Jane said she wanted to walk, because she and Ken walked everywhere. So we walked. The cemetery, wind-whipped, is on a hill that overlooks a soccer field and much of the village. It’s where Jane and Ken buried their stillborn daughter, Sally, two decades ago. Ken and Jane were walking to this place, to visit Sally’s grave, when he collapsed and died, and so it was right that Ken would be buried here. The vicar said some nice things, and invited us to throw dirt onto the coffin if we wished. A few of us did. Jane threw Ken’s sweat-stained three-decade-old Yankees cap (he was a very serious Yankee fan) on top of the casket. And then we walked back to the church hall.
On the last full day of his life, Ken went to a wine-tasting and bought a case of pink champagne. So of course the 80 or so folks who crammed into the reception toasted Ken with the champagne he and Jane, both retired, would have used for their Champagne Friday tradition. As the last of three King brothers, I did the toast, clumsily. I was grateful for a squeeze on the left arm from Jane when I faltered at one point. I just wanted her, and everyone in the room, to know what a full and happy life Ken lived, and how incredibly grateful the American side of the family was for the goodness of the British side, and how Jane so generously had enriched all of our lives.
Afterward, Jane wanted to walk the Watership Down route, the seven miles she and Ken so often had walked. So a group of 18 of us went out, including Ken’s 14-month-old grandson, Thomas, alternately on my back and the backs of others, and on a glorious afternoon we trod the seven miles they so often did. We walked the walk, Ken’s walk. It’s one of the prettiest places in the world, full of high grass and acres of yellow flowers and green pastures and birds I didn’t know. On and on, and I never thought, Lord, I’m tired. When are we going to head back?
I’ll always remember the day, vividly. It’s the kind of day every person would hope for at the end of his or her life, in the kind of village where every person would hope to be remembered. A perfect day.