I had a lovely dream last night about my Grandad, who we lost about 20 years ago. He was a popular man and whilst not without his flaws, he was a hero of mine. I admired him greatly.
My dream was set at a time when he was ill. His popularity had, over the years, come at a price. Spending most evenings in his local Working Mens' Club, an institution in which he was considered a stalwart, had taken its toll on his liver and he was dying of cirrhosis.
Knowing he didn’t have much time left, me and my brother with the help of our family and our own friends as well as many of his, organised a huge gala variety show in his honour, to celebrate his life. Music, dancing and comedy played out on the stage out to a theatre audience of hundreds, including of course, my Nan and Grandad.
From the wings, I’d look out at him in the audience and give him a thumbs up, raising my eyebrows and chin as if to silently and distantly ask after him. He’d nod with his eyes to let me know he was okay. He was enjoying himself, but struggling. Big Jack, starting to shrink. No longer sat up in his seat but leaning forward, his elbows on his knees.
As the final act of the night left the stage, my bother and I entered. He read a poem, about the life of a great man. I, playing the Eric to his Ernie, would interject at the end of each line with a sarcastic or snarky comment. My Grandad's chuckles could be seen in his shoulders; jogging up and down as those around him wiped their eyes.
The acts retook the stage and the theatre joined in a rousing rendition of Sinatra's My Way. The curtain dropped on the final note and we went backstage to celebrate the life of a good man, so glad that he'd got to witness our tribute. He was humble. This was than he would have ever expected or asked for, but it felt like what he deserved.
It was at that point that somebody took me and my brother aside and told us he'd passed. The mood didn't change. It didn't need to. He'd died happy, surrounded by joy.
It was a good dream.
In reality, that’s not how it happened. There was no gala show, no ceremony and no champagne reception. Just a hospital bed and weeks of agony. His wake was a good one, in his second home (Slackside Working Mens' Club) with his favourite foods (pickled onions and pork pies with jelly that would run down your arm as you bit into them).
I prefer the dream though. He might have too.