Thursday, 8 August 2013

Life and death...



I have not been to a funeral for a long time and two come at once…

Two people in that small group whom I have felt close to and from completely different generations. Twelve hours ago it was the service for my neighbour Douglas. He had no real faith but had always said that it was best to keep your options open! He would always claim C of E, church of England if still conscious on entering hospitals which is where you are most likely to be asked your faith though every decade you would be asked on the census, where Jedi Knight is apparently growing in popularity… Douglas had made arrangements with several to conduct his funeral over the years and was often more interested in getting someone he thought would put him over in a good light because they had got to know him. All that work was in vain as each died before himPeter who was a monk but living out in the community just across the road in the corner cottage became a great friend and had a wicked sense of humour at dinner parties should have been a good bet but got cancer and was soon gone. He took to the hospital visiting minister who sat with him through some nights of unconsciousness and they became friends through his recovery ten years ago and had promised that he would come out of retirement to do the job if necessary but he too dropped dead suddenly whilst Douglas sailed on. Betty thought that he had been joking when he had casually mentioned to our friend David that he would be perfect for the job since he was actually in the church of England though he had risen through the ranks to have long ago ceased sending folk off to the hereafter. 

It was fascinating seeing him perform though a little emotional sending off a god friend and neighbour, Douglas would have been delighted though,even when after putting his life story out as full, interesting and loved by so many he finished by telling how cantankerous he could be!  When he was first asked if he would officiate I told him that I expected to hear the word curmudgeonly somewhere and I has to smile when he did.

A good crowd turned out to see him off with sadness but few tears which is more than you could say for our trip over to the west of Scotland for the funeral of someone only twenty nine whom we had known and loved since a babe in arms. I estimated three hanky supply just in case though in my previous incarnation I had rarely had more than a moist eye even seeing off my parents. I soaked all three and could have done with at least one more and all about others were flowing even more… Never been to a catholic funeral before, never ending prayers and wersh hymns going on forever and ever and her brother who had flown back from his hospital job in Africa for this funeral was told that he had three minutes at the end! We spoke for about that long when I found him composing himself in an anteroom before the service, he thought we had come a long way for the service…

Christopher had spent his childhood fighting like cat and dog with his big sister who would meet stalemate in their arguments by tearing off the head and limbs from his action man figures, probably the only thing she ever did in anger, the priest had asked him how he had dealt with this and he calmly replied that he bided his time until the coast was clear and then farted into her pillow! Funny but neither mentioned this during the service. All his years in debating club which his sister had opened up to the younger pupils for his benefit followed by spending more time with the drama club than on his medical studies allowed him to put on a fabulous performance which at one moment would bring smiles followed by more tears but he held his back for twelve minutes before he started to choke on his final sentences. 

Even the eldest priest had tears in his eyes, there were four like a relay team…

Julie was not going to be traipsing round cemeteries  so we had turned down a chance for a ride in one of the line of stretch Jaguars and made our way towards refreshments and loos about a mile away, just as well as once gathered round the hole where was a sudden downpour much as Catriona would have written into one of he many novels though she would probably have had some thunder thrown in for good measure.

Hundreds turned up for the service and a large number turned up for a chat with tea / coffee and biscuits then a decent buffet once the soaked burial party returned. We were asked back to the house after the lunch where vocal cords were exercised until it started to get dark after nine thirty, time flies when you are more comfortable…

Recently there was a blog asking wether anyone had ever met another blogger and we can be scattered far and wide. Pat, one of the mourners had flown over from New York State just to be at the funeral of her blogging friend, sad that she had been forced to postpone the trip set up for earlier in the year, catriona last year had declared that they really had to meet face to face and booked a flight over and they had never even heard each others voices. We had a long conversation about the nature of life online.

Would anyone even take a short bus ride to meet up with me? Yes, I know I have met up with a few and we have made real life friendships following our meetings and that is a great joy. What is less joyful is the lack of online dialogue through commentary after blogs have been written. Without feedback it often feels like talking to yourself in the dark, somebody out there could be listening but you never know. Without the feedback each post appears almost at random, each an entity rather than held together by a thread of two way communication. As my post number stares back at me approaching three hundred I am wondering how much beyond that it will go without some commentary grist to work upon.

As a post note it has been a little ironic that out of this time of woe I have found an even higher degree of acceptance than I have ever felt before, on one occasion being welcomed into a group of women as one of the sisterhood gathering for comfort and support at a time of deep sadness. In my wildest dreams I never even hoped to feel like that... 

7 comments:

  1. Both services must have been hard but at least at one of them you could console yourself that his life had been fully lived. It's beyond sad though for one taken so young, a life just opening up to endless possibilities, a huge gap never to be filled in the lives of others,

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  2. As regards the other comment, please don't think that others aren't listening. I firstly owe you an email and secondly I would take such a bus ride, although I think a plane might be a better choice

    You are not that far away !

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  3. I don't know what it is with funerals. People gather to 'honour the dead', to 'pay their respects', just what does that mean? Real honour and respect should be given whist the person is still alive! What happens after death is that people are simply doing things for their own benefit, to satisfy their consciences, to make themselves feel good not only in their eyes but in the eyes of others. It is all pointless. The only person who doesn't benefit from all of this is the deceased! For them it is too late , what happens at their funeral is irrelevant to them. It makes me sad when I think about the practices we put ourselves through because 'it is the right thing to do', love the person whilst they are alive! Funerals should be short and without all the trimmings of self-indulgence. There is no such thing as a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jedi Knight, or any other type of funeral formality that is of any good, the decisions we make in life, what we believe will determine what is to happen to us when we pass away, not the funeral proceedings.
    On a lighter note funerals do give people a chance to meet up and chat and perhaps make amends for any broken relationships. If anything good comes out of funeral get-togethers it should be this.
    Nice to know your experiences have given you such joy to feel accepted.

    Shirley Anne x

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  4. Shirley Anne, ever fear, there should be no need to rush to "my" funeral. Not that I am immortal, I have requested am economical waste disposal of my remains and if wanted a well organised party to remember me some time after. The whole funeral business and the emotional blackmail to "what is right" at obscene cost disgusts me though I am sure the rich looking funeral directors would not think my way...

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, live life with the living and they will live on in your memories.

    At least at funerals thee is not over amplified music and bad dancing stopping conversations with those you have not seen for an age.

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  5. It is a wonderful idea that your friend Douglas had, and yes, sometimes longevity makes a muddle of it. My friend Mike has asked me if I would 'speak for the dead' at his funeral. Such a person has the task of being honest rather than glowing. The point is to give your friends and family a glimpse of the whole person, farting stories and all.
    You have given me thoughts on a difficult topic Caroline, such as, who can speak for me if I should happen to'join the chorus eternal' today and what does that say about how I am conducting my life?

    I share your desire for a meaningful exchange through blogging. Thank you for the reminder.

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  6. Becca,i am glad that we do communicate, there is never such a thing as an overdue email, they come when they come...

    One day we are sure to meet.

    Halle,my past self started to hate the thought that one day people would turn up for a farce of a funeral in memory of a well played out act. They would never have known the real me and that thought started to eat into my soul...

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  7. Would anyone even take a short bus ride to meet up with me? I'd definitely say 'yes' though for us it would be an extremely long bus ride! We are, however, linked through a mutual friend - Lucy - and I'm very much looking forward to meeting her again in a few week's time. As for comments, I've contributed a few when I've had something constructive to say, but always felt that one-liners like 'great post' and 'well done' are rather inane. Perhaps I'm wrong.

    Funerals are indeed for the living, not the dead. Whilst I agree with Shirley Anne's comment, and your response, I do believe that a well-conducted funeral service has its place as part of the grieving process. I've seen this time and time again, especially with close relatives - spouses, children... - who can't even begin to rebuild their lives until after the funeral. And the better the service, the more it heals.

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Many thanks to all who ever joined in the conversation and to those who took the time to follow my zig zag to a new life..

I can be contacted on the email found on my profile page.