I went to the funeral of an old friend today. I have known him since I was about 7 years old, so that’s 35 years I’ve known this gentleman.
His name is Neville but I knew him as Nev.
He died suddenly about 4 weeks ago and there has been a delay with the coroner, which is why his funeral was only today. He had health problems and though he wasn’t managing them very well, there was no indication that he would just die like that.
He lost his wife about 3 years ago and I think it is fair to say that when she died, he became rudderless without her guiding hand and he lost his way a little. He carried on with the things she’d told him to do – he continued coming to church and the various clubs they’d been members of together – but gradually he got muddled and would turn up at church when there was nothing on, or he would forget basic things like what day of the week it was. He would drive past church “just in case” and he would spend hours sitting outside waiting for someone to come and open up. It was such a shame to see him like that but he never ever lost his sparkle or the twinkle in his eyes, and he never seemed to be sad or unhappy.
As I said, I have known Nev since I was about 7 years old when I first joined the Church Lads and Church Girls Brigade. He was an officer in the Brigade and he played the bugle – which was what I played too. I was a cornet player already but I learned how to play the bugle alongside Nev. Later on when I returned to the Brigade as an officer myself, I worked alongside him in the band and he was great when it came to playing darts, snooker and football with the lads. He didn’t have children of his own, sadly, but he managed to indulge his fatherly tendencies with the children at Brigade through games like that.
Nev’s other strength at the Brigade was that he was a very accomplished drum major. He was fantastic with the mace and he loved to teach the kids who showed an aptitude for it. I remember hours and hours marching up and down the lawn at church with Nev shouting instructions of “throw it, throw it!!” and “round the back, NOWWW!”. He taught generations of kids how not to knock their front teeth out or brain themselves with that mace. We had several sized ones to train with – ones with lighter heads and others with shorter stems for kids of all heights to use.
We heard today that Nev met his wife whilst he was on parade as a drum major. He was a handsome man, but in his uniform you can see exactly why she would have fallen for him!
The funeral service today was lovely but it was a bit strange to see our church full and not see Nev in his usual seat…Weird. He was ALWAYS at church and the past couple of weeks have been really strange, but today was something else. To know that he was there but not there took a bit of a leap to accept.
We sang the Brigade hymn – Fight the good fight – which, when you read the words you can see that that’s how Nev lived his life. I’ve put the words below. Let me know what you think.
We listened to a couple of tracks off a CD from Blackley Band as Nev was arriving and as he left at the end of the service – a CD that was recorded in 2001 and yours truly was playing on it. We heard “Sweet Gingerbread Man” at the start of the service, and we were supposed to hear “the RAF March Past” at the end, but as the pall-bearers lifted the coffin to turn it round to take him out, the track stopped midway through. The iPad skipped to the next track which was an absolutely brilliant masterstroke because it was “The Great Escape”.
How apt!! I thought if Nev could’ve chosen his exit music himself he might have chosen just that track. He has been longing to be out of here and to be with his wife since the day she died and it was a fitting end to his presence here on earth.
God bless you Nev. You fought your good fight and your straight race has now been run. See you on the other side fella.
Fight The Good Fight Hymn
Fight the good fight with all thy might;
Christ is thy Strength, and Christ thy Right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.
Run the straight race through God’s good grace,
Lift up thine eyes, and seek His face;
Life with its way before us lies,
Christ is the Path, and Christ the Prize.
Cast care aside, upon thy Guide,
Lean, and His mercy will provide;
Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove
Christ is its Life, and Christ its Love.
Faint not nor fear, His arms are near,
He changeth not, and thou art dear.
Only believe, and thou shalt see
That Christ is all in all to thee.