Relatives, friends and colleagues gathered at Exeter Crematorium for the funeral of Dave Scott this afternoon, with every seat taken and a dozen forced to stand.
It was a Humanist service taken by Alison Orchard, and the coffin arrived to the strains of The Eagles’ Hotel California, which did not seem entirely inappropriate. There were no hymns or prayers, of course, and the cross had been removed from the chapel, but Ms. Orchard’s eulogy was frank, comprehensive and sympathetic, and just about says it all. She has kindly allowed me to reproduce it here verbatim – little more needs to be said.
“We have gathered here today in a spirit of celebration to say our goodbyes to Dave Scott. Please be seated.
You have come here today because Dave’s life touched yours. Your presence is, therefore, a testament, in itself, to Dave but it is more than that because it also gives comfort to others: it matters that you are here. On behalf of Rob, Steve and Naomi, I would like to thank you for coming here today to let them know their sorrow is shared; a warm welcome to you all.
More technically minded and logical than religious, Dave chose to live his life without recourse to the church. This occasion will, therefore, be secular in nature. Our simple ceremony today will be – in effect – a series of reflections and music which have significance to Dave’s life and we hope, in that way, you will feel Dave close as you say your goodbyes. My name is Alison Orchard, I am a celebrant with the British Humanist Association and it is a privilege to join you here.
Humanists see human existence as part of one great continuum which is evident throughout all nature. For millions of years, life on earth has evolved, such that each one of us builds on lives that come before us and become the foundation for lives that come after us. Death is an essential dynamic in that process of progression, and, in that way, death is as natural as life.
It’s natural, too, that you should feel great sadness today; grief is the price that we have to pay for loving someone and sharing their life and it’s rarely easy to say goodbye.
But today is more difficult for you because Dave also died younger than most and had been struggling with life for the past few years; probably more than you realized because, as a person who was always smart, on the ball and hardworking until recently, his drink problem wasn’t always as evident as it might have been. Perhaps you are, therefore, bringing a mixture of complex emotions, such as regret and shock, with you which compound your sadness today and I expect you are grieving, not only for the life that was, but also for the life that might have been.
But it’s important to remember that life is rarely perfect or tidy, we all struggle in different ways and we all cope in the best way we can.
And now, to honour that, an extract from ‘The Journey of Life’ by Winston Churchill:
Let us be contented with what has happened and be thankful for all that which we have been spared. Let us accept the natural order of things in which we move. Let us reconcile ourselves to the mysterious rhythm of our destinies, such as they must be in this world of space and time. Let us treasure our joys but not bewail our sorrows. The glory of light cannot exist without its shadows. Life is a whole, and good and ill must be accepted together.
The journey has been enjoyable and well worth making ……
Let’s look Dave’s death in the face with honesty, but also with dignity and with love and understanding. In that way, I hope you will be able to say your goodbyes with the peaceful spirit that, as a proud man, he would have wished and you can celebrate all that he has left you and the world.
Each life plays its own – small but vital and unique – part in the history of the universe and humankind. And so it was with Dave, and we can celebrate that he conducted his time on earth with such intelligence, good humour and motivation, making such a valuable contribution to our society and community.
Here is his story.
Born on 12th March, 1954, here in Exeter, Dave was the younger of two sons, with older brother, Alan, born to Charles and his wife, Lorna. He didn’t speak much about his childhood but we know he collected stamps as a boy and, with his brother, loved cycling. He attended Hele’s School where he particularly enjoyed Maths and the Sciences and he went on to study for his ‘A’ Levels at Exeter College.
He grew up to be a slim young man with fair hair and he was, by all accounts, a mod with a scooter as a teenager. Dave began his career by studying for his H.N. C. in Surveying, Cartography and Planning at Brunel Technical College in 1976 and Bristol Polytechnic in 1978. He then went on to complete his postgraduate diploma in Town and Country Planning; he was best in his class and received an award for the ‘Best Performance by the first professional entrant of 1981-82′.
Starting his career in town planning at Exeter City Council, Dave became a member of the ‘Royal Town Planning Institute’ in 1984 and so continued an impressive career, mostly working in forward planning and conservation in mid Devon, and based at Tiverton.
Undoubtedly Dave was highly respected as a professional and he was valued as a colleague for his technical abilities as well as his dry sense of humour. In 1992 he completed his Diploma in Management Studies at Plymouth University. His boss, Jonathan Guscott, wrote to Rob, Steve and Naomi, to say:
I worked with your father for nearly ten years and was impressed by his obvious intelligence and self deprecating good humour.
and his colleagues in other letters and tributes have said:
Dave was an intellectual giant who loved debate and discussion, those who worked with him appreciated his acute sense of fairness, his generous nature and his relaxed attitude.
Dave met Maggie, settling in Exeter, eventually building a family home in Queens Rd, where Dave, like many men, did not enjoy the household chores but carried out a great deal of DIY.
He had an eye-opening initiation into fatherhood with the birth of twin sons, Rob and Steve, and, as a hands-on father, he had to cope with one twin throwing their dinner on the floor, whilst he then bent down to pick it up the other threw their dinner on his head! They thought that was a fine game! Naomi was born to complete their family.
The children have fond memories of their family holidays, usually camping, and have many funny stories to tell. On one holiday to France, theirs was the first car off the ferry but Dave didn’t know where to go so he drove tentatively towards the car park to get his bearings. Unfortunately, all the drivers behind him assumed he did know the way and so they all snaked several times around the car park behind him before he finally managed to find the way out!
Another holiday was spent in Wales. It had been unusually hot for some time and they put their tent up in a hollow in the parched field. Of course it poured relentlessly the next day and they soon discovered that they had set up camp in a dried up river bed! Their tent was floating on a foot of water.
Jonathan Guscott wrote:
We had many talks and it was obvious to me that Dave was a proud father who loved his children deeply.
Dave was a dedicated Dad who was involved in his children’s lives and was always there for them. He went fishing with Steve and collected stamps with Naomi. But, perhaps the most significant hobby that Dave shared with his children was that of playing chess and under his tutelage Rob was to become an international junior player.
A sound club level player himself, Dave really came into his own as a chess coach, he adapted to each individual’s needs, explaining things at an appropriate level, and he seemed to have the knack of bringing out the best in others, especially the juniors, to nurture new talent. Not only did he begin the Isca Junior Club, which was successful and achieved a lot, he worked hard to plan and run chess tournaments in the area and ran the Devon junior U-11 team for 2 years.
There are many people – here and not here – who have much to thank Dave for.
Dave had many interests. Cricket was something of an obsession. He played a as spinner when he was younger but, after his own cricketing career was over, he would listen to or watch it whenever he could. He has been known to take annual leave from work whilst the Ashes were on and he would try desperately to tune into Radio 4 longwave, even if it crackled ridiculously, whilst on holiday in France. Always notorious for a sarcastic sense of humour himself, he enjoyed watching comedies like Blackadder, One Foot in the Grave and Life on Mars. He loved cooking adventurously, perhaps enjoying cooking more than eating. Woodland inspired him and he would comb the woods for mushrooms in autumn and bring them home to eat. It is fitting that his ashes will be scattered in woodland and, in time, he will become part of a place he loved in life.
Sadly, everything and everyone we cherish passes out of our lives. Perhaps it is only when we face this truth as those we love and admire die, that we can see how precious every day life really is.
We can take comfort that, despite a couple of very challenging years, Dave died peacefully in his bed. He is now beyond suffering and we have a sense of peace and release for him.
And now, to end our tribute to Dave, a piece written by Robert Louis Stevenson which Rob, Steve and Naomi chose for today:
That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it……. who never lacked appreciation for the earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had. Whose life is an inspiration and whose memory is a benediction.
Dave, We treasure so much that you brought to this world and to our lives. Thank you.
With respect we leave you in peace and, with love, we let you go.
Grief can and does change. However low this has made you, I hope you can turn back to life – in your own time and your own way – and embrace it to the full and enrich your own and others’ lives. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten Dave or that you aren’t missing him: it simply means that you’ve learnt, may be from Dave himself or this experience itself, that life is for living and loving, for being and doing.
You will laugh again and, when you do, Dave will be right there with you. Through all the things he said and did, and the life you shared, Dave has become part of you and the cycle of humanity so, through your life now, he will live on.
Our final reading says it all really:
You can shed tears that he is gone or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him or it can be full of the love you have shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live for yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn back or you can do what he’d want, smile, open your eyes and love and go on.
Thank you for sharing in our ceremony today. You are warmly invited to join family and friends at The Buckerell Lodge and to share more memories next. There will be a retiring collection in aid of the Devon Junior Chess Association. You can leave a donation here in memory of Dave if you wish or later, via the Funeral Directors, Exeter and District Funeral Services if you’d rather”.
This was followed by another of Dave’s favourite tracks, the Beatles’ Let It Be, which again was quite fitting.