Sheila Reynard’s Funeral

I should probably write something biographical about Sheila Reynard, Angie’s grandmother. That would be the appropriate content for this entry in my on-line journal. It’s more going to be my impressions of the funeral itself, rather than an account of the woman Sheila was. Perhaps I can persuade Angie to give a more sentimental account.

The trouble is that I never knew Sheila as a vibrant, energetic person. I certainly could tell she possessed a fiery personality and a cutting wit, but it was always within the context of the old age home where she stayed in Pretoria. Not a wide, sprawling old-age home with little cottages lined up neatly with walkways and lawns. It was a five storey concrete-block institution. That’s how I felt about it, at any rate.

I would have loved to have known her during her time in Kenya.

Angie and I have also realised that we don’t really have any photographs of Sheila. These ones I do have only serve to reinforce my experience of her — frail. I know that can’t be accurate.

We need pictures of her youth. I’m told the photo albums will be scanned and posted up on Flickr in the near future. I hope so. I want to see the vitality in Sheila that I’ve missed.


The funeral was a little strange. Sheila had requested that all of her great-grandchildren attend the ceremony. She has five now, with Jethro weighing in as second youngest. The other four sat quietly during the service in a most dignified manner.

Jethro wasn’t in a sombre mood though. He gah-gah-gah’ed and wha-wha-wha’ed and bashed things against the pew and other members of the congregation. He stared with great interest, and temporary silence, at the clergy as they advanced down the aisle, swinging incense and swirling smoke about them.

As a result, it was difficult to focus on remembrance. It was difficult to draw water from the well of grief, because you couldn’t crank the handles to bring the bucket up and tend to the garrulous baby.

Then to top it off, we closed off the service with a rendition of the hymn “Joy to the World” as the pall bearers carried the coffin out of the chapel to the hearse.

Perhaps this aptly sums up who Sheila was — her wicked wit shining through to the very end.


Pall bearers — I was one of those. It was a strangely detached kind of experience, but distributed between myself and five other people. I’m not sure about the others, but it allowed me to think that I wasn’t really carrying Angie’s dead grandmother, but rather her uncles and cousins and father were.

We placed the coffin in its position above the grave, suspended on nylon straps, and stood back. I’ve never been to a burial. Funerals yes, but they’ve usually involved cremation, and I didn’t travel to the grave itself. This time I was at the grave. A short service was carried out. It reminded me vaguely of the funerals depicted in the movies, but without the rain and black umbrellas. And with some of the people carrying babies.


After getting home from the funeral, neither of us felt like we’d really grieved at all — especially Angie. We rectified this after Jethro had gone to bed. We stood out in the garden and Angie spoke about her Granny. I can’t remember clearly what she said, but it struck the right chord, and without the distractions of Jethro’s antics, Angie cried about her Granny’s passing for the first time that day.

It felt right to cry, even if Sheila didn’t seem to want any one to.