It’s partly because we’re the age we are, but funerals seem to have featured large in our calendar just lately. Even YoungB remarked on it. Last week it was one of Dr B’s cycling mates, an inspirational bloke who’d fought an extraordinary battle against cancer; but, in the end, his end was expected and welcome. We all went to his funeral service and, tribute to what he’d been so passionate about in life, there were cycling jerseys of various hues (acknowledging some of the different groups with which he’d cycled over the year) scattered among the mourners. He’d had an irreverent view of life, so it was utterly appropriate that the recessional music was, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. Of course we sang along. That was entirely appropriate, too.
Today, it was the funeral of one of my old family friends. I’ve known them for so long that sometimes I feel as if they are my family (or I’m part of theirs; it’s a subtle point and there’s probably not a lot of difference). She was considerably older than the cycling mate and had been frail for some while; but, in the end, her end was expected and peaceful and not too drawn out. Her husband and one of their granddaughters were with her when she died. Many people celebrated her life in the church where the service took place. It was considerably less frivolous than the cycling mate’s farewell but it was warm and sincere and we celebrated having known her as we shared our memories of her.
Without sounding maudlin, or thinking that I’m next in line – not by a long shot, barring accidents! – it’s good to remind ourselves that life, however long, is always a fleeting thing and that sometimes you really do need to take stock of things and just appreciate what you have. For me yesterday that was the sunshine (which is bound to diminish now that the days are so short and winter temperatures are truly on their way; and in fact, today has been cold and wet) and YoungB’s having the thoughtfulness to call in to see Youngest Aunt while he was on a quick visit (doing things academic) down at the uni where she works (we don’t get down there often). They had lunch together and I’m certain that YoungB’s visit brightened her day enormously. He told me that he enjoyed his vegetarian curry pie.
There’s been another death, too – another elderly woman, loved wife, mother and grandmother with a large extended family and many friends – but that’s to be a private funeral for reasons that aren’t clear; so we won’t have the opportunity to share remembrances with other mourners. I can intellectualise about why you might want a private funeral but I think it’s selfish. I’ve told Dr B and YoungB that I don’t want a private funeral. I’ve said, often, that if anybody wants to stand up at my wake and say how great my chocolate pudding was, that’s fantastic (there might be a queue; it’s good pudding). Likewise, if anybody wants to come and spit on my grave – which is probably unlikely, but you never know – feel free. It won’t concern me any more. I’ll be dead. Nonna has that pragmatic view, too. She says with a shrug that we should do what we want with regard to her funeral and wake because it won’t bother her. “I’ll be dead,” she says. And, yeah, that’s right.
We’ll remember her, though, as we remember anyone who is no longer with us. We’re good at that, at celebrating what has been and looking at the generations gathered with all that promise of a bright future. And isn’t that how it should be?