Too many Funerals

I have been to two tragic funerals recently, and both have upset me in different ways.

The first one was of an elderly lady. She had lived a long and exciting life, working at The Mirror Newspaper, and travelling around the world. She was an inspirational lady even if she could talk the hind legs off a donkey.

I met her first in my cab. I had had a particularly good day (around christmas). Our local radio station had put on a prize for the best christmas lights, and the town had responded exuberantly. As Mrs Douglas jumped in the car, I told her how much it would be to take her home, but would she like to look around the houses at no extra charge. She did and we laughed ourselves silly at the many displays.

About 6 months later I answered an unusual request to help someone move. It’s the kind of job that takes a long time, but doesn’t pay well, so the other drivers left it. I was still relatively new however and hadn’t realised the full extent of the job. It turned out to be Mrs Douglas, and I instantly recognised her. The job was long and fruitless, but we didn’t care so much.

Over the next 6 months we became great friends, but she had planned a move further east, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before she left for good. My parents also became good friends of her during this time though, and when she finally did leave, we all kept in touch with the occasional visit and regular very very long phone calls.

Over the New Years period she contracted an infection which spread across her body. She died in late February.

In March I went to her funeral. It was held in a crematorium in Reading. Only 6 people attended. Only one family member. One lady who was there had never met Mrs Douglas in person, but had been paid regularly over the last 12 years to put flowers on Mrs Douglas’ parents grave. The one family member was a distant cousin who lived in the north of Scotland.

I felt so angry with her. I didn’t know what to say or do, but after the funeral I found myself crying my eyes out for her. For the waste that had been her life.

Yesterday I went to another funeral. A young lady, only 31 years old passed away last week to the shock of her friends and family.

I knew Miss Kellaway when she was little. We used to throw big family parties, and play charades and trivial pursuit. She was always smiling and entertaining.I have an affinity to children, they mostly see me as a climbing frame as a rule. She did not. This young lady was incredibly well-behaved and polite, and took her time to get to know me. She was always involved and I liked her a lot. I didn’t know her as she grew up, but I learnt she had no children, and although she was very attached to her partner, they had not married. I guess they just never got round to it.

The funeral was well attended at one of our local churches, the coffin was placed in the middle of the church before eventually being carried off to the crematorium. Her partner tried his best to read a touching poem, but was too grief-stricken to get the words out properly. Her father had written a beautiful eulogy but he too didn’t have the composure to read it. As the priest took control, the whole congregation could feel the immense despair in the words.

Once again I cried, as did everyone around me.I have been to a few funerals now, many more funerals than weddings. This was by far the most personal and touching.

I was heartened to know that so many people will be thinking of her and her family as I have been today.

For my own part, I have come to some stark conclusions. Firstly I don’t want to die old and alone. I know how tragic it may seem to my parents and loved ones, but I would rather die younger (not yet obviously).

Secondly, I want to be harvested. I am a humanist at heart, and believe that there is enough great beauty in this world. One of the tragedies of life here on earth, however is the inequality we all suffer. I have been lucky enough to be born here, in a decent secure stable country. I have also been born with a relatively healthy body, which I have learnt to abuse. I do feel a debt to the community I live in however, and so wish to be harvested for educational purposes or transplant. I’d rather not live in a jar, but if that’s what happens then so be it.

Finally I want anyone attending my funeral to be wearing the silliest thing they possibly can, and should anyone turn up with respectable funeral clothing, then they should be given a pair of long plastic clown shoes and a big glowing red nose. I know that people could be grief-stricken, but I want them to remember this moment with a warm smile. I want them to be turning to the person next to them and chuckling. I want my final last joke to be on them.

I know that people who know me, would get the joke.

To my two friends, I salute you. You have moved onto our memories, our dreams and our stories, where all the sadness disappears and only the funny and remarkable remain. You have both been funny and remarkable, and will be well-remembered.  You have both made a difference to my life, perhaps the only truly glowing honour.

~ by eggplantinspace on March 24, 2010.

2 Responses to “Too many Funerals”

  1. I know how you feel. Unfortunately I attended quite a few funerals last year, some very close to my heart and some for people I had once known but had not seen for a few years. I was hoping to be spared any more grief for at least a few months but it was not to be. I have another funeral to attend this coming week. This one for a cherished family member. A man that lived his life to the full and was always available to help with anything. A fit active guy who passed suddenly, I am only thankful that we got the chance to see him the day before he left us. I know this funeral will be very well attended and will be a very somber affair for all and that it will leave a lasting hole in our lives but I don’t think clown shoes would be appreciated. I can see how that would work for you though, being a little odd! Lets hope we can all spend a few months enjoying life with friends and family without any more tragic loss.


  2. It’s an exercise in devastation to stare at the fact that you know you WILL die alone. At least for me it is. But you, I think, will have people with you when that moment comes, which surely won’t be for a very long time yet.

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