Late on Sunday night we heard the sad news that my Aunt, my dad's sister, had passed away. She had been quite unwell for a couple of weeks so it wasn't entirely unexpected.
She was a lovely person, rarely seen without a big smile on her face, despite the difficulties she faced with a lifelong physical disability. Her mobility had become worse over the years and the last time we saw her, when we were home last summer, she wasn't able to talk to us either. She didn't need to talk though, as the way that her face lit up when she saw the boys said enough.
Island funerals take place a lot sooner after the death than they do on the mainland and on Monday morning we were told that the funeral would take place on Tuesday afternoon.
My brother and I were both keen to attend the funeral. Flying home would have been the simplest option to get there on time but was out of the question as at such short notice the flights cost £390! Our only other option was to leave here at 5am on Tuesday morning so that we could catch the 10.30am ferry. The sailing takes 3 and a bit hours and so when we arrived we would have to drive straight to the funeral.
So, at about 4.45am on Tuesday morning my brother called round to pick up me and the two youngest boys. The other boys were more than a little jealous that they weren't getting to go to Granny & Shen's too but were reassured that we were only going for one night. Besides next month we are all planning to go up again for a proper holiday.
Everything seemed to be going to plan. Fraser and Alasdair were both asleep in the car, the roads were fairly free of traffic, and then about 2 hours into our journey...
The lorries in front of us did a good job of clearing tracks in the snow but they got slower and slower until eventually they got stuck. We waited for what seemed like forever until the snow plough came past and cleared the road. By the time we were moving again we were sure we wouldn't make the ferry.
And yet we did! We arrived at the terminal about 20 minutes before the boat was due to leave.
As planned we drove straight to the church and met the rest of the family there. The church was absolutely packed and the singing was amazing!
After an island funeral service the men line up on the road outside the church. They then march through the village, taking it in turns to carry the coffin, while the women all stand together and watch. Some might think that it's a bit of an outdated tradition but I think it's a lovely one and I'm glad it's still done. Another tradition is that the women don't go to the graveside but nowadays some women do.
After the funeral the family gathered for tea and sandwiches at a local hotel. Although the reason for us all getting together was a sad one, it was lovely to meet up with all of my cousins again. I don't know the last time we were all together before this and we took the chance to get this photo of us all.
Three of us had babies, all boys, within three months of each other last year.
On our way to my parents' house we quickly popped in to visit my granny (my mum's mum) so that she could meet her latest great grandson, her 10th great grandchild. He charmed her with his smiles for her and his lovely nature!
Then, after a rather long day, we were finally able to relax back home at my mum and dad's! Alasdair (4) enjoyed having granny and Shen to himself.
The following morning I woke to hear the wind howling. Not good with a ferry journey planned!
We kept checking with the ferry office who assured us the ferry was still running. At lunchtime we said our goodbyes and headed off to check in at the ferry. 20 minutes after we checked in we were told the ferry was cancelled! This meant that we had to drive to the south of the island to catch the ferry that runs from there. The sea there is a bit more sheltered and so it was still running. We don't normally go that way though because even though the ferry journey is shorter and the sea a little calmer, it means having to drive for nearly an hour on the island and the drive on the mainland is MUCH longer and on much worse roads than if we go on our usual ferry.
Despite the more sheltered sea it was still a fairly rough crossing. I was glad the other ferry hadn't tried to sail! We were sitting on the top level of the ship and some of the waves were being blown right over the windows. It was like being in a car wash and Alasdair found it hilarious!
After the long drive we arrived home a little before midnight, less than 48 hours after we left. I was glad that I wasn't doing the driving!
I'm linking this post up with Meghan's 'Things I'm loving' because these posts are all about things we are thankful for. And this week I am thankful for my extended family. I have such happy memories of summers spent with my cousins, popping in and out of our granny's kitchen all the time, playing down on the beach, sleeping out in tents on the croft (apart from the time the boys unzipped the girls' tent in the middle of the night and it filled with midges!), bringing the peats home in our Shen's tractor.....
It makes me sad to hear of families who can barely talk to each other and makes me all the more thankful for ours.