Thursday, January 16, 2014

discards, thankyou, the funeral

Some time ago I published a series of photographs of items of litter in the gutter and in odd corners of the street. I took no trouble to move or rearrange them. I snapped them as I saw them. I was pleased with the images at the time. Sometimes, even more so now.

Thank you Robbie for your impression  of the funeral. (See yesterday's Tone Deaf post)  It achieves something I cannot even attempt. Something dispassionate in it view yet strongly felt and managed. There is very little I can manage in that way at the moment. Your long drive here and back seems to have been an ordeal. I can only say it means a great deal to me to have old and dear friends present at such a time. Hugs are in fashion and long may they remain so. Yours especially.

During the funeral my mind is like a strip of countryside newly flooded and strewn with wreckage. With  my children on one side and Heidi's  on the other, I sit back while the waters gurgle and flow over my head. Every now and then a comforting hand  grips my arm. From the front row I can  see nothing of  fellow mourners. I do have a good view of Jan Comly, the funeral celebrant (a term new to me). The coffin, new and rather brash,  garnished with lilies refuses to mean much to me. I have said goodbye to Heidi and I am still saying goodbye to her. And will continue to for a long time to say goodbye to her. . But the coffin, well it is just a box. She ain't there as far as I am concerned.   I like the way though  that from time to time Jan turns towards the coffin to address Heidi directly.  Heidi daughters, Jenny and Caroline, stand  side by side  at the lectern to give their tributes. They speak  beautifully and with an accuracy which is deeply  moving.. The girls each capture something different in their Mother's looks and in the rhythms and tenor of her voice.

 Clever the way the chapel is designed to allow the congregation to leave by a side door, so that the place  may be free for the next funeral. Funerals are pumped through the chapel  at the rate of one every half hour, but you wouldn't know it. The chief mourners depart first, into a  courtyard where a fountain plays into a pond. So we are  in a position to greet the others as they follow us out.  Hugs, a few surprises, faces you don't expect,  fresh and moving and conventional words mingle into a  chorus and choreography new to most of us. The  architectural arrangements add up to good logistics and sensitive, too, to the demands of people unaccustomed to the rituals of farewell and grief. I read back what I have just written, and wonder if there is any truth in it. It is hard to adjust to living on a new planet.

1 comment:

Roderick Robinson said...

Not that there is any justification, but you are right to doubt what you have written here. You are temporarily, perhaps for some time to come, a different person and there are thus two types of truth: the immediate and the reflective. In the case of my mother I eventually wrote verse about being told she had died (I was in the USA at the time). For years I had distrusted the process, thought verse and verse-writing were artifical matters and therefore certain to betray my feelings. It was only when I recognised there's an "accidental" element in verse which might well reveal some other, unexpected layer of reality that I realised it was worth trying. And so it happened. In my case it was the bond I achieved with my youngest brother who made the transatlantic call and, when I picked up the phone, found passing on the news so debilitating that he tried to escape it by speaking casually. That indirectly told me much more about his loss than any prepared words and added extra meaning to the word "brother". And verse finally allowed me to render that odd yet profound moment. For you such an experience lies way ahead but I hope the opportunity occurs. Otherwise it's soreness and numbness both of which have their own values.