Yesterday we said goodbye to Aonghas in celebration rather than mourning. I don’t think it’s likely to be a day any of us will forget in a hurry.
We woke to heavy rain which started the previous evening just as his father Alex and I met to prepare the village hall we were using for his party. A good friend emailed first thing to say “Image of flow related to this day. Flow of water, flow of energy, flow of love. Flow.”
I was hoping he’d be right in one respect since I still hadn’t got much idea of what I was going to say at the funeral, which we were doing ourselves, but was also watching the amount of water coming out of the sky. We live near the river Tweed and it was very possible that Drumelzier, the village where the party was to be, could be cut off from one end making it hard for people to get there, not to mention the possibility of the river ending up ten feet (or closer) from our front door which it’s done on four occasions in the last 5 years.
We drove through a huge amount of water to Mortonhall Crematorium on the outskirts of Edinburgh for the 11.30am funeral, though in Edinburgh itself it wasn’t raining. Just thick cloud. So the 80 or so gathering friends and relatives (who’d come from as far away as Dublin, Wales and the West Highlands) all stayed dry as we waited for the previous funeral to finish.
As people came into the chapel, we played a selection of piano pieces written by a composer friend, Janis Page from Denver, Colorado, including two pieces written specifically for Aonghas who she met last summer and felt a special connection with. A neighbour of ours had been in touch earlier in the week to offer to make a large banner image of Bangy, so we had this hanging beside the coffin. (The image in the previous post with the background removed.) Ema had chosen and arranged the flowers, and Oonagh had written a poem for him.
When this life I’m in is done,
and all is fine.
I’d like to float up,
and make the sun shine.
The wind flung against my wings,
flying so free.
Swooping through the clouds,
I see the real me.
Laughing and crying,
not all is lost.
For my soul is still here,
but my body not.
I will always be with you,
and love you, the same.
But just not in person,
my soul’s not yet tame.
I am still alive,
just not as you know.
I’ll always be fine,
and love you so.
A friend of ours, Scott Wilkins, who’s known Bangy all his 14 years, also spoke and read a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
I wanted to make it clear why we were celebrating his death rather than mourning, so I related the events at the hospital which had had such poignancy, humour and beauty in amongst all the sadness. As we were talking about Bangy, a gap opened in the thick clouds overhead and a shaft of sunlight shone straight down through one of the windows at the end of the chapel, striking the image of Aonghas, and Alex and me as we spoke.
The song we played as his coffin was covered was the Lou Reed song Banging on my Drum (which Bangy had been playing in spirit during his passing in the company of a distance healer friend of mine from the Netherlands) followed by a recording of some didgeridoo playing for Aonghas by Scott ‘Gusty’ Christensen which he’d been playing over near Boulder, Colorado at the same time.
We came outside to a brilliant rainbow in the skies overhead.
Back in the Borders we discovered the rain hadn’t let up here at all and the Tweed was already flooding the surrounding fields. As people were arriving at the hall, the water was starting to encroach on the road both sides of the village. Despite this, around 90 people came to celebrate with us, though as afternoon turned into evening and the river was still rising, some had to leave their cars the other side of the floods and wait to be ferried across in 4x4s. Then that was it. The village was completely cut off. Nobody could leave because even the 4x4s couldn’t get through. One intrepid soul parked his car the other side of the floods and waded through over his knees to a waiting car our side just so he could come and be with us.
There was an absolute perfection in the river’s timing which meant that those who had to get away for other events that evening did so, and those who had the flexibility to stay got to do so too. About 35 of us were left after 6pm with no option but to carry on partying until the flood waters went down again. We all had the sense it was Bangy behind this, even folk not normally inclined to give credence to such notions.
I phoned the farmer to check on our house, and the water, unusually for the depth of water on the road, was nowhere near.
Kind souls in the village came down to check we were all OK and brought bedding for the children in case we had to stay the whole night. But somehow we knew the waters would be down enough to go home when we were ready to. And so they were. We finally left the hall about 10:30pm having been there since 1:30pm.
At one point Oonagh and Tricia started throwing little balls of paper at me and Ema sitting at other tables. I started throwing them back and it snowballed until everyone was throwing balls of paper all over the hall. A complete riot! We knew that was him too – he’d always wanted to restage the food fight in the Robin Williams movie Hook. (Bangy’s uncle Paul got it on video. Here it is.)
The food was brilliant, the music was brilliant (with special thanks to Lewis who came all the way from Newcastle to play accordion, and Martin Swan), and the whole event presided over by this big banner image of Bangy waving and dancing. The children organised their own photo shoot, taking turns taking each other’s pictures with him.
Everyone enjoyed themselves hugely. The atmosphere was brilliant. Old friends reconnected. New friends were made. Old enemies chatted happily. So much love in the room. Everything was as it should be. Everything was in its proper place.
Unbelievable (yet not). Amazing (yet totally expected). And utterly perfect.
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who was part of our celebrations in any way. And many thanks too for the generous donations to Aonghas’s favourite charity, the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme.