When I was in my twenties, I was attending weddings on a pretty regular basis. Since I moved to Germany in early 2012, I’ve been attending funerals on a regular basis, admittedly not as me, but as church warden/verger/dogsbody. Last week I even decided it would be prudent to keep several condolence cards at home “on stand-by” for the next few deaths within the church family. I even admitted to Schatz last week that I often write Tripadvisor reviews in my head after each funeral.
- Quality of the eulogy
- Piety of the mourners
- Was there any laughter among the tears?
- Suitability of the songs/hymns
- And so much more
Last Friday, I came with Schatz to a funeral. Very rarely is there much “fun” in a funeral, even if it’s Grandma Beatrice who passed away at 103. But this was not a “nice” funeral, where the Brits would sigh philosophically:
Oh well, they had a good innings.
This was a very difficult funeral.
- A “professional” suicide. (Let’s leave it at that.)
- She had had a very unstable life from childhood. (Let’s leave it at that.)
- She had been well-loved by many friends. It was standing room only in the chapel at the cemetery.
The lady vicar preached very well. She bit the bullet. She talked about the elephant in the room: the fact that this was a suicide. The vicar mentioned God wrestling with her decision, but ultimately we humans have free will. The vicar quoted from Psalm 130. After the service, I thanked the vicar for using the ideal Psalm for this funeral.
Upbeat songs were played during the service. Tears were seen. I squeezed Schatz‘ hand a few times, for the widower was a good friend and confidante of Schatz.
The mourners all filed out towards the grave for the urn to be placed into the ground.
Ah yes, I nearly forget to tell you, the two dog-lovers filed out towards the grave, bringing their two dogs along. Thankfully neither dog barked. Thankfully one of the owners had brought a sandwich bag in which to place his dog’s mess as “pooch” left a “present” en route to the grave. I’m a great dog-lover. But dogs at a funeral, and, moreover, at the burial? Why? Tell me why.
We reached the grave.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…
So called out the vicar, a fact which was quite ironic, given that a group of five or six smokers stood about 20 metres away from the grave, topping up their nicotine levels.
(Could they really not have waited a few more minutes, or stood behind the adjacent trees, out of sight?)
The mourners placed rose petals and shovelled earth on top of the urn. Friends shook hands with, and hugged, the widower. I shook hands with him. I did not hug him. Nothing to do with being British and not huggy-huggy. I didn’t want to pass my bronchitis onto him. (The smokers meanwhile carried on smoking.)
The vicar led the mourners in the Vater Unser prayer. I prayed it in English. A few heads turned in my direction, when the English language was heard.
Who art in Heaven…
The mourners filed out. The smokers stubbed their cigarettes on the footpath. Everyone headed off to the restaurant for the funeral buffet. Schatz and I did not. We headed home to my flat to decompress.
J, RIP. May you finally find peace.
Have a despair-free day, won’t you!