The winter sun poured a light like iced honey upon a corner of the cemetery that was sheltered by a thorny hedgerow, wherein flitted piping robins. Around twenty souls, Wombats included, had gathered around a wicker coffin suspended over a deep hole recently dug in the rough turf. We were there to celebrate the life of, and say goodbye to, one of the most caring, humorous, witty and downright mischievous women I’ve ever known. I met Erica Fairs in real life but once, though I knew her as a good friend for eight years, exchanging laughs and support and the occasional music recommendation regularly on Twitter.
The celebrant caught her life well, speaking to the importance to Erica of family, and of friends not only locally but all over the world through social media. He also spoke to the ultimate destination of the human form – gone, yes, but continuing not only physically in the genes of Erica’s children and grandchildren, but also virtually in all our memories. I hope that her husband John, son Dan and daughter Laura (and the rest of her family, of course – her sisters look remarkably like her, and hugging them felt eerily like hugging Erica again) understand that she will also live on around the world in the memories of friends that she made in cyberspace, too. Hundreds of us, as evidenced by her Twitter profile.
Later at the wake we listened to a song that Erica herself had introduced to me, Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”, and ate sausage plait in her honour – she made the best damned sausage plait in history, apparently, as well as stunning roast potatoes. There were readings from Beowulf, suggested by more online friends Aven and Mark in Canada, and a slideshow of photographs from Erica’s life. She seemed to be smiling in them all.
Back in Eashing Cemetery the robins had continued their dance of life as the coffin was lowered, leaving the bright sunshine behind. Those gathered let fall flowers into the grave. As my own petals settled on the wicker lid I whispered for one last time the words that I had said to her so often over the years. “Goodnight, Sunshine”.