On Tuesday July 6, 2021, family and friends gathered to bid farewell to Eric in the chapel of The Charterhouse in London. It was an appropriate setting for Eric’s funeral as The Charterhouse had been his final home. It was a place where he not only thoroughly enjoyed living, but also found peace and contentment. The chapel was decorated with some of Eric’s fabulous stage costumes.
Eric arrived to the strains of Ethel Merman singing There’s no Business Like Show Business, and one of the capes which he had worn as Zee was draped over his coffin. The service was officiated by The Reverend Canon Ann Clarke, who had become a good friend of Eric’s at The Charterhouse and had administered the Last Rites to him.
After the opening prayers, Shane Collins read messages from friends who had been unable to attend before paying his own moving tribute to his dear friend, who he fondly recalled as “a man of simple tastes – caviar and champagne!” Shane’s eulogy was followed by a reading of Henry Scott Holland’s Death is Nothing at All by Kevin Phillips.
Death is Nothing at All
Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be the word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
when I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Brother Sue Payn then read John 14.1-6.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Cannon Ann next shared her own fond memories of Eric, “a very, very special man,” and read David Harkins’ poem He is Gone.
He is Gone
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 he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he has gone
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
or you can do what he would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Eric left the chapel to applause and Pilot’s It’s Magic.
Farewell, dear friend, you shall be forever in our hearts.
– Andi Brooks