Another funeral today, a friend's mother, in her 93rd year. I hadn't known her for long and I certainly never knew her in her prime but she was a lovely woman, humourous, generous, always smiling and with a great zest for life.
Afterwards I said to Bert,
That went off very well don't you think?
And he said,
Sure don't funerals always go off well?
I got to thinking about that. Usually they do. But I have come across a few exceptions in my time.
Years ago when I was new to the funeral game I attended a service for one of the grand old dames of our parish. The chapel was packed. Suddenly there was a tremendous clatter and crash at the back and the priest suspended the ritual and rushed down the aisle. Turned out the old lady's nephew had suffered a fatal heart attack and, as everyone present agreed, no better place for it and handy to Father for the last rites.
There was a similar story about the doors when a fellow came back from the building in London to attend the funeral of his older half-brother. He took a turn at the wake and never recovered and to save time and money the family doubled up the funeral and buried them together.
The saddest funeral I ever was at was that of a boy of 17, the son of a work colleague. He was killed in a car crash where the boy at the wheel was consequently charged and convicted of dangerous driving. His family were great people but they were not particularly religious. In this country there are a lot of people who believe that a funeral cannot take place without the assistance of a member of the clergy. Someone, somewhere had gathered up an evangelical pastor to speak at the graveside. This man stood there and preached the 'born again' sermon. There was a great deal about 'sinning' and 'eternal damnation'. There was mention made that the unfortunate boy had not been 'saved' so we could all reach our own conclusions on that. There was not one word of comfort for the family. The poor child's mother was in a fainting condition and his older brother looked like he might choke the pastor. I'm sinner enough to wish he had.
I've never forgotten that. It must be a comfort, for those that believe, to hear priests and ministers talk of eternal life. But not everyone buys into established religion. My parents are both dead now and I do not (although I reserve the right to change my mind) feel that it would be appropriate for me to have a religious funeral. The parents would, if they'd outlived me, been devastated to have me buried outside the faith. But now there is no one who'd really care. Say a prayer for me if you wish but keep priests and ministers away from my graveside.