diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 18, 2010

The curtain closes and my uncle disappears.

The priest continues to speak his well-chosen words of comfort. His voice has that special vicar-y tone which reassures at times of greatest need, and which conveniently masks what might be going on behind the drapes. He tells us all what a spiritual person my uncle was, which is news to me. Every now and then he slips in a few sentences which sound suspiciously like an advert for his religion, before returning to praising my uncle's personal qualities. Not wrong there.

We've already sung the hymn. It's amazing how little noise a crowd of 100 can make, which must be why the crematorium has invested in a series of pre-recorded hymns complete with professional choir. So much less embarrassing than the usual tone-deaf hiatus.

The final piece of music is a 1970s ballad, one you'll know well, one my uncle evidently held dear. I've never thought about about this particular song in a funereal context before, but now I may never be able to clear it from my head. One verse in, the undertaker wafts up to the front of the chapel and invites us to leave. Everybody stands and exits through the side door, every body that is except one.

It's biting cold on the terrace outside. The congregation moves round the corner to view the floral tributes laid out on the paving. It's easy to spot our party's wreaths in amongst the day's collection, because they're the only ones not covered by half an inch of snow. All around are half-frosted lilies, flake-sprinkled posies and the frosted names of loved ones past. We stand beside this tableau of blanked-out colour and chat.

There are twins due in January. So-and-so couldn't be here because they've got flu. Hasn't Dan grown - the last time we saw him he was, what, that high? Somebody's left their coat in the chapel. They'll have to wait another twenty minutes, there's already another committal underway inside. Lovely to see you again, even if these aren't the best of circumstances.

The snow lays heavy across the fields, illuminated by the winter-bright rays of the descending sun. It's a beautiful afternoon, or at least it is out there. As we walk back down the hill towards the car park, we pass the next batch of black-clad figures arriving for their moment of remembrance. The grieving cycle continues, and cherished memories depart.

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