A few years ago I worked with a very nice woman on her second husband’s funeral. Naturally, we talked about all sorts of things. She recalled the day of her first husband’s funeral. The hearse was due to go direct to the crematorium and she left home in good time so as to be sure of meeting it there. She set great store by punctuality.
On the way she noticed, ahead of her, what looked very like a broken-down hearse on the side of the road. It was indeed a broken down hearse on the side of the road and in it were the mortal remains of her husband. She stopped and endured a vast outpouring of apology from the red-faced funeral director. How was she to know that this was one of the worst possible things that can happen to a funeral director, the stuff of nightmares, of crazed, gibbering terror at the darkest, loneliest hour of the night?
In any case, she saw it differently. She thought it terrifically funny. All through their marriage one of her stock retorts to him had been “You’ll be late for your own blinking funeral!” And here he was, late for his own blinking funeral. Perfect.
You only get one chance to get it right, they say. But here was a disaster which made the day.
I have witnessed a few disasters at funerals and I can’t think of many that didn’t make the day. Bereaved people have a happy way of recasting a disaster as the hilarious intervention of the the person who’s died – a posthumous last raspberry.
A faultless funeral must always be the beau ideal of a funeral director. But faultlessness at all costs can turn a funeral into a parade ground. And seamless can easily = soulless. There must always be room for whoopsiness.
What’s your funeral whoopsie story?