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A Parents Nightmare

That night, the evening before the funeral, Amanda and I were trying to be there for each other.  It was difficult in one sense because we could not talk about it in earshot of the children.  Amanda chose what she was going to wear, I had purchased a nice top for her just before Christmas as a present from Mia, so she chose that blouse without hesitation although I suspect she changed her mind on everything else a million times.  As I am an office worker, I had several pairs of black trousers and suit jackets in my wardrobe, there didn’t seem any need to buy a new suit.  I think Mia possibly had other ideas… Quite late in the evening, just before 9pm I think, I looked in the wardrobe just to put my choice of trousers, tie and suit jacket on hangers.  No panic, I had done this literally hundreds of times for meetings the following day over the years.  I said no panic…. none of the trousers were there!  They were not in the wash or the ironing basket either… to this day I am adamant they were not in the wardrobe!  I drove over to Asda around 9pm to buy a new pair of black trousers for my daughter’s funeral the next day… you could not begin to make it up!  I was just thankful that they remained on the hanger the next morning.

The wake following the service was to be held at the Servicemen’s Club in Desborough, it’s a member’s only club that Amanda’s family had run for many years prior to her uncle’s retirement only a few months before, it seemed only correct that it was to be held in the function room there.  My mum and sisters did the catering and I took the food down to the club late morning, I really cannot remember anything else.  We were to meet at my parents house around 1pm before making our way down to the cemetery.  Like any outdoor event, the weather was a consideration but thankfully it was a cold, crisp but dry winter’s day.  The ground was damp though, it was always going to be at that time of year.  I was concerned about wheelchairs.  My Nan would not be capable of walking down to the plot, neither would Amanda’s step-mother and my step-father no longer has the use of his legs following a stroke the previous year.  I was concerned about everything… whether Amanda was OK, whether one of the children had somehow found out and turned up, rain, snow, wind, anything…. Typically, word had got around Desborough that the funeral was that day and as usual by social media – only comments from people who thought they were helping by saying they were thinking of us – although of course we really appreciated the love and support of the town it was the last thing that we needed for the fear of the children finding out.  Perhaps it was for the best, at least it stopping me from worrying about the fact I had to carry my daughter to her final resting place.

We arrived as a family by the cemetery gates at 1.55pm.  I just wanted the funeral car to turn up as soon as possible, I didn’t like the idea of being stared at by passers-by.  Of course, the reality is that never happened but it did seem that way.  The car slowly approached down Rushton Road, I clenched Amanda's hand, she was motionless, my heart was beating so fast it felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.  The floral tributes rested beautifully against her tiny little coffin.  We walked solemnly up the cemetery path and round to the children’s area.  The vicar mentioned to us that we would be fine, we would get through the day and that she would support us every second of the ceremony.  One of the undertakers then explained to me how to hold Mia’s coffin and how to walk across the very soft ground.  I carried her perhaps 50 yards to her plot, I did slip once and I will always be grateful to my brother-in-law for standing close behind me just in case I did lose my footing.  The ceremony was very poignant and dignified.  There were a lot of tears, especially from my sisters, it seemed like we should be crying but we weren’t.  I can remember standing by Amanda’s side bursting with pride in how strong she was, I suspect a strong parental side was coming out.  I promise you there has been floods of tears from us both before and after her burial,  but not at that time.  I felt for Amanda’s father, he was in charge of the Olly Murs song.  He had tested the CD player before the day, bought new batteries etc., but for some reason would not play.  Luckily my phone had enough battery and we listened, emotionally to the song.  I don’t think this was coincidence now, I think it was Mia playing games, over the coming months it seemed like she enjoys playing games.  We were joined at the ceremony by the cemetery cat, it was very surreal and as the months passed the cat would usually be found lying on or very close to Mia’s grave.  I felt for my step-dad too, this must have been bring back awful memories of burying his son some 30 years before after he was killed in a road traffic incident.

I felt I had to say some words at the end of her ceremony, I didn’t know what I was going to say, I hadn’t rehearsed it at all.  I made Mia a promise that I would always look after her mum and I also promised her that one day her parents would be married so she had the same surname as her mum.  That was a bigger promise than it sounds as both Amanda and I had failed marriages behind us and had lost belief in marriage back then, there didn’t seem any point.  I also promised her that no matter what the future brings I will find out why she was never given the chance to live.  The flowers laid by Mia’s family were so beautiful and the words in the cards will always be cherished by Amanda and myself.

Mia's beautiful flowers
Getting back to the Servicemen’s Club was a great comfort, it at least meant that we had got through every parent’s worst nightmare.  As it was mid-afternoon on a weekday the place was quiet which was another relief as the last thing we needed was to feel like we were in a goldfish bowl.  We had a few drinks, I must confess to feeling quite drunk through the emotion of it all.  I think we done Mia proud, as the day approached it was always a fear that we wouldn’t hold ourselves together or somehow let her down, we didn’t, I am sure of that.

The following day had a “now what?” feel to it and the realisation that we were completely crushed.  The next few days were spent trying to come to terms with it all, dealing with the lovely but never-ending messages and sending thank you’s to all the people who had sent Amanda lovely bouquets of flowers.  We spent a lot of time down with her at her graveside, it helped being near her and with the flowers.  Amanda was nowhere near in a frame of mind where she could return to work, this put a strain on us financially as she had a 0 hours’ contract at the shop but it didn’t matter although it was a worry.  The situation had to be spelt out to Amanda’s boss who at first expected her to return to work a few days later.  I had a difficult conversation with him but once I got him to understand the facts he to his credit gave her all the time she needed.    


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