Frank ‘died as he lived in quiet dignity’, these word were engraved on his headstone.
Frank died in 1979 quietly and without fuss just like his father before him. He was taken with Motor Neurone Disease, unlike Frank Senior who had gone to bed at the age of 98 after shaking everybody’s hand and saying goodbye. Fit as a fiddle they said he was but he had decided it was his time, he had, had enough so he went to bed and waited to die.
Frank didn’t say much even before he got sick, he was happy sitting in his chair with paper and pipe or pottering in his garden tending to the vegetables that would grace the Sunday dinner table each week. Frank would stand at the head of the table to sharpen the knife on the old steel before perfectly slicing the roast beef. It was a family ritual and silence prevailed while Frank sliced the joint onto the serving platter. After he was finished he would sit quietly and eat his lunch while the family chattered away. Frank didn’t need to say much because his wife Francis could fill any gaps, she had plenty to say.
After he went the family wanted a nice gravestone for Frank, something fitting for a much loved husband and father. Black and shiny with enough space for Francis’s name when she followed him as she did twenty odd years later.
After her death they moved the gravestone to open the plot for Francis, a double plot so they could be together. Another lovely service and everyone went off wiping their eyes remembering a lovely old couple. After the funeral no one really visited as is the case often with all the best intentions. Life is for the living and as much as the dead are loved they don’t tend to get many visits.
It was a number of years later when I was driving through the town I remembered my grandparents graves and stopped off. Frank’s headstone was still under the tree where it had been moved to let the grave settle, it had never been put back and Francis had never been added to the space on the headstone. I was shocked, angry, sad and then almost immediately okay with it. Gran might have been ‘mortified’ as was her favourite word, not to have been included, but to me it just fitted, the headstone quietly sitting under the tree in quiet dignity.