Farewell Great Uncle Peter
by Dr Anthony D. Cliffe
It was a tough day on Friday as we said our final farewells to one of my all-time favourite family members, my Great Uncle Peter. As far as funerals go, as weird as it sounds, this was the best one I’ve attended. I say that in the sense that not only was it a beautiful service in a very nice setting but it truly was a celebration of his life and it was a very fitting send off for him.
It broke my heart when I heard the news that he had passed away after a short illness and I will miss him and his humour an awful lot. As sad as I am that he’s passed, I am also in a way glad as he’d been suffering with dementia for the past few years and that took a lot away from not only him but his immediate family. I was asked by his wife, my Great Aunt Joyce if I’d like to say a few words at his funeral. I didn’t hesitate to say yes. As I was writing what I was going to say it dawned on me just how daunting that task would be. I’ve written hundreds of blogs over the years, I’ve written novels, I’ve spoken in front of a 1000 people and I’ve given presentations to UK parliament and National and International conferences, yet for me, this was not only the hardest speech but the one most I didn’t want to mess up.
Trying to put someone’s life as you saw them into words is hard. Then trying to deliver that at their funeral and not wanting to disappoint the family and wanting to give a fitting farewell is even harder. In the end after numerous drafts in my head I decided to write from the heart and in true Peter fashion I wanted some humour in there. I know it’s not the standard to try and make people laugh in a Eulogy but as I was writing it I could almost hear his laughter at some of the comments. I felt a lot of pressure when I was writing it simply because I didn’t want to let him down. At the funeral there were some truly wonderful words and memories spoken about a much loved man and I was glad that I could be a small part of that.
I can be really good at compartmentalising my feelings, so much so that some of my friends often refer to me as a ‘Robot’. I was doing absolutely great, although the ever present pre-speaking nerves were present until they played Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water before I was invited up to say my few words. I had to push the giant lump in my throat away as the true reality hit me. I’d practiced how I was going to deliver this numerous times but now it was all suddenly very real and I didn’t want to let one of my all-time favourite family members down by messing up their Eulogy!
I’m glad it got plenty of laughs for those who knew Peter well and I’ve never been at a funeral where they’ve clapped after the delivery of a Eulogy, so I hope I did him proud. I am also very touched that my cousins (his sons and daughter) were really appreciative of my words and to hear a lot of people say I summed him up and their experiences with Peter to a T was also something I think will stay with me for a long time. The last line choked me up every time I practised it and while I managed to keep it together on the day as soon as I sat back down in the chair and looked up at his coffin and picture which I’d avoided since walking in, the emotions hit me like a train and a few tears formed which says a lot about what Peter meant to me. I haven’t cried for 6 years, not even at the passing of my granddad this year so that may go some way for this ‘robot’ to show you what he meant to me.
Peter leaves behind a fantastic legacy and those who knew him well our lives are a little bit dimmer now that he’s gone. Deaths of loved ones always make you appreciate life and makes you think about the impact you have on people and what your legacy will be when you go. I hope one day when my time comes and I see you again that I’d have done you proud. May you forever rest in peace my old friend, Shalom x
My Eulogy for Peter:
Great Auntie Joyce asked me to pen and say a few words about my Great Uncle Peter. Uncle Peter was what can I say, I think ‘Loveable Rouge’ is a good term to describe him. Someone who was a little bit of a Del Boy, always trying to make a quick bit of cash here or save money there. A bit like Del Boy some of those things never quite came off but that didn’t stop him trying! He always did it with a charm and a charisma that was like no other. What defined him for me was his love for his family. A true family man who would do absolutely anything for those he held dear. It was clear to see how much his wonderful family meant to him. I know how much he loved Joyce, his exceptionally dedicated wife who’s been through everything with him by his side. I know how much he loved his children, Helen, Gary and Ian and his pride for his family was no greater seen than the beaming smile etched across his face when he spoke of any of his grandkids and how proud he was of them of what they’ve achieved and no doubt what they’ll go on to achieve.
What I loved so much about Uncle Peter was his wit and the banter we often shared. He had a wit that would cut through even the steeliest of people and you may have been at the end of that yourselves at some point! I know I have! Uncle Peter was a guy who was who he was, there was no false bravado or pretentiousness about him. I always loved seeing Uncle Peter when he would come down, and we would rip each other with banter constantly as our way of showing our affection for one another. Some banter well that just sticks, I don’t think he’s ever called me by my proper name, he’d never call me Tony but instead always referred to me as Anton as a in joke of how according to him I look Jewish! A family in joke that persists to this day because of him! He would always say to me “Anton! What time are you back in Burton’s shop window mate?” anytime I dressed smart, so I’m sure he’ll be having an absolute field day today with us all making an effort for him! As I talk to you now, I know he’d be saying something funny to shut me up and get a laugh. That’s the thing about Pete, he always knew how to make people laugh. I also know he’ll be telling me to wrap this up so I will leave you with this. Whenever Uncle Peter would come down and we’d offer him one of our whiskeys we would ask what he wanted in his glass, i.e. a splash of water or perhaps some ice, on the rocks maybe? Pete, well, he would just give that little smile of his and would simply reply “Just another one please”! So ladies and gentlemen whether it’s today, tomorrow or this year, have just another one for Peter, for the man who was Noble by name and Noble by nature. But make sure you put it on his tab! Because it’s definitely what he would have wanted…not!
So for one last time I feel it’s fitting to say my usual farewell to Peter, with a smile, Shalom mate!