In a Cotswold village
The churchyard WI has another member…
It was our friend Eileen’s funeral today and a succession of home baked cakes, savouries and sandwiches were brought to the social club in preparation for afterwards. For several years, we’ve been catering for teas, for weddings and yes, funerals too. It wasn’t as if we hadn’t had practice. But until now, we’d always worked with her at the helm - she always knew how many loaves of sandwiches would be needed, how many pints of milk and most importantly, she always remembered to bring the washing up liquid too. There was no question as to who would cater for the wake and I think that each of our forty or so members did her bit.
At half past ten, we put on our coats and walked around the corner to the little Norman church, which was already filled with people. More chairs were brought out and we were found places in the choir; those arriving shortly after us stood in tiered ranks on the altar steps. By eleven o’clock, it was not just the seats that were full, there was hardly any more standing room either.
Last evening, at my book group, we had heard how the day had been spent decorating the church with spring flowers, because Eileen had been a stalwart member of the local flower guild too. They also wanted to remember their friend in the way they did best. As a result, the church looked lovely, with simple bunches of tulips and daffodils here and there - nothing elaborate, but heartfelt and appropriate for both the occasion and the setting.
The vicar did her proud, his address reflecting the community in which Eileen played such a key role. He acknowledged the different ways that she had inspired us all and in doing so brought everyone together. The church looked magnificent with so many flowers, we sang the hymns more confidently because quite a few of the Stuart Singers were there (Eileen had been an enthusiastic member of my Hero’s choir too), her friends from the Trefoil Guild and her fellow Girl Guide leaders were there, sharing her life story read by members of her family and of course, everyone was invited back to the Social Club afterwards to enjoy a bite to eat and share a memory or two, thanks to the WI.
It was a fitting tribute to our friend and testament the community in which she lived and loved.
Perhaps more importantly, whilst I stood pouring tea and handing round platters of sandwiches and cakes, I noticed the cricket club “lads” there too, because once the family returns home it’s good to know that Eileen’s husband has an equally strong and caring community of friends to support him.
It’s village life.