A few years ago, the wife of a colleague who I used to teach with when I was a secondary school teacher in the 1980s died. My then head of department at the university where I worked when I left school teaching gave me time off so that I could attend the funeral. It was a bitterly cold autumn day and there was a sprinkling of light snow on the ground. I wrote this poem on the train on the way back to Birmingham after he funeral.
A Funeral in November
Falling snow defines the moment of departure on silent wheels
which convey the weight of loss to another place.
The church slowly empties to join a protective veil of umbrellas
that awaits respectful glances and polite conversation.
My old mentor, barely recognisable beneath his burden of mourning,
gains strength from his children and unknowing grandchildren
gathered around him in the sight of God.
Later, in the comfort of communal tea and shared memories,
he becomes familiar again –
my former colleague, the most gifted of teachers.
He manages a faint smile whilst thanking thoughtful friends,
then gets to me who, stepping into his life so briefly,
will return home to find two names in the mundane book
that records our past and present lives,
inviting me to cross one out.
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