Yesterday, I attended a church service to honour my Grandad's long and varied life. I don't normally go to church and neither does he, but this was a special occasion. In fact, the esteem in which he was held was shown by the fact that he was driven to church in a large car and borne inside on the shoulders of people wearing smart formal wear.

To be fair, the vicar in his sermon did go a bit overboard on thanking God for Grandad's presence amongst us and for granting him the opportunities he had been given. But Grandad remained still and listened patiently through all of it, even though he would normally have had no truck with it and been acutely embarrassed by the attention; he would once have quietly snuck out with the dog for a quiet fag. And to be frank, I wish I could have joined him too. Instead, we both listened humbly to the vicar list Grandad's many achievements: winning a boxing trophy against a Welsh miner while on army training in South Wales; the time when, as member of the Tank Regiment in the war, he stopped to pick up two Canadian soldiers and received a shrapnel wound in his back ("What's that hole in your back, Grandad?" - "Well, there was this German, and he didn't like me and I didn't like him..."); his courtship and long marriage to my Nan (they were wed in the same church); his trade as a plumber and work on the Ship Canal; his enthusiasm for "getting a job done", often for free if it helped someone out; his late discovery of a love of opera ("that Pavarotti fella can sing"); the way he doted on his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Later, we sat very quietly and listened to the strains of "We'll keep a welcome in the hillside", as a reminder of his Welsh roots and, perhaps, coming home again to them. And then we said our goodbyes, and we made our way out and left Grandad in peace at last.

I will probably never be able to listen to "We'll keep a welcome..." again without sobbing like a child, but that isn't going to stop me from testing the theory in private soon. And parts of me still ache from helping to carry him, but I don't really care about that now.

The tragedy is that a man has to die before he is accorded this kind of respect and the true measure of him is finally known.

In memory of
Douglas Lloyd Williams

26th June 2002