I’m taking a sojourn from my desert journey. Life happens, or rather, death happened. The Grim Reaper paid a visit to an in-law and B and I had to take care of the funeral arrangements. Don’t ask – suffice to say that blood is thicker than water, even if it tastes like vinegar sometimes.
The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of arrangements, filling in a gazillion forms and hunting for the most obscure facts and documents. Luckily my sister-in-law is a hoarder and through her grief, she could still remember the oddest of places in which she stuffed things like their marriage certificate. If you love your nearest and dearest, please leave an updated last will and testament and keep your documents ordered and secure. If you can’t stand them, though, this is a great way of taking revenge. We learnt through the whole process – which is cumbersome in itself and involves a lot of (inaudible) swearing, frustration, waiting… then rewind and play again – that it could have been much worse. Hard to imagine, but it could.
All the scurrying brought back memories:
- Funerals from my childhood – somber, weeping and gnashing of teeth, solemn faces, tears and black clothes, always those darn black outfits.
- My dad’s funeral when I was 11, with a vivid memory of the intense December heat and my shirt sticking to the red seat of the car – in those days the immediate family still was driven to the graveyard in the hearse.
- My mom’s funeral – a blur. Although I was an adult, I remember little, probably suppressed by the censor of my subconscious mind: I’ll-decide-what-I’ll-allow-you-to-remember.
As you can deduce from my memories, I grew up Protestant (then still silently protesting against it) and funerals were solemn and sad affairs. If there was an occasional eulogy, it brought on more tears and weeping by the bereaved or those pretending to be heart-broken while they feverishly prayed that the deceased had remembered them in their will.
“Oh the games people play now
Every night and every day now
Never meaning what they say now
Never saying what they mean
And they wile away the hours
In their ivory towers
Till they’re covered up with flowers
In the back of a black limousine”
~ Joe South
And suddenly a totally unrelated memory flashes into my mind: I learnt to slow dance and two-step to this song…
After years, Protestant funerals rites are not so grave any more (pun not intended), but they are still glum and dismal.
In contrast, an acquaintance passed on / away / over in December last year and we attended her memorial service. It was a celebration of her life and the things she loved. We toasted her with champagne, planted an indigenous tree, laid out a mosaic path in joyful and lively colours, laughed at anecdotes of friends reminiscing while a solo guitar player performed Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. And the best tribute came when the dogs she loved, mingled with the crowd and lifted their legs against the buckets of flowers placed around the garden. We could hear her laughing with delight.
I do not want to die with shoes on my feet
I want to walk barefoot on the new shores
with the courage to take your hand
in the back pocket of my jeans
And the ashes that will be scattered, will be Kris’.