Death is the one certainty in life and for those of you who don't know me well, the death of my Father in 2009 had a profound effect on me.
Father had fallen out of love with the Church but he was still a spiritual man ... he was a farmer and farmers are intrinsically linked with the earth; they are long term planners and the true husbands of nature. By that I mean that they care deeply for the land that they work, everything that they do is for the future, next year's crop; the next generation and so forth.
Father wanted to be buried on our farm and we were able to do that for him. His grave is in woodland, unmarked and unremarkable but a place of peace and somewhere that all of us go to for a chat once in a while.
I know that I am privileged to have been able to do that final service for him and I know that it is not something that many people are able to enjoy; but there are the most wonderful green burial sites all around the country and there are an increasing number of people who are there to help you plan a resting place as peaceful and true as the one I describe.
Yesterday marked the seventh anniversary of my Father's death and I have written a poem for him that I would like to share with you. Writing poetry and writing funeral celebrations brings me the most enormous amount of pleasure ... please forgive me this indulgence.
When I think of you I see strong hands, nails cut short and square,
wide hands that hold firmly and are warm and dry.
When I think of you, I see the muscle in your cheek, just below the tiny patch of hair,
the muscle that jumps and quivers and shows the emotion that the rest of your expression belies.
When I think of you, I smell a spicy mix of pipe tobacco, whisky and lime flowered after shave.
It is the smell that holds my youth, it is there in the rough warmth of your jersey against my cheek.
I hear your voice and recall your words, expressions that are familiar to us, your family;
but words that others do not know, strange words gleaned from around the world.
I see your fingers do that queer sideways wave as though you were playing a piano in the air;
I see your eye close as you proffer your cheek for a kiss and tilt your face to one side.
I feel the strength of your love in the way you treasure the young; be they animal or no,
it is all the same to you; tough love, fierce protective love and love that brooks no failure.
You protest against the modern way, you are a traditional man;
you hold decency and honesty in high esteem. You are loyal to and fierce with your own above all else.
I learned my love of people from you. You were always there at the end, playing your part in the pageant of life; not the star but the pivot around which the actors mill, constant and strong.
When I think of you, we are out of the yard in the early morning off to the hounds, breath forming smoke in the air, bread and butter and scalding tea still coat my tongue and sleep still fogs my brain.
You mix in me the fear of doing it wrong and the joy of knowing that I am on your team and have your protective arm about me, always.
I see you sitting at the end of the table, full of preposterous stories and with a dog perched on your lap; feet bare. glass to hand and glasses pushed up on your forehead like a befuddled watch mender.
There are things I wish I had asked, things I thought I had time to hear. There are dogs that you never met; walks that we never took to places that I wish I was able to share with you.
Navigating by pubs and the recollection of rides and drives and trips that we took side by side,
talking earnestly about the nonsense of life, stories and tales embellished with time.
When I meet with you again, what fun we will have - we'll walk the fields with a pack at our feet
and stop and stare at all that is good, we'll see each other, smile and wave.
I hope that when the time comes for you to plan your own departure or for someone that you love, that you will seek the advice of someone who understands the need for peace and calm and that you are not pushed onto the treadmill of modern, urban death. There is a serene way to be buried and the end result is so much more honest and personal.