk, which to be honest I don’t think she was a great fan of, but would happily go with the flow. We sang the same hymns that they sang at their wedding. There were a couple of very moving readings. The coffin was then led out, followed by the family. It was placed into a hearse and driven slowly through Shipham to the church yard. The congregation followed the hearse and all the traffic was stopped. It was a fair trek to the cemetery. Karen and her younger children didn’t attend the burial.
The cemetery was in a beautiful setting, the sun shown down. The grave had been prepared. The coffin was brought in and placed above the hole on planks. The sun glistened off the handles and reflected off the white surface. We all gathered round. The vicar started up and did all the ‘ashes to ashes’ stuff. The coffin was then led into it’s final resting place. Dan with his two children Alfie and Rosie then knelt down at the edge of the grave and looked in while the vicar gave some final prayers. There was then a moment of contemplation. A flower was given to each of the children and they threw it on the coffin, Dan threw a rose on the coffin and he led the children away. Then several of the congregation went up to the grave side, took dirt out of a box and spread it into the grave. I went up alone.
I stood there at the foot of the grave, six feet up, staring in. There below me was a bright white coffin covered in messages containing the body of my ex-girlfriend. This was someone who I had spent a large proportion of my life with. We had lived together, been on holiday together, eaten together and had huge amounts of kinky sex with. Never again will she make another cake, never again will I be helping her to sue someone, never again will she smile, never again will she comfort her children. She was gone. I only stood there for a few seconds, but it was our few seconds, a time again just for me and her, a time just to close our relationship forever. I said, ‘Goodbye Nat’ and threw the dirt on the coffin.
People started to drift off and I went over and took one more look at the coffin with Teresa. It’s an image I’m not going to forget in a hurry.
We walked back to the car and drove back to Nat’s parents house. It’s still the size of a stately home and has parking for 4,000 cars. Karen came over and gave me a hug, we’ve always got on fine and always had a bit of an understanding. The next couple of hours I spoke to Joe and Lisa. Dan came into the kitchen where we were chatting and said that Nat would normally be over here babbling away. He’s been really strong, really strong, I do admire him for that.
Not sure of what the etiquette of copping off at funerals is, but there was a blonde guy there I wouldn’t have minded taking to the fields out back and doing a bit of a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ with.
Pink balloons were handed out and we all wrote messages on them, then we let them all off together and they floated up and off into the sky, it was a lovely gesture. People began to go, so we said our goodbyes, I had a quick chat with Denis where we discussed solar panels. We all said we’d see each other again, but we all knew it was very unlikely to happen. I gave Karen one final hug, I didn’t need to say anything.
We then drove to Cheddar, parked up and managed to get a photo of the Gromit there. Drove back home, the traffic was fairly heavy. When we got back we took the dogs out for a walk with Megan. We dropped her at the station and went to Tesco’s, dogs were left on their own for the first time, they seemed to cope fine and the house was still in one piece when we got back.
I’ve put a nice bottle of wine in the wine fridge which was a gift, I think it’s a good occasion to crack it open. So there we are, all over. Jamie one the award for the most inappropriate (but very funny) comment of the day, he said, “Good job she found Dan, otherwise she’d be in that coffin dressed up as Ash”. I think her passing has brought a few things home to me. It’s all very well planning for the future, but may be plan for today as well, you may not be here then.
Natalie’s time card has been stamped. Live life by the day and enjoy it when you can as you don’t know when God is going to flip open his ink pad again.
I will drink that bottle of wine tonight and have a toast to Natalie. Then tomorrow will be a new day.