Saturday, 3 October 2015
Final Farewells & Vexatious Valedictories
I seem to attend rather more than my fair share of funerals these days and the husband maintains it’s an age thing and in any case at least we get a chance to catch up with old friends, at times those we haven’t seen for years. Well maybe and catching up with friends from the past can’t be overlooked of course. What I really take issue with about the modern funeral is the length of time it takes to say goodbye to the departed one. There was a time when a funeral service took a mere fifty minutes before it was time to cross to the hall to partake of either cups of tea and sponge cake, or, more lavishly, glasses of wine and bits of cheese on toothpicks. I always preferred the latter. Things have changed drastically in recent years and now the service itself can drag on for so long that elderly ladies and young children are forced to excuse themselves after ninety minutes and head for the lavatories. This is not on account of a plethora of extra prayers from the officiating minister you have to understand because today’s priests, vicars and celebrants stand back and listlessly stare ahead whilst friends and family form an ever lengthening queue, notes in hand, all anxious to speak for `a moment or two….’. And these valedictories become ever longer and more exasperating for a great proportion of the captive audience as one after another they begin. `I first met Tom at secondary school…..’ (bad enough because Form 3 was a very long time ago and this guy has many a tale to tell about the intervening years). Even worse is `You could say Tom and I were acquainted before we were born – our mothers were in adjacent beds at Nurse Newton’s Nursing Home….’ But infinitely worse was a more recent opening `word or two’ - `I will begin by telling you all a bit about Tom’s grandparents who left their home in Edinburgh to emigrate to New Zealand…..’ - and yes, he spoke for forty eight minutes; I was timing him. And there were still the members of the Probus Club, the Bridge Club, the Golf Club and a group of five anxious grandchildren awaiting their turn. Do these people actually not realise how utterly tedious and wearisome these speeches are? Do they care? If funerals get much longer the congregation will be entitled to an intermission for health and safety reasons. To add insult to injury on the most recent occasion, the longest funeral of all time, when we shuffled blinking into the daylight we were rewarded only with cups of tea and tiny sandwiches.