“He was the nice kind of naughty. We’re going to miss him terribly,” I heard the tiny, white-haired and beautiful old lady tell Gouni-Mae outside the church, hugging her. The children – Gouni’s nieces and nephews, her father’s grandchildren – ran around in the garden, playing in the fountain, reminding us all of his legacy of pure love.
And with that, she described him in a single sentence. Not an easy task, to describe this wonderful man in one sentence, a man I’d only known for five years, but who made me feel like I’d known him forever. If you were forced to reduce the description to just one sentence, that’s a good one.
Father of four, grandfather of six – almost seven, the newest-one-to-be still nestled comfortably in its mother’s belly -, brother to three sisters and friend to so, so many, he shuffled off this mortal coil, quietly, without fuss, leaving us all heartbroken. He never liked fuss.
We got there early and went down to the sea to see what we could see before heading to the church. A whale, blowing water up into the salty breeze-with-a-winter-chill. Him? Waving a goodbye?
His funeral was simple, filled with people who loved him. The priest played the piano, rousingly, while we sang. Gouni-Mae spoke, beautifully, with humour. They had the same sense of humour, she and her dad. She was brave and honest and between tears we laughed. Her dad would’ve loved it.
And after, tea and koeksisters, cupcakes, mini sausage rolls and stories of Robert, the man we all loved, as his progeny played, lifting everyone’s spirits, just as he would’ve wanted.
R.I.P. Robert Montgomery