When I began to write this post I struggled a bit. There was the part of me that tuned into my deeper desires to show respectful discretion; in these days of social media where we show each other every crevice of our lives there was still a part of me that felt funerals were a very private and sacred affair and no one needed to know that I had been to one. However having thought about this a little, I also agree that they can and should be a time for reflection and celebration. I am hoping that Mr Tracey would not mind me putting these thoughts down.
Yesterday I attended the funeral of Harold Tracey, or Lee as he liked to be called. I did not know him in any way shape or form. A call went out on Twitter to say that he was ex RAF and had no living relatives to attend his funeral at Shrewsbury Crematorium. As I write my little family is based at RAF Shawbury just a 25 minute drive away from the crematorium. My best friend who is currently living in Plymouth tagged me in the post which is how I came to be in attendance. Such is the power of social media.
It would be dishonest of me to say that as I was ironing my black dress I didn’t have the odd internal less than generous thought float through my mind, ‘What am I doing?’ ‘I’ve got loads of jobs to do,’ ‘What difference will me being there make anyway?’ But I knew I had to go, it was my duty to go. I knew nothing of this man’s service, other than he had served and therefore he was part of my extended family. The British Military family. But more than that, it is because of men like Lee doing such immense and selfless things that I have the great liberty of choice. Was just under two hours of my time really such a big sacrifice in comparison to the things he had done for me through his incredible service?
When I arrived the coffin had already been carried in and there was no space to sit as the crematorium was absolutely packed, it was wonderful and moving to see. I listened as a kind hearted chap called Nick who had befriended Mr Tracey shared just some of the stories that they had clearly enjoyed together over many a cup of tea. He listed off all the places Mr Tracey had been, too many for me to remember. I particularly felt chocked when I heard how Mr Tracey had been sent to an orphanage, he thought it was hell however rather than just looking after number one he found the strength to be the champion of the smaller more vulnerable kids and stuck up for them. This moved me because only the previous evening I had spoken to my husband about how I hoped my own son would display these qualities when he is old enough to understand.
Mr Tracey’s wife sounded equally interesting. Apparently she was a singer and actress but also a part time weapons handling instructor!
As I stood there I couldn’t help but think about my own Grampy who lived with my mum and I when I was growing up. I feel extremely lucky that I got to hear his stories and have a generational point of reference. He was a farmer so never went to war; in fact I had no military connections at all until I married. Our grandparents have so much knowledge and life experience they would love to share with us if we gave them the time to do so. Of course there are some outdated modes of thinking which certainly do not need to be carried forward but please don’t discredit the power of a timely story to reflect upon to help you figure out your own situations in life.
After the service I loitered a bit as I wanted to tell Nick how well he had read and how much I enjoyed hearing Mr Tracey’s story. I also managed to talk to some neighbours who had been very fond of Mr Tracey. I think it gave them great comfort to see such a good turnout. They were amused when I said my husband was at work and didn’t even know I was there.
So what is the purpose of this post? Well I guess to firstly bring your attention to the fact that some of the most worthwhile and soul enriching experiences can be found in the most unexpected of circumstance. That putting other people first actually gives you a deeper sense of wellbeing than you may initially think. And also to encourage you to volunteer. Mr Tracey’s friend Nick was an RAF Association befriender, having only known Mr Tracey for the last 16 months of his life its clear how fond they had become of each other.
What has this got to do with coaching? Nothing really. Only to re-iterate that talking unlocks very powerful gifts and some things have to be experienced to be understood.
@PollyCharnley is a coach, mentor and NLP Practitioner. She is also the founder of the @BeGladMovement.