A Life in Public Service

Today an ordinary, extraordinary man had his life celebrated by family, friends and former colleagues at a service for his cremation. In the hurly-burly of my mothering and other-working day, I was lucky enough to be able to make time to be there.

He had died unexpectedly in the middle of one of his many leisure pursuits. It would have been a good way to go, if only it hadn’t happened right now. Too early in life for such a sprightly and apparently so healthy 69-year old.

No one speaks ill of the deceased in a eulogy, but as the kind words and praise flowed, I was struck by the character of the life being celebrated.

This man had been a public servant of one kind or another all his life: an airman, a postie, a prison officer and eventually a civil servant. As well as being – formally – a public servant, his whole ethos was one of public service. As a dog trainer, narrow-boatman, biker and martial arts practitioner he was a role model for the many young people who encountered him. His wife of over forty years must have been comforted to hear so many stories of humour, kindness, courage and principle from the many people who attended.

It was ‘standing room only’ at the crematorium. People were gathered in clusters reflecting the various stages and interests of his life; the somber-suited former members of a certain government department; the high-visibility-jacketed biker crew. People enjoying being back in each other’s company again despite the sad reason for being there.

Good people are a magnet for other good people. The power of a room full of good people, drawn together warmly and humbly to honour another good person’s life, is that it’s a demonstration of how much good there still is in the world. And how easy it is to bring it together if we just take the trouble to call it in.

I find it easy to be angry every day at a world in which so much seems to be so wrong, but today, when I had expected to be sad, I found that really I was glad. Glad to be reminded of a life well lived; glad to be reminded of what matters.

For that, my old pal, I thank you.

And the Buddy Holly was a stroke of genius!

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