Thoughts of a funeral-goer

Charles Cowling

 

 Posted by Lyra Mollington

 

Three days ago I decided it was high time I donned my ‘mystery mourner hat’ again.  There was quite a large crowd gathering which boded well for an interesting service.  However, I felt slightly uneasy when I saw that the people standing outside the crematorium chapel were nearly all twenty-somethings: pretty women in high-heeled shoes and short black dresses; and muscular men in slim-fitting trousers that barely covered their bottoms. 

Luckily they were too busy hugging each other to notice me.  Worried that this was going to be the funeral of someone who had died tragically young, I started to leave.  Unfortunately a man with a diamond in each earlobe urged me to move forward ‘to make sure you get a seat love.’  I then heard the unmistakeable sound of horses’ hooves.  I was transfixed as two white horses pulling a glass carriage appeared.  The coffin was buried under a mass of floral tributes, edged by flowers spelling SON and LEE.   

Just before we were invited to follow the coffin, I noticed a beautiful blonde girl handing the vicar a folded piece of paper.  He shook his head.  A large shaven-headed man with tattoos creeping up the side of his neck intervened and the vicar began nodding vigorously.

To my embarrassment, I found myself at the front, two rows behind the family. On the plus side I had a seat with a good view.  The vicar introduced himself, welcomed us and then, to my dismay, asked us to stand to sing ‘All Things Bright & Beautiful’.  Such an impossible hymn to sing: it really should be banned. 

In amongst the prayers and some words from Jesus, one of Lee’s friends, Darren, spoke.  They had been mates since they were banged up together.  Darren completed his tribute by drinking a can of Red Bull. 

As the raucous cheers subsided, Reverend Phil looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.  A rather sweaty rabbit.  After thanking Darren, he looked up as if to say, ‘Beam me up Scotty!’ Or perhaps it was a silent prayer. 

Lee’s auntie also spoke.  Her nephew was a loveable rogue who would do anything for anyone.  His only problem had been that he was easily led.  However, he had tried really hard to turn his life around since meeting his girlfriend. 

I had forgotten about the piece of paper Reverend Phil had been given earlier.  He hadn’t.  He smoothed it out, cleared his throat and began to read.  It was from Lee’s girlfriend, Stacey – the beautiful blonde girl.  The intimidating bald man with the snake tattoos was her father. 

There was laughter as Rev. Phil read Stacey’s account of how, when the police came round looking for Lee, she and her mum and dad had hidden him in a wardrobe. She added, ‘We were cacking ourselves!’  More laughter.  But even though Lee was only twenty three, he was an amazing Dad to their beautiful babies Lacey and Tyler.  He was always there for them. 

Apart from when he was incarcerated at Her Majesty’s pleasure, I was thinking. 

We then listened to a song performed by Eminem.  I am not a fan.  And from the look on Rev. Phil’s face, I could tell that he wasn’t either.  I’m fairly sure he had not taken the precaution of checking the lyrics beforehand.  Thanks to my grandchildren, I am familiar with a wide variety of contemporary popular music.  And now I was feeling quite smug – I could have told poor Phil that where Slim Shady is concerned, even a song called ‘Beautiful’ has a good chance of containing the f-word. 

The song was faded after two minutes.  Phil regained his composure by taking a deep breath.  After the commending, the entrusting and the committing, he looked heavenwards again before introducing Coolio and ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’.  An excellent choice by Lee’s nan and one of the few rap songs I like.

Once outside, we were asked to make our way to the display area for the releasing of the doves.  To his credit, Phil stayed to shake hands with all the mourners, albeit with a fixed smile.  Stacey’s dad came up and gave him a firm and lingering bear-hug.  Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted – even if they do have hands like shovels and a menacing stare.

No-one had mentioned how Lee had died.  As I was deciding between a drive-by shooting and crashing a stolen car, I saw the collection box bearing the legend, ‘Donations to Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.  Lee never complained and never gave up.  His bravery will always be remembered.’ 

I took a twenty pound note out of my purse and decided to slip away before the doves were released.    Suddenly I was aware of someone behind me.  It was Darren.  Had he discovered that I was an impostor?

‘Have you got one of these?’ he asked.  ‘It’s to say thanks for helping us to celebrate Lee’s life.’ He handed me a laminated bookmark with a photograph of Lee on one side and these words on the other: 

To my babies. Stay strong. 
And to the rest of the world, God gave you the shoes 
That fit you, so put ’em on and wear ’em 
And be yourself, man, be proud of who you are 
Even if it sounds corny, 
Don’t ever let no one tell you, you ain’t beautiful

 

© Lyra Mollington 2012

 

 

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I take a look at my life and realize there’s not much left
Cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughin so long that
Even my ma’ma thinks that my mind is gone
But I ain’t never crossed a man that didn’t deserve it
Me, be treated like a punk, you know that’s unheard of
You better watch how you talkin, and where you walkin
Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk
I really hate to trip, but I gotta loc’-
As they grew I see myself in the pistol smoke, fool
I’m the kinda G the little homies wanna be like
On my knees in the night
Sayin’ prayers in the street light

Been spending most their lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Been spending most their lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Keep spending most our lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Keep spending most our lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise

They got the situation, they got me facin’
I can’t live a normal life, I was raised by the strip
So I gotta be down with the hood team
Too much television watchin’ got me chasin’ dreams
I’m an educated fool with money on my mind
Got my ten in my hand and a gleam in my eye
I’m a loc’ed out gangsta, set-trippin banger
And my homies is down, so don’t arouse my anger, fool
Death ain’t nuthin but a heart beat away
I’m livin life do-or-die-a, what can I say?
I’m twenty-three now, but will I live to see twenty-fow’?
The way things are goin’ I don’t know

Tell me why are we, so blind to see
That the ones we hurt, are you and me

Been spending most their lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Been spending most their lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Keep spending most our lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Keep spending most our lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise

Power and the money, money and the power
Minute after minute, hour after hour
Everybody’s runnin, but half of them ain’t lookin
What’s goin on in the kitchen, but I dont know what’s cookin
They say I got ta learn, but nobody’s here to teach me,
If they cant understand it, how can they reach me?
I guess they can’t; I guess they won’t
I guess they front; that’s why I know my life is outta luck, fool!

Been spending most their lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Been spending most their lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Keep spending most our lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise
Keep spending most our lives living in the Gangsta’s Paradise

Tell me why are we, so blind to see
That the ones we hurt, are you and me
Tell me why are we, so blind to see
That the ones we hurt, are you and me

5 thoughts on “Thoughts of a funeral-goer

  1. Charles Cowling
    Lyra Mollington

    Quokkagirl – and not too expensive either.
    Charles – not plucky at all. I had fully intended to flee but I was ‘carried along’ by all those charming young men.
    Evelyn – I did worry about the expense of those horses and doves.


    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    Evelyn

    Dear Lyra once more it’s hats off for your daring – and what a marvellous experience you recount! Poor Lee, but what a lovely send off he had… From a horse drawn carriage to the thoughtful bookmarks- a caring wise young man indeed!
    Thank you


    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    charles

    Dear Mrs Mollington, you have surpassed even yourself. Very plucky of you to gatecrash such a funeral. As for those words on Lee’s bookmark, it’s unlikely that we would ever turn on our wirelesses and hear assembled literati with giant brains expatiating on their aptness and excellence, and yet they are, nonetheless, genius – and very, very touching.


    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    Quokkagirl

    Oh Lyra – you catch me every time. The involuntary glottelstop.

    I like those little mementoes to take away much more than the usual orders of service. I went to one where the deceased was a gardener. On one side there was a runner bean seed from last yeat’s crop and on the other was the parable of the seed sower. Lovely.


    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    Belinda Forbes

    I’m with you Lyra – as a rule I don’t like rap. However,there are a few exceptions including Gangsta’s Paradise. I had this requested for the funeral of a young man who took his own life. His family told me that he had ‘always’ said he wanted it played at his funeral since he was a boy. As in the song, he was 23. It’s almost as if he’d taken his own life to match the lyrics of the song.


    Charles Cowling

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