I write this the day after Uncle Frank’s funeral. Funerals in my family tend to be long, emotional, and loving. Uncle Frank’s funeral was longer, and more loving, than most because there was a lot to say about my Uncle Frank. He was a one-off. I cannot possibly describe for you the magic of his stories, the exaggerated tales of his past, the way his face creased into smiles when he saw you, his mischievous giggle when something tickled him. My earliest memories are of him on the beach, digging a massive hole and turning it into a car, so I could sit and ‘drive’ sheltered from the cold Norfolk wind. I have later memories of him with my own children, letting them camp at the end of his garden and slipping them shiny coins when he thought I wasn’t looking.
Yesterday was a day of laughter and tears. Lots of tears. I am a cry-er, always have been, though it’s worse since surgery when controlling any emotion is difficult. As we waited outside the crematorium, I tried to decide how to behave—should I ‘live inside my head’ and not properly listen to what was being said, force myself to notice the sounds and smells and sights around me, ‘tell myself a story’ as events unfolded and thus remove my emotions. If I didn’t ‘think,’ I wouldn’t cry. But then, what was the point of being there? Surely the point of a funeral is to cry, to let the emotion, the pain of loss, come to the surface. To share the hurt and love with other people who are hurt and loving.
But, could I keep it in check? Would my not-easy-to-control emotions spiral out of control, embarrassing me and being no use to anyone else? I decided that I would allow myself to cry at the thanksgiving service in the church after the crematorium, but at the crematorium I would remove my thoughts and control my emotions and not cry.
My resolve lasted about one minute, as when the coffin arrived it was carried in by my cousins, and I wasn’t expecting that. The sight of the ‘boys’ (they will always be ‘the boys’ to me) and their sons, carrying the coffin was too beautiful, too poignant. How lovely, to be carried for the last time by people who love you.
So that was it. I spent the entire day with a swollen red nose and puffy eyes and damp cheeks. I am not one of those women who look beautiful when they cry, I resemble a sunburnt frog. But it didn’t matter. By the time the thanksgiving service was finished, I think everyone else had cried too. Unlike some funerals, when you sit there not recognising the saintly person described and you wonder if everyone else knew a different person to you, Uncle Frank’s funeral was about the Uncle Frank who I love. A real, not-perfect, easy to love person who enjoyed giving to others. So many stories, so many memories; laughter and tears chasing each other round the church. It was a special day.
The thing is, like the quote above, I think it really is better to go to a funeral than a feast. A funeral is real. You see a person’s life spread out before you, and it reminds you that life is short. We only get one life. It’s up to us how we spend it. Do I want to spend it ‘scoring points’ when someone messes up? Do I want to spend it indignant because other people make mistakes or behave badly? Do I want to shelter from all possible hurt and embarrassment and in consequence never join anything, never initiate a conversation, never take a risk? Am I forever delaying the things I want to do, waiting for that perfect time that might never come?
We only get one life. Life is short. Live it well.
Thanks for reading.
Love, Anne x
“It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.”
Thank you for reading