Published: 11 February 2000
D.M.C. -- You may remember that I wrote a short piece the other week about an invitation Helen Viollet had received from the Hospice where Dennis had been. It was the significance of the date of the service which compelled her to attend this particular evening: Sunday 6th February at 3pm, and in case there are still those out there who are not familiar with that time and date, it was shortly after 3pm on 6th Feb 1958 that the Elizabethan carrying the Babes crashed at Munich. Now Helen has written about what happened at that service last Sunday and suggested that if I thought anyone would be interested I should post it to the lists. I definitely think it merits posting, so here it is in her own words:
A MEMORIAL SERVICE IN JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA
SUNDAY 6th FEBRUARY 2000
"Although friends had offered to accompany me to the Memorial Service sponsored by the Northeast Florida Hospice, I ultimately decided I would prefer to attend alone. I left home at 2.20 to arrive a little early as the Service was due to begin at 3.00pm, Sunday 6th February.
"Experiencing a somewhat emotional day I chose to sit on the back row in the furthermost corner of St. Peters Episcopal Church. It was perhaps a wise decision as two minutes after arrival, a combination of the music, the occasion, the date and time had me (much to the fascination of the young girl one row in front) sobbing uncontrollably. I dried up after ten minutes and even managed a slight smile as I could hear Den saying, "It's not even begun yet and you're already blubbering!"
"Considerate of different faiths in attendance, the Service progressed in a non-denominational way. Family members, caregivers, friends, hospice workers and volunteers were all asked to stand in individual groups and were acknowledged accordingly. Appropriate verses were recited and more music played, but from a personal point of view, I was simply waiting, or maybe a better word would be, questioning, as to why the Service had been held at this particular time and date, and why I had felt this absolute compulsion to attend.
"The church was nothing special. An efficient structure typical of modern day American centres of worship. No organ, no incense and none of those musty smells one associates with British and European churches. Not even stained glass, just ordinary windows which looked out over a packed car park.
On first arrival, candles had been distributed and at the end of the service, which took about an hour, everyone in attendance was invited to go down the aisle to the altar, light their candle, state their name and anything specific they felt the need to express regarding the person they had recently lost. Starting from the front, this procedure was performed row by row and as each pew emptied the hospice volunteers very gently let you know when it became your turn.
"Suddenly I received a nod from a sweet lady and as I was the only one who had chosen to sit on the left side of the back row, which also happened to be the last row called, I was a little disconcerted to find myself walking last and alone down the aisle towards the altar.
"I lit the candle that had been given to me and just as I was about to say, "Remembering my beloved husband Dennis Viollet," there came, for no obvious reason, six words of very clear instruction and startling clarity, "Don't forget to mention the lads!"
"So, in a small, seemingly inconsequential church in a city a long long way from Manchester England, but in a city where a former Busby Babe had spent 26 years of his life giving of his time and knowledge, not for money, but for the love of the 'beautiful game' to anyone of any age who wanted to learn about football, I was privileged, for Dennis, to very proudly mention 'the lads'. After all, wasn't that why I was there?"
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