Believe it or not, but I really do enjoy a good funeral. Not because I’m morbid or have an unhealthy obsession with death – I think – but because a good funeral is one way to firstly celebrate a life that is no more, and secondly to get closure with a grand last hurrah.
At my age – I’ve been around for more than half a century – I’ve participated in my fair share of final farewells. So, I do speak from experience when I say every funeral is unique. Possibly as unique as the person being saluted.
And they often produce a lighter moment despite the grief.
I remember once at a family member’s funeral the coffin was rolled into church accompanied by a thunderous cacophony produced by an over-zealous organist.
Then, out of the blue came a question from a child obviously experiencing the reality of death for the first time: “Dad, dad, what’s in the box?!”
I’m sure uncle Joe was giggling inside that very box.
At another funeral where I was tasked with performing pallbearing duties, the dearly departed must have taken all his earthly possessions with him, or he was buried in a lead-lined coffin.
Eight of us, all relatively strong, healthy men, were each allocated a handle on the coffin. But we could barely move it. As we huffed and puffed our way into the chapel, I couldn’t stop laughing when a fellow bearer commented: “Did he eat himself to death?”
I’ve also seen funerals undergo quite a metamorphosis over the years. Gone are the days of a service followed by sandwiches and coffee served by the women in the church hall.
Modern funerals seem to take any shape, from a bring-and-braai to an after-tears pub crawl. These are all good and fine.
But there’s one change I find quite disturbing: at a recent funeral, the coffin remained in the hearse while the service was taking place in a chapel. “It’s the way we do things nowadays,” said the driver of the hearse.
There and then I made my friends pinkie-swear: They will not leave me in the car at my own funeral. I demand to take centre stage one final time.