As a Funeral Director I have seen many types of funerals, each one different in it’s own unique way and every one I have conducted or been a part of always leaves a memory, but I wanted to share one with you that took place many years ago, it was so powerful that I will always remember it, and the impact it had on my thought process, and just how much it amplified my absolute respect for those that gave so much to our freedom.
I conducted a funeral for an elderly gentleman, who had sadly passed away, he was a military man having served in World War 2, he had been part of a regiment that still to the day attended fallen servicemen/women, I remember looking at his coffin draped in the union flag, and trying to picture what this man had given, in order for the freedoms we all enjoy, I always feel a huge wave of emotion when looking after veteran’s, this was no different, with a lip beginning to quiver, I quickly composed myself and carried on with what I needed to do.
As the mourners made their way in to chapel, I saw a group of very elderly men all with smart blazers, brightly polished buttons, and their chests adorned with the many medals they had received, I felt so very humble to be amongst them, but immensely proud that they were here and I got to share this grieving moment with them, a chance to say goodbye to their fallen comrade, and say a prayer as we sent him on his way.
At that point a very elderly man passed me, hunched up as he walked in, I could hear him wheezing as he passed and coughing, he proceeded to sit on the chair directly in front of me, I asked him if he would like to sit nearer the front, but in a raspy, wheezy voice he told me he was perfectly fine at the back, I noticed on his lap was a “Bugle” my first thoughts based on a first impression was “surely this chap cannot be here to play this Bugle?” then I figured perhaps it was a memento and he was going to place it on the coffin at the end? or perhaps it was something he carried to veteran’s funerals? either way I was convinced he was not here to play it! Oh how wrong I was going to be!
The service had started and we listened to the man’s life story, condensed into a shortened eulogy, but enough to paint a visualisation of this remarkable chaps life, throughout the service the man with the Bugle remained hunched and coughed intermittently throughout, at one point I asked him if he wanted a cup of water, which he was very grateful for, taking many sips until it was all gone, he then declined a second cup, the service came to the point where traditionally “The Last Post” is played, for a few seconds nothing happened, just an overwhelming silence befell the chapel, not a sound not a movement occurred, until all of a sudden the man with the Bugle rose to his feet.
He slowly walked to the front of the chapel clutching his beaten up Bugle, still hunched over I could hear his wheeze with every single step he made, until he arrived at the front, he stood to the right of the fallen soldiers coffin, and next to another veteran holding a flag near the chapel exit, I watched in awe as I saw him take a large breath, and at the same point slowly stood upright perfectly straight, his back completely aligned with his legs, the most perfect military posture one could muster, at that moment he started to play his Bugle, playing “The Last Post” more beautifully and poignant than I’d ever heard it played before, every note went through my body as I watched him play for his fallen friend, I could see tears rolling down his cheeks as he played flawlessly, at that point my emotions gave up and I cried like I’ve never cried at a funeral before, the pure emotion that he put into each note was simply inspiring, I felt everything he played, and I was taken along on that special journey.
After completing the most incredible version I’d ever heard in my life of “The Last Post”, the chap turned to the coffin, shuffled closer and said to his friend “Goodbye, I Miss You Already, We’ll Play Again Soon” at that pointed he hunched back over and moved back to his seat, tears streaming down his face, he looked at me and saw the state I was in, and came to me put his hand on my hands and whispered to me “Thank You Son For Caring About Us Old Duffers” I let more tears out as he said that to me I simply couldn’t help it, the emotion of the moment was to overwhelming, he then sat down head in hands and quietly cried for his friend, I dried my tears, composed myself and carried on the role I needed to do, albeit difficult! that I can assure you of!
I went to the chap at the end of the service just to offer both my condolences, as well as my thanks for allowing me to be there and witness what I had just seen before me, the chap was very humble, and said to me “Thank You For Always Remembering What We Did and Why We Did It” that was all he said nothing else, he headed out of the chapel where a car was waiting for him, he manoeuvred into the passenger seat, shut the door, then he was gone, just like that.
I later learned from another mourner that the chap was a battalion Bugler, and served with that regiment, his Bugle was given to him by his father, who no doubt served in World War 1? and had probably been passed down through the generations, he’d had it all his life and with him throughout the great war and the many battles he served in, the mourner told me that the chap, would play “The Last Post” for every single soldier killed in battle, he would play for each on individually, I was astounded to hear about his story, an know a little of the remarkable man that I’d just seen, his actions left a profound and lasting memory on me and for every veterans funeral I conduct now, when “The Last Post” is played I immediately think of him, and that Bugle and I’m overcome with emotion and the tears flow, I’m not ashamed not at all, I’m deeply proud that I and so many others like me care, and will never forget the sacrifices made by so many incredible people. Stay safe Paul 16.02.2021