The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Missing the point

Thursday, 9 October 2008

“We don’t want the wedding to be a happy, jolly occasion. No, we want it to be a lament; an elegy for everything lost. Marriage marks a beginning, yes, but also an ending, a parting from family, a distancing from friends, the loss of personal sovereignty, the extinction of the old way of life. If a wedding doesn’t confront these things it isn’t emotionally honest. That’s why we’ve asked everyone to wear black.”

Make sense to you?

“We don’t want the funeral to be a sad, gloomy occasion. No, we want it to be a celebration of life, a time to dwell on happy times. I mean, death isn’t the end, is it? It doesn’t take away what we feel, does it? Our love? Our memories? Death – it’s a new beginning, right? Life goes on. That’s what we want to focus on. That’s why we’ve asked everyone to wear red.”

Better?

Fact is, both weddings and funerals are about renunciation and parting. It would perhaps make wedding vows more meaningful if bride and groom publicly acknowledged the new world order and reaffirmed the duty they owe each other and their friends and family. But, primarily, weddings are about celebration – obviously.

Just as funerals are about sadness. Obviously. People overlook that at their cost – their emotional cost. A lot of people, these days.

Tears, laughter; laughter, tears. You get ‘em at weddings and you get ‘em at funerals. You can’t have a good one without both.

Dan emailed from Scotland this morning. He’d seen an account by Matthew Parris of a memorial service that struck him. It struck me, too. Here’s an extract:

Sweet word

So it came as a relief to escape into Derby Cathedral on Saturday to speak at a concert in memory of Jeffery Tillett, whose death I noted on this page earlier this year. A local Conservative politician over many decades, former mayor, many times parliamentary candidate, patron of the arts and licensee of what was for many years Derby’s only gay bar, Jeffery would have loved his concert, led by his surviving partner, Councillor Robin Wood.

Robin read Betjeman’s heart-achingly understated poem, The Cockney Amorist. As he read the final lines…

I will not go to Finsbury Park

The putting course to see

Nor cross the crowded High Road

To Williamsons’ to tea,

For these and all the other things

Were part of you and me.

I love you, oh my darling,

And what I can’t make out

Is why since you have left me

I’m somehow still about.

… I was struck by the almost choking intensity that the word “darling” – though you would have thought it cheapened beyond recovery by overuse – still retains when spoken with passion. Most strong words become weakened by lazy repetition: “disaster”, “chaos”, “lovely”; but a few seem to have an inner integrity that keeps them honest. In the right circumstances, “my darling” really tightens the throat.

Read the entire piece here.

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