‘Those things which must be added’
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of Dene Turner at Salisbury Cathedral, there was not a seat in the entire Cathedral, left empty. We sat in the North Transept amongst a vast swathe of Scout Leaders who had all taken the afternoon off to ‘celebrate’ Dene’s life, his contribution to ‘scouting’ and to mourn his passing, there was even a handful of young cub scouts present.
It was quite a moving sight and having had a big hug from Dene’s dad Graham, and his sister Katie before we went in, on the first rumbling breath of bass organ as it vibrated up through the floor I crumbled, unable to sing as I realised that I really wouldn’t be bumping into Dene again, next time I was in town or in the Cathedral, this was it, the last hello.
It was a beautiful service which perfectly captured the spirit and tone of Dene. The son, brother, husband, father, friend; the skilled technical facilitator, the man who went the extra mile, the dancer, the singer, the any-chance-to-get-a-‘cossie’-on, man, his life at the heart of the Methodist church community. The man who constantly grew in his knowledge, who loved to share his expertise in his work with young people and through popular courses run at the Cathedral. The man, whom the day before he died had taken an exam so he could shoulder even more responsibility in his work, the quiet, humble man who would have been embarrassed by such praise and recognition and perhaps suprised to reflect on the sum of all his parts and see how rich it all was.
We were sat next to Maria Bota, the Director of Salisbury International Arts Festival. As Facilities manager (amongst many other previous roles at the Cathedral), Dene was the man who made sure festival events at the Cathedral went smoothly and who negotiated the needs of International Art against the needs of an ancient institution. I suspect that when frustrations arose as the two worlds attempted to bridge, Dene’s humour and quiet amusement at the way we over complicate the simple, stamp our feet and make some noise when we dont get our own way was the perfect ‘glue’. Ensuring a level of understanding and agreement was reached. The Dean, June Osborn said as much in her address, referring to occasions when she was having a “hissy fit” over something that hadn’t been done, or had gone wrong, and where Dene’s response was quiet laughter at her histrionics helping her realise that perhaps it wasn’t that important in the grander scheme and to laugh at her own misplaced fury – a brave admission.
It’s been a while, a long while since I’ve sung ‘Kumbayah’ but it made me smile to be singing it in the Cathedral and if I hadn’t been sobbing I would have loved to have sung Ralph Readers’ Scout Hymn as well, although the tune never sticks in my head some of the words always resonate
“Now as I start upon my chosen way, in all I do, my thoughts, my work, my play, grant as I promise, courage new for me to be the best, the best that I can be……open mine eyes to see things as I should, that I may do my daily turn of good, let me be ready, waiting for each need….”
I wish I’d been able to see the guard of honour formed by the Scout Leaders with the Scouting Flags and Pennants to see Dene leave the Cathedral for the last time.
I, like many others present yesterday will be endeavouring to give some thought to what Dene taught me as part of my mourning, and we will all carry the delight of coming together, red eyed and sniffly, over coffee and cake in the Cloisters in the bright spring sunshine (always cake with Salisbury Methodist church) as happens in communities; with old friends from school, youth club, scouting/guiding, church, work and leisure to communally share our memories. Dene spanned all of those parts of my life and he has taught me that whilst I may be an old cynic, disillusioned, prickly and questioning, that through the appreciation of good in others we can hope to find it in ourselves and that there are some very good people in the reaches of my life. One has just left the room, I can confidently speak for more than just myself when I say he will be missed.
Dene Turner 1961 – 2012