We spent the weekend with a veritable maelstrom of family, who all came into town for my dad’s third (and final) memorial.

Saturday night we hosted everyone at our little home in the country, with my uncle barbecuing like mad, my mom and aunt creating salad after salad, and our guests bringing many many more salads, chutneys, desserts, beers, etc to place on the long dining room table. They all arrived in a massive caravan, giving the country roads and villages a larger parade than they’ve no doubt seen in years.

In fact, we decided that we hadn’t had a gathering this large since my half-brother’s wedding over 25 years ago, as the intervening get-togethers have usually had at least two or three branches of the family missing. Not this one. I had cousins from Ireland, a friend from Scotland (my dear friend from grad school took the train all the way in from Edinburgh to be here — a total of 12 hours travel), a sister from Reading, brothers from California, Oxford, and London, an aunt and uncle from California, nieces and nephews from all over, and even a great-niece and -nephew from Wales. We stayed up talking, drinking, and of course, laughing. The whole time, all I could think of was how much my dad would have loved having everyone in one place like that.

The thought stayed with me throughout his memorial the next day, as even more far-flung cousins, colleagues, and friends poured in to Oxford to say goodbye to a great man. I was finally able to place faces with names I’d been hearing for my whole life, and they very clearly felt the same way about both Gabriel and I. The memorial itself was lovely, with each person reading a piece of the long biography my mom and half-brother wrote for my dad’s first memorial in February. It provided just enough structure that people didn’t go off on too many tangents, but still provided room for people to share their personal memories, making for much laughter and tears all around.

The day continued with drinks, food, punting, and more food, all of which my dad would’ve strongly approved. We scattered his ashes in the river near one of his favorite pubs, saying our goodbyes in a manner truly fitting to his life.

It was a wonderful and moving day, and I think he more than anyone would’ve had a grand old time. Perhaps, somewhere, he did. I hope so.