Photographs At A Funeral

“Front door ajar. The morbidity of the moment flows over the threshold hugging my feet. Reaching out my hand I pushed the door open and entered the house. I caught a glimpse of a black tide through the door to the dining room. Everyone’s sorrow embodied in their suits and boots. Going into that back room the morbidity that had greeted me at the door fully embraced me instantly.
“Hi mum.” Is all I could say to her as she broke down in tears.
I hugged her back fiercely trying to lessen her sorrow, absorb as much as I could into my heart. Next to greet me was the lady of the hour. The widow.
“Hi Grandma.”
“Oh, I didn’t recognise you at first.”
This brought a few laughs from the family and friends that I didn’t know. My little sister, nine years old and holding her sorrow down well was next to say hi. Very enthusiastically I might add, which was odd for the situation. After the formalities were out of the way and the oppressive morbid silence stole the moment away, I sat down in the chair not knowing what to say. How do you greet Death, or at least the aftermath of Deaths passing? A paper was led on top of the coffee table turned to an article about the reason I was here. My Granddad.‘FINAL SALUTE TO ARTIST BOB’ the title of the segment read. It was a very nice piece, full of sympathy. A different side to the media I have come to know. But then again this isn’t a headline in the Sun so I don’t know what I expected.
The tedious moments passed in silence and gloom.
And they passed.
And they passed.
Then finally, mobilization. The funeral car was here, accompanying the hearse. As I stepped into the front garden and laid eyes on the coffin I was struck by a peculiar thought. I don’t remember him being that small. I was genuinely shocked by the small size of the coffin.
I held my sisters hand and we walked towards the limo. The family car. Climbing in the open door of the car as the chauffeur opened it, I realised this was the start of the goodbye. After a while the cars finally set off.
It was slow going, almost as if by going slow they were delaying the cremation just in case they could hear knocking coming from the hearse. Praying he was just playing a twisted practical joke. But we knew it wasn’t going to happen. My sister, bless her, chatted idly away. She talked about every little thing that could interest a nine year old. Eventually she was told to pipe down by our mother. The silence that invaded the car gave me a chance to think and observe. And the first thing I noticed was the black birds adorning the bare branches of the trees that surrounded us. Silence. Either they weren’t chirping or we couldn’t hear them. They stood out on this day. Black against white.
Finally we came upon the crematorium, turning into it and driving towards the church in the distance. The atmosphere grew tense. Gravestones surrounded us. Thousands upon thousands of tombstones sticking, like teeth, out of the earthy gums of the ground.
Finally we were at the church, the limo pulled up out front and we got out and stood by the side of the car. After a while the vicar came and met the family, and walked us through what would happen. When he laid eyes on my sister he came towards her and she backed away. He either pretended not to notice or didn’t notice and spoke to her in a soft voice telling her everything would be okay.
When I asked her later on why she backed away she said to me; “I don’t like it when people are being really nice.”
I know where she is coming from, I know she is young but he did seem to be talking down to her.
People getting in line behind us, I take a quick look and don’t know anyone. This is the side of the family I never see so I’m not surprised really. Round the outskirts are the friends of the departed and the friends of the family. Eyes upon the family at the front. My brother is a pallbearer.
There’s something you should know about my brother, he needs crutches to walk after an accident. Broken back. But he is determined and my Granddad delivered my brother, bringing him into this world, so it was fitting that Robert saw his name sake out of this world. I salute you brother. You did him proud.
We followed behind the coffin, all the way to the front of the church. Sitting in the first row of pews on the right.
Once everyone was in and seated, the vicar started spewing forth his religious lies. Empty words falling on deaf ears. I admit they gave comfort to the religious members of my family but to me…nothing.
After the service we, at the front, were the first out of the church. Walking down the aisle, through the rest of the crowd, emotions laid bare, their eyes upon us, we left the church and entered the cold embrace of the winter air.
Cold like the body we have just said our goodbyes too.”

This is my tribute to that day. These are memories embodied in writing. I can now move on and forget. Because after all, why would you want to take photographs of a funeral?

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3 thoughts on “Photographs At A Funeral

  1. Some really memorable imagery here — “tombstones sticking, like teeth, out of the earthy gums of the ground.” I may have to steal that.

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