I have been writing this for two weeks now. On and off. Wanted to capture Sara's funeral as best I could. Read on.
It's two days since Sara's funeral (Fri 20 April, 2007). I'm sitting here, Sunday morning, wanting to call her up and tell her about my stressful and emotional day like I would have done - but then I remember. And there's a big gaping hole that you just can't do anything about. There's no fixing it, no bringing her back, it feels like a brand new world I'm in and I'm feeling rather lost in it.
I nearly wrote that the funeral was the worst day of my life. But it wasn't. I can't put my finger on it. I cried a lot but we DID celebrate her and it DID feel good. Sara's parents, Lynn and Denise, were both totally amazing. Stunning in fact. Sara would DEFINITELY have been pleased with the day and I know would have been reaching out to hug them with love and pride.
The service started at 2:45pm. I arrived outside Coychurch Cremotorium 10 minutes beforehand with Nathan. I had been finding it difficult, wondering when the floodgates were going to open. Then Warren came over, said hello and that was the moment. I hugged him and we hel deach other and both wept in the sunshine a few yards from the chapel door for a couple of minutes. I'd not seen Wozza since Sara died and, well,
it was a relief to be able to hug someone who loved her as much as I did.
Neil from Blazie handed us Braille hymn sheets before we went in. Non-capitalised Braille of course! Sara had campaigned vigorously to stop the introduction of capital letters a few years earlier - something of a big issue in the blind world that readers of print will find hard to appreciate. The print version of the service sheet had a picture of Sara receiving her degree at her graduation ceremony in 1993 (for the record, a BSc in Psychology from Loughbrough University)
Neil Jarvis was outside the crematorium. If I remember correctly, Neil was replaced by Sara at Blazie when he left to work in New Zealand. They had become firm friends in the last three years and I hope to get to know him a little better now. Gotta keep those memories alive, keep her influence going.
The service was around half an hour long. Sara was brought in with 'Somewhere only we know' by Keane accompanying her. We were at the front. My tears kept flowing but I managed to keep relatively quiet.
'I vow to thee my country' was hymn number one. Hymn number two 'The lord's my shepherd'. I've always found the first hymn a very moving tune anyway and discovered pretty quickly I was unable to sing much of it. I tried. But I made a point of staying really strong through the second hymn and sang, I think, EVERY word.
The female minister said some nice words about Sara guided by her mother Denise. She encaptulated a lot of what Sara was passionate about. It was kinda nice to know that, yes, we were definitely talking about the same Sara I knew.
An email that I received from a BlindKiss listener was read out. It seemed to encaptulate the point of the talkshow/web project. As well as having fun and sharing experiences, it was born to make a lot of people feel good about themselves. Sara's voice, passion and humour had helped this listener understand his new life as a visually impaired person. He had also found his partner through BlindKiss and had had children. The person who emailed thanked Sara for making it happen for him.
Her Dad then got up to speak. He did really well starting with how they had been devastated when Sara lost a lot of her sight at 5 years old but that she had proven that it was no way an end to life. He also talked about her humour, her love of a good Bollinger, her endearing expensive tastes and how she would whip out her white cane to queue-jump when they were at theme parks and on holiday in New York last December.
Then the final music played. And Sara left us. Howard Jones 'New song'. Sara used to be a member of his fan club when she was a young girl and to this day played New Song very loudly on her massive stereo speakers as she got ready to go out for an evening.
Bless her heart. Sara it's just too difficult to imagine you're not here so I'm going to imagine you're still with us if that's OK with you. You still influence what I do and say, you're here in my head.
Oh. I didn't tell anyone but I was carrying a small rucksack around with me all day. Gary asked what was in it but I told him he might not want to know. Inside was a teddy bear that Sara bought me when I was 19. I called it Eric. It has a little loveheart for a nose and across its paws the words 'I love you' - words from a time when we were very much in love. These things don't always work out but the love was still there ... a different kind of love now, probably much deeper, more caring and supportive than our time together as teenage sweethearts. We were very good friends, brother and sister, more. She refused to call him Eric cos she hated the name: she called him Ez for short. And he was there. And yes call me a sap ... but these things kind of matter don't they. Eric is sitting safely in my wardrobe at the moment, looking up at me every time I open the door. I tink Sara would have been amused and a little delighted that I had brought him along.
We then went to the Haywain pub. I'd been there with Sara on New Year's eve 2003 into 2004. She got up a few times to karaoke as I watched and listened. It was a great night. And she was being very supportive to me as it was clear I was splitting up with my then girlfriend of nine years. I think we recorded our last shows that week.
I sat with a group of friends from various aspects of Sara's life. I think we all felt that from that point on we needed to attempt a bit of cheer and send Sara off well. Her Ddad came over and insisted we all have a drink to celebrate Sara. I didn't feel like one, I have to say but I had a few. Sara would have wanted a celebration not a comiseration so I drank and ate. And, ya know, it helped talking about her and laughing with the memories.
How Sara's mum and dad remained so positive I'll never know. They were outstanding, amazing. Lynn told me later that it all hit him again in the evening - it comes in waves. WE oscilate between disbelief and devastation and wanting to preserve her memory, making her life meaningful by being positive now she's gone (Sara liked the word oscilate).
Sara Sara Sara.
Two weeks on, we're back in the present now. I've been going to work. The first week back was difficult: I couldn't concentrate on anything. I've started to move on though. I can write again from this week on it seems, rather useful in my profession. But I'm still dropping Sara into lots of conversations - everything reminds me of her. I'm sure that, for those who didn't know her, it might be a bit confusing or annoying that I keep mentioning my mate Sara. I want to. It keeps it all going, doesn't it. Makes life a bit more understandable. She made her mark though, she won't easily be forgotten.
And now ... well we've got to work out a fitting lasting tribute. There are a group of us keen to do this and we've had a few little chats and a few ideas have come up. We've got to come together on this though.
It's May 5. Sara died a month ago today. I got a bit angry when the calendar flipped from April into May because she hadn't made this month, things were moving on without her. Unfair I thought. Every Thursday that goes by I'm paying particular attention to. Every time April 5 is mentioned I get a jarring go through me. Every morning on the way to work I look at my mobile phone and wonder if she'd somehow receive my text if I sent it but then put it back down.
I'm going to go now. Thank you for reading. And again, tell your friends and family how much you love them today.