I picked my flowers up from the florist's; they'd done a terrific job on the piece using many of Dad's favourites, chrysanthemums and dahlias in autumnal shades, with a few deep red whatchumacallits and orange somethingorothers, a really masculine bouquet that I was very pleased with. The more so as it turned out the floral arrangements we'd ordered through the undertaker's never materialised, but of course I didn't know it then and we never even noticed until after the service, so many people had sent their own flowers.
More people showed up to the cremation ceremony than I'd dared to expect, including some colleagues from both me and my sister's work, which was really wonderful. We've both been getting lots of support from our respective employers and co-workers with e-mails, phone calls and text messages, and we've both been given special leave for the week.
I delivered the eulogy and my niece read a poem, then my sister added a few words of her own. Then we both got up and thanked everyone for coming, we had a minute's silence, and then the casket, that she and I had closed together, slowly moved backwards into whatever space is there at crematoria where the dead are prepared for their final journey.
We had a short reception in one of the adjoining rooms, with tea and coffee and Indonesian finger food, where people could mingle and offer us their condolences. Then afterwards, we took 20 of our family and friends out to dinner to a Korean restaurant, in memory of our father who had been a Korean war veteran *). We had a very pleasant evening with good food, a lot of laughter and some tears, and everybody was agreed we'd given our Dad the most splendid send-off and he would have been so proud of us.
*) The first thing I did, the morning after Dad's death, was contact the Dutch Korean War Veterans Association, to ask if they would send a delegation to form an honour guard as I'd seen them do on previous occasions, when others of Dad's former comrades had died. The secretary said he'd do his best, but as those who are left are mostly in their eighties and struggling with various degrees of ill health, couldn't guarantee he'd be able to gather the necessary quorum. In the end, only one vet made it, but he was someone whom my Dad had known and he was most welcome. My sister and I commemorated our father's time in Korea in our speeches, because it was such an important event in his life; it shaped the man he became and so touched on our lives as well. Therefore, our music choices for the service were as follows:
- Suicide Is Painless from the M*A*S*H* soundtrack, our Dad's favourite TV show;
- Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits;
- Peace In The Valley by Elvis, which always made Dad teary-eyed whenever he heard it; and
-Old Soldiers Never Die by Gene Autry, which was the veteran's anthem as far as he and his comrades were concerned; it was played at all their funerals