On Tuesday I returned to Gloucestershire, to see my father just before his eighty-fifth birthday and to attend the funeral of Barbara Thorley. David came with me, and it was a pleasant , mild day with sun and no rain, after a torrential downpour on Sunday. I felt a whole network of emotions, in pastel shades of melancholy and the memories of my childhood, but I was pleased I was there. Painswick Church was full for a very long funeral, devised by Barbara herself, with readings from Donne, Joyce Grenfell, and two passages from the bible. Carolyn Cooke sang “I know that my redeemer liveth”, and the scratch quartet of Val and Robert Wicks, and a couple of others from our little coterie of music specialists. I think, though, despite the very normal and friendly arrangements made by her sister and extended nieces and nephews, and the concentration of music, good hymns, (mainly Parry) and organ playing from Chris Swain, that it did not quite catch the essence of her. The vicar, the too elderly retired vicar of Stroud muddled the liturgy dreadfully, and his sermon said nothing of any merit either about Barbara or the readings, or about the situation. Even the committal and commendation were muddled. I can imagine what she would think, as she was such a perfectionist. They sang the final chorus from The Dream of Gerontius and the coffin disappeared out through the door, to go to the crem. I think very few there probably knew her as well or as long as I did, and remembered all the other aspects of her life. But music lives on. They carried in Sir Edward Elgar’s conducting baton, which her piano teacher, a good friend of EE’s had given to her. David had a little hold of it during the tea afterwards, which was a religious moment for him! When I came home later I phoned Chris Baines who told me she had lingered for four or five days in hospital longer than they expected, didn’t speak during those days, while the niece and nephews kept a vigil at the bedside. I wonder what she was going through during those last days. In the church I did have a strong feeling of Hope Senior waiting somewhere for her.
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