Sunday, September 24, 2006


I've been sat staring at the monitor. All the different funerals I've been to running through my head.

Close friend's dad when we were still at school.

Caroline. She hung herself just after I left for university. (My parents had to tell me of the death of three friends in the space of about ten days).

Alexandra. She made the tabloids. Died of skin cancer at the age of twenty-two. I watched her grow up. Our neighbour's daughter. Needless to say the tabloids made the tragedy worse for the family by exaggerating and fabricating.

I've mentioned just a few.

I remember at all of them railing against the ostensibly Christian service at the Crematorium. Finding it hard to cope with the perceived injustice. All young. Everything to live for. (Funerals are always fill of clich├ęs and platitudes). Hating the harsh cruelties of life.

My aunt's funeral on Friday was so different. She was a committed Christian. District Commissioner for the Girl Guides. School Governor. Member of the PCC and an integral part of the Mothers' Union. The beauty and tranquility of the village church overwhelmed me. IThe first time I have been to a funeral where the vicar actually knew and loved the person about whom he was speaking.

The service was a reaffirmation of life. There was no sense of tragedy or injustice. Through the grief there was a genuine celebration of all that is positive about life. I'm still smiling now at the thought of my quirky, funny and perceptive aunt. I didn't need to go to Devon to remember those things. They will always be with me.

I went for those who are left. Peggy was one of seven siblings aged between 60 and 78. I imagine them all on a sheet of ice. It has become thinner over the years with different scares and illnesses – Peggy was overcoming the severe onset of Parkinson's on a daily basis – but no-one fell through. Until now. There's a hole in the ice that will spread and the others will follow. It really does scare me. I don't know my uncle but my other aunts I know so much better because they live in London. The biggest scare of all is my dad. He's always been there for me and one day I know that will change.

I tried to explain to C. last night but I couldn't really articulate what I wanted to say. I got annoyed and decided to open the new Granta laying on the kitchen table. Issue 95. The front cover shows a black and white photo of a dad at a table with his three children. Loved Ones. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.


Red said...

I am not terribly religious, but I am full of admiration for those who feel that death reunites their loved one with God.

My Dad died a few years ago the Saturday before Easter. Inevitably the service revolved around the concept of eternal life and resurrection and all that. And through it all, I just felt cheated and lonely. And, of course, guilty (it was an Italian funeral, after all...).

ems said...

I don't believe in it myself but it made a huge difference to the funeral.