Tom’s Funeral

1st December 2011 Thornham Bridge, Devon

Tom’s funeral took place on 1st December 2011 at our home, which meant that it was a very really personal, family affair, and we could have different events throughout the day. We reckon about a hundred people came; many from Bristol, but others from as far away as Scotland, Italy, France and other parts of Europe. It meant a lot to us that so many people made such an effort to be there, including colleagues, students, and friends from way back in Tom’s life, as well as current friends and family. Thanks to you all for coming!

The day began with a formal ceremony in the hall, which just fitted everybody in, conducted by Ru Callender of the Green Funeral Company. We decorated the hall with white orchids, which Tom loved, and other white flowers. Adam carved a wooden sign which will eventually go in the field to mark some of his ashes.

Emily, Jolyon, Adam, David, Carol and I carried Tom’s coffin into the hall to the sound of piano and recorder music composed and played by Roland and Linda Clare. There followed brief tributes from me (Tom’s former wife), Emily (daughter), Jolyon (son), Carol (partner of 5 years) and Lily (Carol’s daughter)

We sang hymns although, as Ru pointed out, we were probably almost all atheists. Tom’s niece thought she might be the ‘only non-atheist there’!

Carol chose the Bunyan as fitting to Tom’s ‘Pilgrim spirit’. I chose the Beatles ‘In my life’ for evoking memories and impermanence, Emily chose ‘O God, our help in ages past’ because of its sense of permanence within change. There were readings by Frida (Carol’s daughter), Adam (my husband), and David (Emily’s partner). Emily played a Chopin prelude which Tom loved, and Graham Clark played the violin.

See the Order of Ceremony.

Many of those attending brought their favourite photos of Tom which we hung all over the hall and kitchen, and will keep.

After lunch some people went onto the bridge by our house and played pooh sticks or threw flowers into the river to flow down to the sea. Many visited Tom in his coffin in the hall for a private goodbye. At 2.30 most of us gathered around the eco-hot-tub, which was Tom’s wedding present to Adam and me, constructed by the family over a weekend last year. Adam started the singing with a great rendition of the Hippopotamus Song, after which everyone joined in with whatever songs they felt appropriate, with Roland accompanying us all on a keyboard from the summer house.

At 3 p.m. we all gathered around the hall and anyone who wanted to helped carry Tom all the way out to the field. This was where he and Carol so often stayed in his beloved camper van ‘Tubalard’.

There we had a great bonfire. You can see Tubalard in the distance. People were able to write messages, or construct mementoes for Tom, to throw into the fire and say goodbye. These strange objects included a bow and arrow (in memory of Tom’s failed attempts to get a rope into a high tree in Uganda), a paper plane which flew back out of the fire, a giant spliff (no need to explain), a rocket tipped with flowers, and many others.

Then we sang ‘Abide with me’ still standing in a ring, including Tom’s coffin, around the fire. With much emotion the family then lifted Tom for the last time into the back of Tubalard, which was to be his hearse for the journey to the crematorium. Those of us who stayed behind waited for the call to say that Tom was being pushed into the furnace, and Stephen (my brother) lit a final firework display to see him off.

We know Tom would have approved of his last day.

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