Death in the community

Charles 5 Comments

From the At Least I Have A Brain blog: 

Today at Mass  we had an elderly Parishioner to bury, who had no mourners.

Not one.

Empty pews at the front.

It was a stark statement that the little man had been married, had no family, his wife had died, and once he went into a nursing home he became forgotten about by any contacts.

but you know what, the Priest still read a Eulogy at the Homily, 6 hefty Parishioners carried him out, all of my choir sang him out of the Church, and his attendees were the Parishioners.

It was a very poignant statement, and yet a very strong statement of Community.

But i have spoken so much about it since this morning , and was very glad that he got as fullsome (if more lonely) a farewell as any one else would have.

It reminds us of the strength of faith communities. No lonely funerals for them as there are for so many secularists. 

If you watched The Fixer, you may remember Alex Polizzi’s community volunteering idea. 

Actually, it was our idea, and it’s the researchers who were incredibly enthusiastic when we proposed it to them . We think it’s a good idea, too. We’re developing it ourselves, now, because we don’t think it can be all that hard to make it work. Yes, of course there’s an element of risk involved. But the risk of a volunteer making off with a bereaved person’s life savings can be reduced to close to zero with proper assessment and oversight. It’s all in the systems and processes. 

And in the event of the funeral of someone like the lonely man above, there’d a ready-made community of folk to come along and give him a decent sendoff. It is often said that communities have disintegrated beyond repair, but it is notable that where there is need or opportunity, communities display an impressive capacity for forming effective congregations whose activity promotes cohesion and engagement.

Remember how quickly that board filled up on that rainy day? 


  1. Charles

    Well done. This was exceptionally well received by those we asked – a brilliant idea.

    I am still in discussion with a local volunteer group and hoping to get the scheme working.

    It’s all elf n safety, insurance CRB checks and red tape at present – but with a will, I think these irritating obstacles can be overcome.

    How as a nation did we ever get ourselves into the position where local neighbourliness and simple kindness needed pointless bureaucracy – whatever happened to common-sense?

  2. Charles

    There is a strong desire amongst ordinary people for this type of community display, as was showed by Totnes when we called on the town to help us carry and mourn Michael Gething, the homeless man who died on our streets. Most people weren’t there out of any strong political feeling, but out of simple human solidarity, empathy for his difficult life and lonely death. As I look out on the snow even here in sunny Devon today, I can’t help but wonder how many homeless men and women died last night.

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