“All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.”
I thought today’s blog title was fitting, partly because I’ve just spent a few days in Liverpool – birthplace of the Fab Four – and partly because I’ve given and received a lot of love over the past week or so, having spent Christmas with my family and been to my Grandad’s funeral.
And then, just before I started writing, they played the very same Beatles’ hit on the radio. Serendipity.
So, where to start? Christmas always gets me pondering life, family, love, loneliness and other big questions. But combined with the funeral of my 99-year-old Grandad (on December 20th), it really got me thinking this year.
As Amanda Platell wrote in a pre-Christmas Daily Mail column, “Christmas is when being childless hurts the most”, the festive season does tend to remind me that I don’t have my own partner or offspring to buy presents for, cook roast dinners for or spend the holidays with. Like many of my forty-something single friends, I headed back to my Mum’s and spent Christmas with my brother’s children – loving it, but feeling a bit of an anomaly. Surely by now I should have my own family rather than be returning to my original one or tagging along with my brother’s? Surely by now I should be doing the food shopping and cooking instead of just the eating and washing up?
On top of that, the death of my grandad – who left behind children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – got me musing about whether I’d ever manage to produce such a brood, or whether my particular branch of the family tree would stop with me. As I wrote in my last post, losing a loved one, and especially a parent or grandparent, inevitably prompts us to ponder the life cycle.
These are all valid and quite poignant questions that no doubt I’ll continue to ask myself, on and off, until I have a definitive answer one way or another. But what I also realised over the festive season was that, whatever happens, there will always be love. Even if I don’t have my own children, there are plenty of people in my family and beyond I can give love to and receive love from, as I did over the past few weeks. In particular, I can try to be a great aunty to my nephews, as my mum’s sister was and still is to me.
And then there are my friends, which we singletons perhaps have more of, or at least see more of, than our married pals. What was lovely at my Grandad’s funeral was the fact the church was packed – not just with family but with neighbours, friends and acquaintances, from young children to his 90-year-old best mate. He was well loved.
In fact, love was on display everywhere, even on a wet, grey December day in Anfield. When we took the funeral flowers to my Nana’s grave where my Grandad’s ashes will also be left, I took a look at the other headstones nearby with all their messages of love and at the relatives who were visiting those they had lost. And I felt moved to go and say ‘Merry Chistmas’ to my own Dad at his grave. Losing loved ones does indeed hurt and we feel it acutely at Christmas, but, as the saying goes, ”Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’
So, as I wrote on this blog a while back, I’ve concluded that love, actually, is all around. Maybe sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that it’s there – perhaps not always in the shape or form we would like it to be, but it’s there all the same.