"Even the cockroaches didn't like it when Margery sang," Uncle Ernie told me, at the wake. He chuckled, then drained his dram of single malt, and put his crystal glass on the kitchen counter, ready to pour himself another.
I opened the fridge, and scooped out a handful of ice, which I dropped into his glass.
"So why did she enter Britain's Got Talent, then?" I asked. "Didn't you try to stop her?"
"Huh!" he said. "You obviously didn't know your Auntie Marge very well, love. You see, to us, she sounded like a cat being slowly tortured by being spit-roasted while being basted in hydrochloric acid, but to her own ear, she was like a cross between Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. She thought Simon Cowell was joking when he told her she should issue ear-defenders to everyone in earshot, the next time she planned on singing anything. She even thanked him for the compliment." He took another sip. "She always heard what she wanted to hear."
He smiled sadly, and continued. "Like when Doc Mellor told her she only had months left. To her, he was telling her she had a clean bill of health. She just carried on as normal."
"How did you find out she was dying?" I asked.
"Ah, well," he said. "I suspected something was up, that weekend. She'd been to see the doc, on the Friday. Then this ad came on the TV the following night, telling us where and when the auditions were, and it turned out the one for our region was that coming week. She sat up, with this look on her face, and announced she'd be going along. Over the years she'd often said she wanted to have a go at one of these talent shows, but she never did anything about it. This time she looked as if she meant it.
"So, did she tell you, then?"
He looked at his glass, now empty again. "No, love. I phoned Doc Mellor and asked him straight out. He wasn't going to tell me. Patient confidentiality and all that, you know... But I said that he knew Marge as well as I did, and that if she was... you know... dying," He swallowed, his eyes misty, "I'd be the last one she'd tell. I told him that I wanted to make sure her last days were as good as I could make them." He pulled a big cotton handkerchief out of the pocket of his hired suit jacket, and blew his nose noisily. "So, he told me. But he made me promise that I wouldn't tell Marge that I knew. Funny, because that was the last thing I would have done."
He poured another inch of the whisky into his glass, then offered me the bottle. I shook my head.
"So, we both kept up the pretence that all was well, and she went along to the audition, and sang her poor ailing heart out for Simon Cowell. It's a shame, isn't it? The timing?"
I nodded, and squeezed his shoulder. He looked at his watch.
"Speaking of which, I think it's time." I followed him to the living room, and he stood in the middle of the room, poised to make his announcement.
"OK folks," he said. "If you could gather round the telly, you can watch our Margie's swansong, so to speak. He turned to my brother. "Young Marty, could you do the honours, please, lad?"
Martin pushed the on switch and the guests sat to watch as the familiar Britain's Got Talent theme music filled the room.
Several minutes later we were all wiping tears of laughter and sorrow, as we watched Auntie Margery belting out "My Heart Will Go On" in a way none of us had ever heard it performed before.