I went to a funeral this week. Obviously it was the funeral of someone I know. I didn’t just wake up in the morning and decide on a whim that I was in the mood for a funeral. I am not about to confess to you that the reason I’ve not blogged for a while is because I’ve been too busy attending random people’s funerals, and that it was this, not the Young’uns, that was the reason why i quit my job. I did however used to work with someone who, when he’d retired, spent his time going to random people’s funerals. I never quite got to understanding why exactly he felt compelled to do this. He said it had something to do with finding funerals a very spiritual experience and it reminded him of his own mortality, and the importance of living life to the full and not wasting precious time. I thought that this was more than a little ironic given that he was the kind of person who wasted a great quantity of his precious time attending the funerals of complete strangers. To be honest, I suspect that all this spiritual and mortality claptrap was a smoke screen, and that the real reason he went to all these funerals was for the free buffets. He always was a tight-arse and a glutton for a bargain.
I often find funerals to be more spiritually enlightening and more uplifting experiences than weddings. On the surface this may seem like quite a morbid and unusual statement to make. However, at weddings there is lots of stress and obligation on people: the best man, the bride and groom, the family. There is so much to organise: the venue, food and drink, the guest list, speeches, the cake, decorations, the service, the dresses. This can take up so much time and stress, and often I think it becomes very easy for all this stuff to detract and distract from the actual real and most important point of the day.
With a wedding there is all the stress about who to invite. You can only invite a certain number of people due to the size of the venue and cost. This inevitably leads to upset and falling out. With a funeral there are no invites. Everyone and anyone is free to turn up. It’s a mass assemblage of friends and family who have all come together to celebrate the life of someone they love.
The only time I ever get to see certain family members is at weddings and funerals. And there is little chance to talk to them at a wedding because of all the formalities, photos and the like. Then during the meal there is a seating plan. Then on the night there’s a bloody disco going on, and the music is far too loud to have a meaningful conversation. And so you end up making meaningless small talk as you lacklusterly traipse around a dancehall to shit music, tread on each other’s feet and dresses (and I absolutely hate it when people stand on my dress).
But at a funeral you go back to a house or the pub and talk about the person we are all there to remember. We share memories and stories and remember the best of a person. Plus, as my forma work colleague said, it does remind us about our own mortality and to value what’s really important to us in life. And so we talk, and we laugh, and we may cry, and we drink, and make merry in each other’s company, glad that we have it. And we’ll get granddad drunk again in the hope that he’ll regale us with some outlandish stories about his youth, or how he met nana.
And nana will blush, and giggle like a little school girl, and she’ll forget herself and her aches and pains and infirmity, fling down her walking stick, and they’ll both dance in each other’s arms
as they sing some old love song that takes them back to when they were young. And they are lost in a moment, more alive than we’ve seen them in ages.
So I don’t think it’s morbid to say that I find funerals more spiritually uplifting than weddings. I do like weddings as well, but think funerals have a real life giving power, even though they come about as a result of a life ending.
Join me tomorrow, when I talk about the catholic church, smelly nuns, and Yoda.