As I write this post, the weather forecast for tomorrow is Snow. The pandemic numbers are spiraling out of control. Our freedom is under lockdown once again. What can I possibly write about that will cheer us up? Well – how about funerals?
This topic is on my mind because recently a golfing friend passed away, at age 91. She had hit her last hole-in-one at age 89. That, to me, is a great life!
During the pandemic we have lost a lot of friends and relatives, mostly to the diseases of old age. We have had no chance to celebrate their lives. They have gone quietly, sometimes without even family by their sides. There have been no funerals, no memorial services, no way to bring a sense of closure to those of us who are left behind. Some families postponed because the church or reception hall would only accommodate a few people. A couple of families postponed because relatives from other places, such as Europe, were not able to travel. Other people thought, like us, that wearing masks and staying 2 meters apart is not conducive to a special event.
Even the Royal family is not immune. Think about Prince Phillip – a pretty famous guy. But did he get a royal funeral at the abbey? No – he too had to make do with a private service at Windsor Castle and only 30 guests. The poor Queen had to sit in a pew all by herself. No pomp and circumstance, no big parade, no choirs singing.
Before the pandemic, I hate to admit this, but a lot of our social life was going to funerals. We welcomed the opportunity to honour those who were gone, by being there for whatever way the family chose to recognize their lives – whether it was a solemn church mass followed by a reception, or a memorial gathering with speeches and stories of remembrance. It was a chance to pass on our condolences to those who were left behind.
It was also a time to see people we hadn’t been in touch with for years. Funeral receptions and memorial gatherings can be the perfect social event for us oldies. Somebody else does the cooking and sets up the bar. The events are usually held during the day so we are able to stay awake and don’t have to drive home in the dark. We get to wear a nice outfit instead of our jogging pants. Peter would even put on his suit for this.
I’m not going to make any crass jokes about having to wear name tags because nobody will recognize us now that we are so much older. But in many ways funerals and memorials are almost joyous – an opportunity to recognize that the deceased is no longer suffering, and to celebrate together all that he or she has accomplished. I’m sure that, if my golfing friend had had a memorial, there would have been a Lot of golfing stories going around the room. She would have been delighted.
Since turning 70 and moving to the city, I have been thinking about how I want to be “disposed of” some day. One place we have been visiting a lot during the pandemic is the local cemetery. It’s a pretty place to walk, the grounds are well-kept, and readers have see pictures of the deer who live there. I’m kind of getting attached to them. So, if the time comes and you get invited, be sure to bring along a name tag and some jokes. And don’t forget to stick an apple in the pocket of your jogging pants. The deer like Honey Crisp the best.
PS No photos today. I mean really? How morbid can you get!
2 thoughts on “Last Rites”
What a treat to read such an elevated reflection on the subject of death and dying. It is coming that time for me also to lose many. Some people really leave a tear in my fabric: my Gr. 1 teacher, Marion Scott. My ex, Pedro Kozak. My mother, Margaret. Along the way, I have revisited my 23 year old dressage rider friend, Eva Jenkins, still beautiful at her funeral. Killed by lightening at a competition, and just married. Then there was my student, Loren Dianni, taken by cancer in her prime. Equine Canada named a prize in her honour. While their departure was sad, they left me feeling honoured to have known such great souls, and to know they had rich lives. Perhaps a life is not measured in time, but in quality; yet, fortunate indeed are those whose span is great as well as rich. I mourn for the living more than I do for the dead. I myself don’t want to go quite yet –too much to say!–but I am ready. Life owes me nothing. It is quite a miracle and an adventure all the way. Thank-you, Sue.
Two related books you might enjoy:
Original Self by Thomas Moore
Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
Celebration of life as we would refer to a funeral in the Catholic Church. So sad that we have not been able to say our farewells to friends and family in the proper fashion. This past year has made you stop and think of many things, it has been an awakening for many of us.