Friday, December 17, 2004

Family only, by request

Today's funeral, the last of our current run, was rather a strain for all concerned. This was because the deceased had decreed that she wanted a "quiet service" with only her closest family involved....
Because she also wanted burial in the local cemetery, their only option for the service itself was our church.
"Why should that be a strain?" the innocent reader wonders.....
Well, our church is on the large and ornate side, and is so crammed with pews and other bits of apparently loved ecclesiastical jumble that there is no alternative to the nave large enough for a coffin to be, widower, 2 adult children and 2 of the 7 grandchildren duly occupied the front pew...and the vast empty acres of the church pressed close upon us as I tried to say something meaningful, consoling and appropriate about a lady whom I had never met, and whose family were less than eloquent in their reminiscences.
Thanks be to God, it all went reasonably well...though it was hard to get the balance between reassuring and intrusive eye contact during the address (which was, I promise, nothing like as forml as its official label might suggest)....but it was hugely demanding not only of me but, far more to the point,of the family. Even the partners of the children were excluded from attending, so everyone seemed very much alone with their grief, unable to articulate it and feeling that they had to carry the whole things without a wobble, because there was nobody there to help cover the cracks.
I'm sure that Mrs X had only wanted to make things easier for her nearest and dearest when she laid down such a prescriptive funeral plan...but in the event, a "quiet funeral, close family only" was far harder work for them than a larger scale service would have been. Moreover, so that nobody turned up uninvited, the family elected to keep news of the death under wraps till after Christmas, which deprives them of the messages of love and support which are startlingly helpful in the wake of a death.
I came home resolved that my only request for my own funeral should be that my family do whatever feels easiest for them.........though there are certain pieces of music which, if chosen, would cause me to rise from my grave there and then!

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