Today saw the funeral in Prague of my friend Hannah. I didn't go, I daren't - I drove for nine hours yesterday and a similar time the day before and a further round trip to Prague was beyond me and my aching back. In any case I always think funerals should be for the family and although Hannah was the older sister I never had that doesn't quite count. Tomorrow there is a get-together of her friends in her house in Cesky Krumlov, which I will go to. But today I had the day to myself to think and to say goodbye.
About a month ago - maybe a bit less - we were having a whimsical discussion about what to do about funeral arrangements. It was already clear that she almost certainly had terminal cancer, but Hannah was the sort of person who is able to enjoy the funny side of the darkest things. I suggested that we should put her in a boat and launch it on to her beloved Lake Olsina, so that she could sail off into the sunset - sunsets there are often spectacular. She liked the idea but then said it would be too much of a shock for the poor carp fishermen when they come to drain the lake next year for the carp harvest - it might even start a "woman in the lake" murder enquiry, so we moved on to other equally unrealistic ideas.
Yesterday as I drove across Germany I was thinking about this conversation. Her son Danny has created a website in her honour and I had searched out some photos of her prints to send him, among them was the print shown above (the original of which is in her Olsina cottage). It made me think. Today I made an origami boat, dipped it in wax to make it last longer. I printed out the photo and cut out the little man. With these on the car seat beside me, I drove off to Olsina as the sun headed towards the horizon.
On the bank above the cottage I stopped to pick some of the violets which had so delighted Hannah in previous springs and which alas did not come out this year until after she had gone into the hospice. I had at least been able to tell her about them in a telephone conversation only five days before her death, and she was pleased. I stood on a small beach of the lake where she and I last summer had stripped down to our pants and swum in the warm summer water, whilst the carp rose to the surface a few feet away. The carp were still rising this evening. Out on the water two crested grebes were calling each other. The only other sound was the lap of small waves against the shingle and the beat of a heron's wings overhead.
As the sun slid out of sight, I rested the boat on the water. At first the little man stood in his bobbing boat waving at me, until it turned and the current took him on a new adventure, first out into the lake and then along the shoreline away from Hannah's cottage. The boat soon disappeared behind a small headland, covered with willows and fringed with bullrushes, and was gone. It was turning dark, I walked back to the car and made my way home.