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Season 2013/14

City Blogger: A City send-off

  • 05 December 2013 12:00
  • Posted by @BerryFLW

In our latest blog, Lorraine Berry tells her heart-rending tale of how she laid her City-supporting father to rest in the way he would have wanted...

My dad flirted with different organized religions several times when I was growing up. I am not really certain what would drive him at these times to try to find meaning in certain teachings, but I grew up with a sense that all religions contain within them some truths. But, as a family, we never joined any particular church or temple.

It was only after my father died this past June that our collective lack of an organized religion in our family caused us to improvise when it came to coming up with a ritual with which to mark my dad's passing. 

One of the obvious things about my father was that he was a passionate man. His first love was my mother, to whom he had been married for just over 50 years: he 21, she 17, when they got married. He was passionate, too, about social justice, my father always fighting for society's underdogs. He loved his family and his dogs, but my father's other passion in life was for his beloved Blues. 

It was his love for Manchester City that we chose to honour at his sendoff. The first decision we had to make was what to have my dad wearing when he was cremated - to decide what would be in the coffin with him when we committed his body to the flames. My mum decided that my dad should go out of the world as he had entered it: starkers, except for his Manchester City scarf.

My grandfather, who had been an MUFC supporter all of his days, would be waiting for my dad. It seemed best to send him off wearing his scarf, so that he and the old man could resume their decades-old argument over who was the best team in Manchester. 

We decided that the last thing my father would have wanted at his memorial service was a load of friends and family, dressed in black, clogging up a chapel, so we asked all who were to attend the ceremony to wear light blue, and we asked them to join us at the gazebo at the local park where he had walked his two dogs every morning. 

The night before the service, my brother picked up the biodegradable urn of my dad's ashes. He brought it to his house, and we wrapped the urn in another City scarf. I thought the scarf might keep my father warm, and sat vigil with his ashes for a while, just as I had sat vigil with my father's body on the morning he had died. 

An hour before the service, several of us arrived at the gazebo and hung it with City-blue and white ribbons and streamers and Chinese lanterns. We decorated it also with footballs, black and white against the weathered wood. 

And then we gathered in our blue and white clothes - many of us wearing our City shirts - and we told each other stories about the kind of man my father had been, of how much we would miss him, but how he had left us a treasury of warm memories.

When the time came, we carried Dad's ashes across the road to the Atlantic Ocean beach where he and my mum had spent their last years together. We took with us a dozen City-blue balloons - their ribbons cut so that no sea life could become entangled in them - and dozens of flowers. We walked out up to our waists in the water.

A storm was moving in, and on the horizon where the ocean met the sky we watched lightning flash. The wind picked up, and as several of us grabbed handfuls of my dad, others let go of the balloons while others threw flowers into the now churning sea. For a moment, I felt my father's ashes trapped beneath my fingernails. I thought that I wanted to hold on to him forever, but then I plunged my hands beneath the surf and let the water wash him away. 

There was one last thing to do. I opened up a can of Boddington's beer and poured it among the salt water and my dad, amidst the flowers and ash that was all that was left of his earthly remains.

We hoped that we had done him proud. 

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