Wednesday, June 18, 2008


It was my Uncle´s funeral today. He was 63, and has three sons aged 17, 18 and 23.

He was diagnosed with cancer 18 years ago. In that time he has also had 3 hip replacements. All of this he regarded as a nuisance which got in the way of him running his farm. When it was first diagnosed, he would get up in the morning, milk the cows, have a 160 mile round trip to Christies for radiotherapy, then milk the cows again. Later on there was chemotherapy. Again he just carried on as normal. He became so well known at the hospital that at one stage, when he felt he was too busy to go in, a nurse turned up in the farmyard to take blood for testing. In amongst all of this, he, along with his sons, built a new milking parlour. His hip was so bad at this point he had to be lifted into the seat of the digger in the morning, would work all day, then would be lifted out in the evening.

A less stuborn man would have been dead five years ago just from the treatment, never mind the illness.

At the end of last year, finally being persuaded that his sons could manage the farm, he had some drastic treatment which involved wiping out his immune system, which as a result, lead to him developing numerous other problems, but, he fought them off, and the treatment was expected to give him 5 years without other treatment. However, fate had other ideas, and one of the potential side effects, that had a 5% chance of occuring was found 6 weeks ago. Leukemia. 6 weeks later we are standing around a grave. The mind can only drag a reluctant, pain ravaged body so far. In the end his strength finally ran out. However, he has seen his three sons grow into men to be proud of, and maybe he finally let go knowing that they were ready to go it alone.

Looking back, I remember the man who wouldn´t let me call him Uncle, because it made him feel old, who stopped all work on the farm to make me a sledge when I saw my first heavy snowfall, and who had to be the first to use it. Who, when I was aged 7, saw how upset I was at the death of a lamb I had been bottle feeding on the farm, turned up at our house that evening with a lamb of my own (which we took for walks round the village on a lead!). I remember sitting on his knee steering the tractor, and rolling bales of hay across the field towards the trailer when I wasn´t big enough to lift them.

The village church was full. In fact there were people standing because there was nowhere to sit. The collection plate couldn´t be seen under the pile of notes placed upon it. The money is being split between the hospital where he had been treated for the last 10 years, and the village charity fund, which had previously given £2000 to the hospital.