Monday 13 November 2017

On Kindness

On Friday we buried my brother. I live in the north west of England and my family are from Barry in South Wales. I have arthritis and can’t drive long distances. I had no idea how I was going to get there, or how I would manage once there. Lying awake this morning, I decided to write about kindness, then I discovered on twitter that today is World Kindness Day, so this blog seems even more serendipitous.

I am a great believer in kindness and letting people be kind. Having mobility issues has taught me that people like to help, people don’t always get it right, but I want to believe they are motivated by the best of reasons. The events of the last few weeks have shown me just how wonderful people can be.

We knew getting to Wales would be a problem. I rang a local taxi firm to enquire and they gave me a quote but didn’t seem too keen, then out of the blue one of my publishers offered the services of her husband. The wonderful Mr P hired a car big enough to take us and my walker and baggage and drove us there and back, clocking up many hours of driving and dealing with someone – me – struggling to get into the seat, panicking that I might not – and us singing along with the radio. I can’t tell you how grateful we were that this person, who we had never met before, went out of their way to take us and bring us back.

Once at the hotel, everyone again was kind and helpful. We stayed at a Premier Inn next door to a Beefeater Restaurant called Walston Castle. Some of the reviews aren’t complimentary online, but every person who served the tables were as helpful as they could be, from making sure doors were opened so I could get my walker through, to making sure we got the table nearest the entrance from the hotel so I wouldn’t have to deal with steps. Our waitress was lovely with my young niece and nephew on the first night there, and nothing but polite and helpful, constantly checking we were okay, especially after they discovered why we were there.

An old friend of my mum’s took us to the funeral, with her daughter driving and then onto the venue for the wake/disco. Again, I had fun getting in, but we managed. We did go to the wrong door so I couldn’t get into the main room due to many stairs, but they stayed with me and the place was so packed I definitely wasn’t alone. A lot of me was glad not to be sitting with him in front of me in that coffin as I find that so hard to deal with. The celebrant sought me out and introduced herself and the funeral directors also checked on me. My sister in law and her family were wonderful. How C did that speech about my brother, I have no idea, but she managed to stand there in front all those people and speak about him. So many people went out of their way to speak to me and tell me their stories. I’m not sure many of them would ever have been to a funeral where dancing took place before, but my brother loved dancing and Boogie Wonderland was his choice.

At the wake which had a DJ and disco, as he’d insisted, I met people I hadn’t seen for nearly forty years, people who we’d grown up who were now grandparents. Still, I could find no one who knew why my brother was nicknamed Ned. I also got a lot of questions about my writing – my mother and brother had told many that I wrote novels, so there I was talking about gay romance. When we left, the disco had started and many were up on the floor dancing as he’d have wanted, including my older nephew and my sister in law. I suspect there will have been a few thick heads the day after.

Leaving my mum and eldest nephew was hard, but I know C will look after them. I returned home to discover more kindness. I have an amazing group of friends online. We met through our love of Doctor Who. These wonderful friends had made a donation to Cancer Research on behalf of Ian. Such kindness brought more tears, and I’ve cried a few recently.

Lastly, there is one person without whom I could not have done this. She has been my best friend for nearly forty years. You know how important you are to me.

Sometimes, this world can seem like a horrible place when you read all that is going on at the moment, but out there are people who want to be kind. I am so grateful for that kindness, and wanted to state so publicly. We will never get over our loss, but the kindness of so many made the last few days just that bit easier.