A recurring nightmare of mine is that no one shows up to my funeral. It doesn’t need Sigmund Freud to analyse that, Billy Crystal would suffice.
“Honouring” the dead is much on the mind this week. For some of us that doesn’t mean Lady Thatcher. Yesterday, I was one of some 300 (!) or so paying respect at the memorial service of my girls’ grandfather, the late General Sir Richard Worsley GCB OBE, at the splendid chapel of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioners. How resplendent did they look in the spring sunshine, those magnificent “Men in Scarlet”; how moving is a “real” military funeral for someone who devoted his life to the forces, rising to become Quarter-Master General. There would have been still more in attendance, but Dick was 89. He once told me “one of the saddest things about growing old is opening the paper to read about another friend’s death in the obituaries”.
Dick helped plan the complex logistics of the faraway Falklands War, an extraordinary conclusion to a career that had begun with brave service in the vanguard of the British forces who, in 1944, retook my Ma’s area of southern Italy near Roma and Cassino in brutal fighting, and continued through near death under fire in Suez, and so very much more.
I looked around at the faces of all those soldiers in the chapel. What reminiscences, nightmares and terrors they conceal. How difficult it is to truly understand the binding lifelong camaraderie and the difficulties with life beyond the services if you haven’t experienced it yourself.
General Worsley’s obituaries described him as “unflappable”, and “one of the outstanding soldiers of his generation”, but we knew Dick as “funny” grandpa. He lived one hell of a life. It was a fitting, moving send-off.