Space travel, nanotechnology, Joan Rivers’ face

English: Joan Rivers at Musto's 25th Anniversary.

English: Joan Rivers at Musto’s 25th Anniversary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to elect the Top Worst Moment of a funeral, for there are so many to choose from.

Is it walking behind the box containing your beloved one, knowing the feet you used to massage are just a few centimetres from your nose? Is it having to endure a service which is all about your beloved one, whilst they lie there on display like a floral centrepiece? Is it looking out at a congregation of stricken faces as you, numbed by gin and beta-blockers and shock,  calmly read a page of memories about your beloved one?

Since Mark died, I’ve endured the funerals of three more beloved ones – all of my remaining grandparents have gone over the past 21 months. Four key family members, now extinct.

Of course three of them had ‘a good innings’ as the platitude goes. They all lived to see grandchildren, great-grandchildren, Louis Smith win Strictly Come Dancing. Their deaths were sad, but not a fucking tragedy like that of my husband. The sadness doesn’t abate around my heart though. They were all immense characters and they have each left an irremediable void.

Yesterday, it was the turn of the old boy mentioned in the post below. All the usual atrocities of ‘saying goodbye’ were present, but I am in no doubt of my Top Worst  Moment pick on this occasion (and it wasn’t when the aged pall-bearer stumbled on the church step and nearly dropped the coffin.)

Grandpa’s wish was to be committed to the ground, buried intact immediately after the event. Nothing could have prepared me for the image of him being offloaded into the bowels of the earth, and the box containing my Gran’s ashes placed on top of him. It seemed an unspeakably brutal, almost Neolithic way of dispensing with a body. We left him for the after-party, effectively to rot.

Surely a world which has achieved such feats of engineering as space travel, nanotechnology, Joan Rivers’ face, can come up with a less gruelling manner of dispatch?

Perhaps this is why ashes remain uncollected in funeral parlours across the world, why urns sit on mantelpieces, why my husband remains in my wardrobe. An acceptable alternative has yet to be invented.

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Tales of the Unexpected

1st edition

1st edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strange what a lock of hair comes to represent. I have ashes, I have clothes, I have footprints in shoes, but the lock of hair that I took from the body in the funeral home is the hardest thing to contemplate because it is the only thing which remains of the living being. Every other cell of His body is burned. I look at it (very occasionally) and remember running my fingers through it when it was part of a full head of hair.

I had an unsettling and slightly comedic thought last night (drink-fuelled and missing Him dreadfully) – what if I’d had Him stuffed? Like one of those glassy-eyed badgers you see in display cabinets, where the teeth are always not quite right. How wonderful would it be, I thought, to have Him sitting on the sofa in His usual spot, with every mole and blemish in place. Conversation wouldn’t be great, granted, but at least if I had Him posed with His hand reaching over to mine He would be there, instead of a pile of ash in my wardrobe. It would be like the old days – drinking in moderation whilst laughing at that Arts Correspondent on Channel 4 News.

Tales of the Unexpected plotlines aside, I just miss Him so much I swear given the option now I might just go for it. I have come to the realisation that He is in my head constantly on one level or another. Like tinnitus. Sometimes He’s loud, other times He’s just background noise, but He’s there nonetheless.

So, having forfeited the opportunity for taxidermy, the lock of hair is all I have left. What would Roald Dahl have made of that?