memorial service yesterday...the one who was only 58.
It was simple and, as they say, "dignified". My cousin was an interesting person who did many things and it was reflected in the diversity of the crowd which had gathered.
She did things I would never do - like spending a year travelling through Asia and staying in villages with the local people. She was a feminist, an activist, a teacher, an artist and a musician. The occasion was happy and sad. We laughed and more than a few tears were sniffed back.
But, there was something else. She brought her daughter up to love art and music too. And her daughter read us a picture book, a book her mother had often read to her as a small child - Alison Lester's "The Magic Beach". I had not seen it or heard it for years.
And I was transported back to my own childhood and the magic of the beach as it then was.
My paternal grandparents lived not far from the sea. My paternal grandfather swam all year round until he was simply too old to get himself in and out of the water. Even when his eye sight was failing he swam.
One of the staff at the hospital where he spent his final years would see him safely across the road. He would take his swim and wait until someone came along to help him safely cross the road again. He never had to wait long. There was always someone around to help. People knew him.
And I remembered my brother and I being collected from the house we lived in for a while. It was not far from my paternal grandparents home. My grandfather would arrive very early in the morning and my brother and I would let ourselves out very quietly and go for our swimming lesson with Grandpa. It was a magical time. The beach would be quiet. It would often be deserted by everyone but us. We loved it.
There is something immensely soothing about early morning on a beach, before other people get there. I have no time for the crowded place it becomes on a fine, hot day in summer. I don't like having to avoid the sunbathers, the volley ball players and the sandcastle architects.
I love the sea - although I do get seasick very easily. I love watching water rise and curl and ripple and roll into shore. All my family love it. Our ancestors were - among other things - sailors, ships' pilots, marine engineers and marine cartographers.
The sea and all the things that go with it is perhaps the thing we missed the most when we moved to rural parts of the state. My father was never fortunate enough to get a coastal appointment. If he had I am sure we children would have spent hours on the beach.
But yesterday, just for a moment, I am sure every one of us in that room who had spent part of our childhood on the beach was transported back to it - through the power of a picture book.