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remembering a life

31 May

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?

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2 Comments

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Musing

 

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2 responses to “remembering a life

  1. accordion3

    June 1, 2014 at 10:01

    I’ve worked in palliative care for a while. Funeral rites vary so much that it is good to give your loved ones an idea of what is appropriate for you. An outline is sufficient, because the funeral is not about what you want, or even for you. It is for the people left behind and should represent how they thought of you and your life. It is a subtle difference, one that you and Nonna seem to have worked out.

    I’ve attended and helped plan many funerals and have to be honest and say that the secular ones have been the oddest. Each of the religions & variations within, all have a set structure. Some are more rigid than others. It makes working out what to do, choosing music, who does what, considerably more straightforward. Decision making is super difficult when you are bereaved. The secular funerals have few structures to use, and they are very loose. At the time of the ceremony they rely on the expertise of the celebrant to be effective. As secular funerals become more commonplace things will improve. However there will be huge variations between celebrants – just as there are between marriage celebrants.

     
    • Felicity from Down Under

      June 1, 2014 at 10:11

      You’re absolutely right. YoungB and I were saying yesterday that churches – I suppose of any denomination – do funerals better than funeral parlours. As you say, that’s because there’s a very tried and true formula and a set of liturgical practices to accompany same.

      Realistically, there’s no particular reason why some of the less traditionally religious music couldn’t be used even at a church service (at my Dad’s funeral, I think the recessional music was Carole King’s “You just call out my name”, which hardly qualifies as a hymn; but it was appropriate and something he’d asked for).

      You’re right, too, about decision-making being a difficult thing at a time of bereavement. So, yeah, I think it’s foolish not to plan ahead a bit. You never when it’s going to be your turn and if it’s a sudden and unexpected turn, you don’t want those you leave behind to be floundering as they try to sort out what music to have at the funeral if you could have already left a list. I could go on about this for a while, so I’ll stop now!

      cheers, Felicity

      PS: Of course that’s properly “You’ve got a Friend”

       

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