Rita, Nanny, Mom

We buried my grandmother today. She was a motorbiker, a boater, and a great-grandmother to five. She ran her own clothes shop, officiated at TT Races for decades, and she and my grandfather were a year away from their 70th wedding anniversary. She will be missed.

The funeral was as good as such a thing can be. I have some contacts in this area. As it happens, today is the 125th anniversary of Humanists UK, where come Monday I’ll have been working for 10 years. I have spent much of that time supporting our network of humanist celebrants. I’ve got to know many of them, and I’ve worked with some of the most knowledgeable people in the funeral trade. So I was very lucky that the plans for today were informed by the best in the business – thank you so much, to those reading – and I knew the celebrant who led the service.

He did an excellent job. It was dignified, thoughtful, caring, and told the complete story of her life. A real tribute. It was hard, but it was a proper moment in time.

My grandmother was, we think, happy. She had love, and her family around her. She and my grandfather endured tough times – indeed, life-changing times – but always together. She seemed, broadly and as much as you can say this about another person, content. Her final years were more difficult, and not a little cruel, as illness took its toll. But she had a good life, and lived it well. Her family are a testament to that.

She had a soft spot for Mickey Mouse, and a good collection of Mickey memorabilia. I used to pick her up a different item on my every trip to Disneyland. But over the last year she’d grown particularly fond of a giant toy octopus – bright orange, with the happiest smile you’ve ever seen. It was this that sat on top of her coffin today. It was quite the sight. She’d have loved it.

She used to take me shopping when I was little. I think she bought me my first magic trick. I will treasure the idyll of watching cartoons at her house on a Saturday morning, usually a family dog or cat nearby, while she made my lunch. And I’ll forever be reminded of her by the taste of pear drops, which she always had to hand for me and my sister. We gave out free bags as the mourners left.