Yesterday, my heart was heavy and I’ve lost count of the number of times my eyes have welled up with tears.
There’s a whole lot of “feeling sorry for myself”, as I realise that there will no more trips to the Ram or the Trevor Arms with Uncle Peter.
After I put together the photos for this blog post, I gave up on writing it: every time brought me to tears.
Today is a new day, and I don’t want to write about my sorrow and loss. Instead, I want to write about the joy and laughter: the moments that I treasure and will forever.
While it’s true that someone could probably write pages about his faults (as you could about any one of us), he was greatly loved in spite of them! He greatly outshone his pain, darkness and imperfections.
Peter is the first Uncle I remember… I know there was a cool uncle Barry who had a motorcycle with a side-car, but Peter somehow managed to outshine even the cool biker!
That might have been Penny’s doing, by putting us in the prettiest dress I had ever had for the biggest day and event of my young life. But growing up, I don’t ever remember hearing Penny’s name without Peter tied to it.
It was always Peter & Penny…
or Penny and Peter.
And the girls. It’s impossible to forget “the girls”.
We lived thousands of miles away, separated by oceans. Letters, books, photos and Christmas presents were how they stayed in my mind.
Thankfully, that all changed in my twenties, when I started to travel more frequently. And for the past twenty plus years, I have enjoyed getting to know Uncle Peter through my visits back to Firle.
I had two favorite times to visit England: spring (making sure I could be there for the occasional April 30th anniversary celebration) and autumn.
One very special anniversary celebration took place in 2007: when Peter surprised us with a renewal of vows in Firle church. It was simple and impromptu. Yet so very meaningful!
While September guaranteed great weather (always guaranteed to get two weeks of sunshine when I went!), November always offered Guy Fawkes! And what is Firle without Guy Fawkes celebrations and the Firle Bonfire Society?
Always front and centre: Peter.
It didn’t matter if he was on stage or sitting by the fire.
While Peter might occasionally go off waxing philosophical, he was perfectly happy sitting in silence and just being company.
I wonder how many thousand cross-word puzzles he finished, while he sat and had a smoke and enjoyed his tea.
When grandad died in 2007, in the week after their 30th wedding anniversary celebrations, it was Peter that was right there with him in his final moments, and Peter that called to let me know. It was Peter that reminded us of the celebration and joy of a life well-lived.
When he asked how you were, he actually wanted to know.
He wasn’t being polite or making small talk. It was perfectly okay to tell him when times were tough or when things were excellent. He’s one of the few people I talked to absolutely openly when my marriage failed. The same way he celebrated my wins, he was sage and supportive in my losses.
It was perfectly okay to be absolutely human with Peter.
F**k… tears… Okay… I’m good. Nope… I’m not… not yet.
Words fail me today, stuck half way across the world, knowing that on my next trip home to Firle there will be a gaping hole where his presence was.
While today I mourn Uncle Peter’s passing, he will always be in my heart.
Embraced in compassion, joy and laughter.
He’ll be remembered in every meal and pint of cider I share at the Ram and the Trevor Arms,
At every late lunch at the Plough and Harrow,
In every walk along the Beacon and the ice creams eaten at the Seven Sisters,
Any time I make it to a Bonfire night, there will be a ghost of Peter smiling and laughing in the crowd.
Today, my prayer is that I learn to love and accept myself the way I was loved and accepted by Uncle Peter, and may I show that same interest, compassion and presence to others around me.
May I learn to live my life to impact others as you have done so simply and unpretentiously.