The juxtaposition of events is often a powerful reminder that life continues. Over a year ago, I accompanied a friend, Dee, as she slowly died of cancer whilst at the same time, her great-grandchild was waiting to be born. Their timelines did not intersect which I find very sad. My friend was a wonderful inspring woman with a fascinating history, and I miss her.
It was my birthday, and I found myself remembering Dee once again. I was seating in the church where Dee’s funeral service had been, but this time it was a memorial service for Tom. We three are connected through a book group, and this church is where we go to commerate and celebrate book group members’ lives. Well I am sure that will change as the book group has, new members have come from different churches and none, but this is where the group started, in this church hall. I mentioned Dee to another member of the group sitting beside me. Ruth pointed our where Dee used to sit and kneel on the cushion Dee’s husband had made for her. Who will remember that detail in the future?
These rememberance services are a chance to get to know the person who has died better, but I think they are also a useful space to reflect on ones own mortality. If I had been born ten years earlier I proabably wouldn’t have made it to being 49 years old. Modern drugs and medical procedures have enabled me to live this long, and because I am monitored, I suspect I have a good chance to keep going quite a while longer. I ponder my own funeral whilst waiting for the service to begin, would it be as full as this? Who would be here?
There are a number of relections of Tom’s life. He was a lawyer, and so are his friends and colleages so they are all good speakers. I learn about his bachelor days, university exploits, love of hill walking, love of travel, love of trains, love of work, and love of family. I learn that his surname is used to describes days that are crammed jam packed with activities and interests.
His son sings “The Vagabond”, and I feel moved and happy that his son could do that.
A work colleage stands up and I learn about the respect and admiration his work friends had for him. Thunder is heard from outside, and the speaker incorporates it as a joke. He finishes with a lovely Burns quote about death. I am moved to tears and wished I had known Tom better.
There is a slide show of photos that his daughter has put together, it shows aspects of Tom we have already heard about, but mainly it shows he was a family man. I am glad I was able to see my children grow up.
Finally the minister reflects on his own experiences of Tom. He is plainly upset that Tom has died which I find very moving. In passing, I wonder how many deaths the minister have accompanied but it’s irrelevent really. Tom was important to him too. The minister then reads a letter out from Tom’s wife. She says they both really appreciated the support from friends in his last few months, she mentions people that visited their house and I feel glad that my wife and I did at least that for him.
By the end of the service I am left feeling glad that I knew Tom, sad that I didn’t know him better, and a little bit emotional washed out. On leaving, I thank the son for his singing, the daughter for her slides and say how much I enjoyed hearing about Tom’s life and how moving the service was. His wife gives me a solid hug and thanks me for being so colourfully dressed.
I leave the church and walk back to the car. I put my Tilley hat on my head and stroll off, looking like a colourful tourist no doubt. My next task is to sort out my birthday meal, such a strange day.