I live on a small estate made up of bungalows. Single story houses only. Consequently there is a preponderance of old people who live hereabouts. The houses suit us you see; no stairs.
It should come as no surprise when people here die as most of us are around the three score year and ten mark.
However, just the other day there were 2 funerals on the same day. Two near neighbours, just across the road from us in fact, had died. One I didn’t know well. He seemed a robust chap who was slightly younger than me. The other a lady in her 80’s. She had recently been widowed.
I attended the funeral for Joan (not her name), the lady. It was a very strange affair; slightly surreal in fact.
The hearse stopped a short walk from the entrance to the crematorium. A passenger got out of the hearse and moved to the front of the car. He proceeded to walk in front of the hearse for the last 100m or so. A not unusual sign of respect.
There was an attempt at ‘undertaker smartness’ but he didn’t quite pull it off. His black top had the appearance of once being sat on. His black, slightly faded, coat was too tight, all ‘pulled buttons and awkward gaps’. My mother would have said it “looked like a readymade shirt on a milestone” and she would have been right. He had a dull, black walking cane and his shoes looked as though they had not been cleaned for months.
The whole ensemble looked shabby. Around this part of Lincolnshire they describe such a look as “Grebby” and grebby he was.
The coffin was carried into the crematorium and placed on a Bier under a canopy in front of the small group of mourners, just Joan’s children, a couple of friends and three of us neighbours.
The scene set, the service started. Clearly the relatives had chosen a non religious service. A celebrant was called to deliver the oration.
The speech delivered, meaningful music played and the undertakers having marched woodenly about and bowed like Trumpton figures, the proceeding just sort of fizzled to a stop. There was no ending. The coffin didn’t go back behind curtains. Nothing. People glanced around in a sort of “what do we do now” kind of way. There was a distinct whiff of a Spike Milligan sketch about it.
What can we say? Goodbye Joan perhaps. At least the cars were clean.
It doesn’t seem much for 80 years of life does it.