Saturday, 5 March 2016

A celebration, tears, smiles and laughter...

First of all, a big thank you to all those who joined us on Thursday to celebrate Steve's life.  The service room was packed - around 90 people - all of whom knew Steve in one capacity or another.

As well as the Wrides of Oxford, Frome and Bristol and two of my cousins, there were friends going back to our respective school days; friends from our student days from the schools of Architecture and Planning at what is now Oxford Brooks University; friends and neighbours from the West Oxford Community, including the local school where Steve had been a governor and the local community art group wocART, of which he was a founder member.

We were also joined by people who knew Steve from our respective workplaces over the years - our little shop Glossies, the City Council, the Historic Towns Forum and the Planning Inspectorate.  Then there were people we had met through mutual friends who soon became an important part of our own lives.

Katie's former school friends came too, and the children of friends who have grown up knowing us as part of their parents social network.  Some of them even brought their own children to the post service gathering, so it was a real multi generational celebration!

The service was led by Pat, a humanist celebrant who had spent a long time talking to us to get to know Steve as a person.  Her love, care and sensitivity showed clearly in the way she led the celebration and helped us through the tributes, music, tears, smiles and laughter along the way. Although not a religious service, there was also time for quiet reflection and individual prayer for those who have a faith.

The music was very much an integral part of the occasion, directly linked to some aspect or another of Steve's life.  Erik Sartie's Gymnopedies piano pieces (the only music Steve had actually requested whenever I had tried to tie him down on the subject); John Martyn's hauntingly beautiful song "I Couldn't Love You More" from our iPod music collection; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot - which as every rugby fan will know, echoes around the stadium whenever England is playing an international, such as the Six Nations match against Italy, which Steve had enjoyed watching on TV the day before he died.

Steve was keen that everyone left the service on a more upbeat note, so we went out on a classic - Not Fade Away - with versions by the Stones and Buddy Holly, a song directly inspired by Steve's final Valentine card which he designed, printed and gave to me on his last full day of life.

There were tributes from Steve's brother Martin, who spoke about his "Big Brother", our niece Heather who told the fable of the elephant and the humming bird, inspired by Steve's bravery in taking part in clinical drug trials in the hope that his contribution would one day help find a cure for mesothelioma.

Jack and Katie also spoke from the heart, talking about their relationship with Steve and what he had meant to them.  Not an easy task in the circumstances, but I know that their words reached out to everyone in the room.  I am so very proud of them and I know that Steve would have been too.

I managed to speak my tribute Doing Something Positive without completely dissolving in tears, although I came close from time to time.  It felt like I was addressing a sea of faces, but from time to time a face in the crowd would come into focus, lit up by memories of times shared with Steve that were special to them.  And we all remembered the happy times, as well as feeling the loss of a husband, father, brother, uncle and dear friend.

All the tributes from the service will be added to the blog over the course of the next few days, along with some of the lovely words you have written to me in cards, letters and emails, or posted online.  I think they add an extra dimension to the person that many of you will only know through the blog, because of his mesothelioma journey.  

It was wonderful that so many of you were able to join us after the service in the Punter, our local riverside pub, to raise a glass in honour of Steve.  We took over the place for a couple of hours before people had to head off home, many to far flung places.  Those who were staying on or lived locally came back to our house afterwards to continue the celebration, which was lovely.

I also know that there were many who were unable to join us at the event, but were there with us in spirit, raising a glass or cup to Steve all over the UK, in Europe, Australia, USA, Canada, and even one in an airplane en route to Colombia. Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts .

I have been thinking about whether the blog should end now that Steve's mesothelioma journey is over, but there will still a few more strands to share with you from time to time, after the tributes are posted.   In particular, news of Jack's cycle ride in L'Etape du Tour 2016 to raise money for Mesothelioma UK in Steve's memory - the number of donations and money raised to date has literally gone through the roof!  Thank you all so much for your generosity.  

Donations have also been made in Steve's memory to other charities and I'll let you know the outcome of those in about a month's time, if I can track them all down.....

The family is giving some thought about where to scatter Steve's ashes, and the creation of a more lasting memorial to him which other people can enjoy too.  It would be good to think that some of you will be able to join us when it is eventually dedicated - although that will be some time into the future I imagine.

In the meantime, I do hope you will enjoy reading the tributes which I will post over the next few days...I know they will raise a smile and even a gentle laugh, as well as maybe a tear or two.  Much love to you all, especially the meso warriors, their families and friends and to our family and friends who helped make Steve's life celebration a truly memorable occasion xx

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