At my great age it is obvious that I am going to lose a few friends and I often used to tell my buddies in the SBS that I was going to be the ‘last man standing’ this has become my brag to my gym buddies when they remind me of my great age, Last week one of my oldest friends who has lived in Canada for so long that he now qualifies for a Canadian pension in addition to what he calls the pittance of his British one came over to attend the funeral of a mutual friend. I took him for lunch at Beckworth Emporium where we cheered ourselves up reminding each other of how many mutual friends had passed since our last meeting. Apart from our mutual friend and my family member whose funerals are this coming week we have lost five more mutual friends in Britain and Canada during the COVID lockdown. We had a ‘mortality aware’ lunch but it didn’t spoil the joy of valued friendship. That is what jogged my brain into yet another blog.
A few years ago my Mother-in-Law with whom I didn’t dislike but I did feel that somehow she did not approve of me being good enough for her daughter, just before reaching the grand old age of 91, slipped this mortal coil.
My wife and her elder sister took it upon themselves to make the funeral arrangements. Ma wasn’t in the least religious and in fact used to sniff because I made a point of attending Church on Sunday mornings and so did not visit her until later.
The two sisters made arrangements with a local undertaker for a service at the Crematorium. They declined the services of a Priest or Minister and at the suggestion of the funeral director, he would arrange a secular service by one of their regular people and they picked out some hymns that they both liked. Yeah I know not very secular but think of it as a compromise.
Not being the quiet sort I had to put in my two-penny worth, (I bet you have seen me on television, it’s called interference). To shorten the story, I wasn’t having some bloke who had never met the old girl going on about some paragon that no-one there would recognise and I said that I would prepare and read the eulogy. Dutiful wife phoned the funeral directors to tell them to leave a space in the service for me to eulogise.
Come the day I had prepared what I felt was a good tribute to the old bird, after all she had taken an active part in village life, having put on pantomimes and amateur dramatics for some thirty years including making all the costumes for the aspiring Bonny Langford’s in the surrounding villages.
My kids used to tease me that I was never a person to miss making a speech so I walked into the Crematorium behind the cortege without too much trepidation. Until, that is the lady from the undertakers stopped me, took me to one side and asked me to indicate to the organist, whereabouts in my service I wanted which hymns played. To my question “What the **** are you talking about?” I gathered that she did not know what a eulogy and on receiving my wife’s phone call, had cancelled their arrangements because she understood that I would be taking the service.
I am not unused to giving the odd lecture and occasionally read the lesson at morning service. I looked at the fairly large congregation and the coffin sitting waiting for someone to do something. I took a deep breath and thought . . . . . the old bird might start spinning in her coffin because she is going to get the Full Monty of a Church of England, nay High Anglican burial service . . . . . I am the resurrection and the life . . . . I started her eulogy with “Unaccustomed as I am” and walked out of the chapel to many pats on the back.
My wife, neverone to give me any credit even when I think it is due, thanked me for saving the day but then spoiled it by saying that I should not have said to the undertaker, after my brilliant service, “Have you got a box of matches? I might as well finish the job”.
I am taking orders for weddings, funerals, Bat and Bar Mitzvahs, I’m cheap but rubbish at leading the singing.
Cometh the day cometh the man. Last Man Standing