I’ve been to two funerals recently and, though it’s an odd thing to say, I greatly enjoyed them.
Britons get nervous about funerals. We worry what to say, where to sit, which clothes and facial expression to wear. We worry over what is, or isn’t, respectful.
But respect isn’t really about those things.
At one of these funerals, the family didn’t hire a stranger to talk. There were no songs, no prayers. They conducted it themselves, led by the eldest son. He talked simply and well, and with great humour about his father. It was relaxing, endearing, and welcoming. We all forgot which expression we should be pulling.
He ended by imagining what his dad might say if he was present. The son smiled wryly and, giving a fair imitation of his father, said: “Life eh? What was that a aboot?”
It was funny, and so apt that I think those few words will live with me for ever. Without being maudlin in the slightest it was highly emotive. Best of all, those words will always make me think of the deceased with a smile.
The other funeral had a letter read aloud. It was from the man who died. Again, the simplicity of a man talking, through that letter, at his own funeral was very touching. He expressed his love and fierce pride in his family, and thanked those he knew for their gift of friendship. He asked us to think of him on a sunny day. He needlessly apologised to those who had nursed him through illness.
The letter had been written several years ago, when he was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia. His words brought him back among us as he was when he was a strong, intelligent, dependable man. The good man he had been before that dreadful affliction robbed him of his dignity, his memories, and his connections to those he held dear.
Both of these funerals depended on words. Plain, simple, characterful words. A text message: “Thank U for attending my funeral – picture of coffin, smiley face emoji, thumbs-up symbol” just wouldn’t have the same power.
Sooner or later in life, or perhaps after your life ends, you have to express yourself using good, honest, meaningful English.
Word of the week
Variant of chi. In Chinese medicine the life force within the body. EG: “There is no word that Scrabble players love more than Qi.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at email@example.com