The funeral service for Barry was held at 11am on 30 May 2006 at Pine Grove.
When arranging the funeral, I was asked how many “Order of Service” leaflets we would need. I said fifty would probably be too many as we are a very small family – 14 in total, on both side of the family. The funeral director frowned and said she would do 100. Later, she phoned me and said that she still didn’t think that would be enough and she would do 150. I honestly felt that she was wasting paper, because we are not a social family with heaps of friends, but I didn’t argue. I didn’t have the strength.
On the morning of the funeral, Gary and I got ready quietly. Each of us was focused inwardly. We had been told to arrive at least 20 minutes early as we had arranged a private coffin bearing for family members only. However, when we arrived at the chapel it was already crowded. I never knew that Barry had so many friends. It lightened my heart.
It was soon realised that the coffin bearing would not be a private affair, so plans were quickly changed and everyone was ushered into the chapel. We waited. Meanwhile the first of Barry’s favourite songs was playing – “I Would Do Anything for Love” by Meat Loaf.
It seemed like an eternity, but finally the minister asked us to rise.
There were six coffin bearers: Andy (Barry’s Dad), Gary, Daniel, Jamie (Barry’s cousin), Peejay and Matt (two of Barry’s best friends). I saw none of them.
For me, the chapel was empty apart for me and the coffin. The coffin hovered in mid-air and slowly moved down the aisle towards me. I remember thinking that I was going to pass out; I staggered, but regained my footing. I know that in those moments I was distraught. The tears flowed freely, I was gasping for breath. My son lay in that coffin. I couldn’t accept that fact.
Words. There were lots of words spoken after that. I remember Gary standing tall and speaking clearly on my behalf. The words I had written, that would never feel adequate enough, were spoken with strength and conviction. Gary only faltered once when he tried to speak the personal words that I had written to Barry, but he quickly pushed the lump in his throat aside and continued in his strong voice. He held on until the end. It was only when he reached the pew, and sat beside me, that he allowed his grief to overcome him and he sobbed. Olga, the funeral director, then read the words Daniel had written for Barry – lovely, sentimental words that touched my heart and still make me cry when I think about them.
Then…we were asked to reflect on happy memories of Barry while his favourite song played – “Kingston Town” by UB40.
This is a poem that was read out next. The minister asked Barry’s loved ones to imagine Barry actually saying the words:
Do not sit here and weep.
I am not here, I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain,
I am the shining star at night,
When you awake to the morning light.
My time has come, I am at rest.
I am the sunset in the west,
I am the clouds that race above,
Where I watch over those I love.
Do not sit here and cry,
I am not here, I do not die,
So hear these words that now I say,
I am the love that guides your way.
Following the poem was The Lord’s Prayer and then the committal. By this stage, I wasn’t really with it because I knew the end was near and that my last goodbye was approaching.
To the words of a special song between Barry and his older brother, Daniel – The Wanderer by Dion – Gary and I left our seat and approached the coffin for the final time. I whispered “I love you” and placed a yellow flower on the coffin then turned and walked away. I refused to say “goodbye”, and have not said those words once as goodbye is final and I plan to see Barry again. I knew that the rest of the family had approached the coffin too, and I heard the minister invite the rest of the congregation to follow suit.
It was at this point, as Gary and I walked up the aisle, that I realised just how many people were present. Even the 150 “Order of Service” leaflets were not enough. The crowd parted to let us through the doors and I saw row upon row of grieving friends. Outside, at least two or three dozen more people gathered. It still brings tears to my eyes to know that Barry was so well loved, yet he left this world feeling so alone.
Outside, fresh tears fell. A sea of faces appeared before me, all offering a hug. People from decades past, people I’d never met before, Barry’s old girlfriends and school friends, and people who were just names to me until this sad day. No words were necessary. It was obvious that they shared my pain.
I deliberately arranged it so that we didn’t see the curtain close around Barry’s coffin. I’ve only witnessed that once and it was heart breaking. I couldn’t bear to witness it with my son, and I didn’t feel that anyone else wanted to see that either.
Barry’s family and friends came together to say goodbye. We cried together. We hugged each other. We reminisced. As painful as it was, it didn’t leave me with a sense of finality or closure. I still was unable to accept what had happened and that my son was gone forever. However, it did leave me with the feeling that Barry was loved in this world. As his mother, that was important for me to know.
Click here to go to Part 11: Bringing Barry Home