« How many moons circle his planet I wonder? | Main | More Martians »

February 05, 2004

Two funerals

Attending the funeral of Tom Bell yesterday (the reason for no entry yesterday), I was struck by the complete contrast between his funeral - actually a memorial service - and that of Father David a week ago.

Father David was sent off from his spiritual home, the Abbey Church with a full Requiem Mass, the choir singing the full Gabriel Faure setting (and doing it superbly!), while Tom was buried from the Crematorium with only close family in attendance and then a Memorial Service to which everybody was invited in his own "home" church. Apparently this arrangement arose because the Vicar feels that the church is for the living - the dead are not welcome.

The contrast between the two methods could not be more stark. As a mourner I felt that I had in some way been deprived of the chance to take leave of my friend properly. And I was not alone in this. What gets forgotten in this debate is that the funeral is not for the dead person - they are already in amuch better place - it is for the living. It is about making that last contact, that last opportunity to take one's leave.

I know that it does not make a blind bit of difference to the deceased, but it makes a hell of a difference to those who remain on this side of the divide. After Father David's funeral all those attending left on a spiritual "high". After Tom's I personally felt that I had not done him justice and still have not said good bye.

Tom would not have wanted the full blown funeral with Requiem. He wasn't that kind of Christian, he was a devout Christian in the Evangelical tradition, and he prefered things simpler. I don't have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with not honouring someone in death as I would have liked to do in life.

In a strange way, the epitaph on Christopher Wren's tomb in St Paul's Cathedral is appropriate to both Father David and to Tom. "If you seek his memorial, look around you." Both have left a mark and a part of themselves on and with all who knew them. That is their true memorial, that we will remember them and what they have given to us.

Quiscunque tactus, vestigia legat. Who touches, leaves a mark.

May they both rest in peace and rise in glory.

Posted by The Gray Monk at February 5, 2004 01:17 PM