The Long Goodbye

Journal

The Long Goodbye

A 560 mile round trip took us down to Sussex at the weekend, for the funeral of our friend Chris Guscott.

I have to admit that on the drive down I had a feeling of apprehension about the event. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make the trip – far from it – it was purely dread of the inevitable wave of sorrow I knew I’d feel when I saw Rose, Jess, Anna, Becks, and Kate, plus a host of other family and friends of Chris that I had yet to meet.

As with most things that appear daunting, the reality was far less uncomfortable than I had imagined. Well, except for the part at the church – that just felt awful and surreal at the same time. As Fliss and I struggled to control Elisha, each and every person did the same with their emotions as the ceremony wore on.

Once outside for the commital it was even harder to hold back the tears. As Chris was lowered to his final resting place, in contrast to the mood, the sun chose that moment to stream powerfully through the clouds in a way that almost seemed inappropriate. But then, from what I’ve seen of him, Chris always had a good tan, so I think he would have approved.

Squinting through teary eyes in the sunlight, I watched as his beloved wife, daughters and son said goodbye, dropping their flowers into the grave in turn. It proved to be as harrowing a moment as I’ve experienced, yet somehow the strength of Rose, Simon, and the girls was more than enough to steady everyone gathered at the cemetery. Rose was even unfaltering when she asked, almost matter-of-factly, for those present to join them at the church hall for food and drink.

With that, the sombre part of the day was more or less over. Now we could gather together to recall memories of Chris (or in my case, learn more about him), drink some wine, and (best of all) listen to his eclectic taste in music for the rest of the afternoon.

Given the circumstances I think it turned out to be a lovely day – as well as paying my respects to a fine man, I got to meet many of the extended family for the first time. There were relatives from around the country, and from Australia and the USA, that were great to chat with, and Elisha proved to be very popular with Beck’s four year old son, Freddie. (Although it was hard work keeping up with the pair of them!)

At around six in the evening we said our goodbyes, after what had been a long day. I left with the impression that I’d missed out greatly by not knowing Chris for longer. There seems to be loads more he could have shared with me over a glass or two of red wine, as selfish as that seems.

However, through meeting members of his wonderful family, I learned a bit more about his undeniable character – and of theirs; a warmer, more hospitable group of folks you could not hope to meet. I wish each of them the very best in their futures, as hard as the immediate road ahead may seem.