Sunday, March 11, 2007


For some years before we met he used to babysit for his sister. He got on well with his nephew and niece.

After we married, we stayed with his sister and her husband, and their two children. The children seemed nice enough to me, I was clearly a bit of an interloper, but they weren't rude or obnoxious - which is saying something.

Recently we had one of those family 'phone calls - from his brother's wife.

Sarah, his niece, had died in her sleep, aged twenty something.

He rang his sister, as you do in these circumstances. Then he told me to speak to her. Gulp. What do you say to a woman whose 20+ year-old daughter has died suddenly?

Sometimes a journalist is short of words. I said what I thought, which was highly unoriginal.

"I'm sorry, and I really don't know what to say".

Fortunately she'd obviously spoken to a few people before me, and kindly talked me through it in her immaculate home counties tones - not a trace of Welsh in them.

I staggered away from the 'phone leaving him to do a bit more family stuff. We agreed he would go to the funeral although I would have to stay here to look after the animals.

A few days later he rang his sister again to find out the practicalities of the funeral arrangements. Time, where to meet, all the formalities.

"10am at the church," she snapped.

This obviously didn't sink in well enough, so then he asked what time the family should meet at the house.

"Immediate family only," she snapped, again. As in, this does not include you - or our brothers - just go to the church with everyone else.

Sarah's immediate family means her parents, her brothers, and her long-term partner. Not you. Is this clear yet?

Well, like great, Sis. I'm only flying 2000 miles to the funeral of my niece and I'm no longer family.

He persisted and asked about what happened after the funeral.

"I suppose you can come back to the house," she conceded.

I rang round for prices for flights. It wasn't cheap, not helped by the fact it was half-term.

There was no offer of accommodation, or being picked up at the airport, or anything really. (Obviously, not being family). He really wanted to go, but not to be treated as though he was someone who had barely met Sarah.

The more we talked about it, the more disillusioned and offended he was by being dismissed in such an off-hand fashion. Everyone has family differences but this sort of occasion wasn't the time for it.

So he never went. He figured he wasn't wanted or needed. And when he visited his brother and his wife after the funeral and heard the report about the family in-fighting, he was glad he hadn't gone.

Sorry Sarah. Things don't always work out.

No comments: