I was looking at some photos a while ago. Captured images of last summer which I am unable to upload as part of this post. They reflect one wonderful morning last July in our garden when the ordinary things were possible and such a pleasure: the preparation for a picnic to Skerries that day; the bright red of the garden bench; the wicker basket and the waiting bottle of chilled white wine that were to be packed in before we headed off. It was all pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, and life was bright and full of its own being and growth. There seemed to be nothing else we could want.
It is all in such direct contrast with the first half of this day – today – which I spent at a funeral, where the idea of the pleasure of being has been closed off for one more person at least. My seventh funeral this year. They sure do seem to come in quick succession as life goes on. Every single person who has died whose funeral I’ve attended has been singular, interesting, one or two geniuses among them, but also so ordinary and simple in their day to day proceedings that I just know the world has lost special people. As it does every day, and we scarcely feel it, because we mostly don’t know the other special ones. At today’s funeral, as the curtains closed slowly in the crematorium, gradually erasing the coffin from our vision, the second movement of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto playing quietly, solemnly, I felt yet again that strange sense of being sealed off, both physically/visually, but also in my mind, from knowing anything about the afterlife. The crematorium curtain is like the veil of unknowing, and there is no way of comprehending what lies on the other side of the figurative veil if we proceed with that idea. A ground burial is, of course, almost tactile. The soil drops harshly, gravelly, on top of the coffin. Loved ones sometimes drop flowers, roses, emblems of love. In the crematorium, it is different. The closeness is there, but it is fashioned differently. It is much more a time of remembering and of taking time to be with the notion of death itself, rather than taking part in the ritual of the cemetery, the clusterings in the rain (often).
Today, another special person went away. I did not know the person very very well, but I knew him, well enough to sense the singular beauty of a mind that has now gone quiet, well enough to enjoy his sense of humour, his passion for linguistics, well enough to admire him. And so we gathered in a church, and music was sung and played, and extracts of several literatures were read. It was an altogether simple and powerful gathering in the name of one person. There is little more we can do except to gather together with the family who mourn their loved one, to cluster like the raggedy sparrows we are, wind-swept from many life experiences, to cluster close and let our words and presence loose, so that the family may hear us, even slightly, in the middle of their great sorrow. It was an early winter funeral, with autumn foliage still abundant everywhere, so that in the crematorium grounds, and all around the city, one had the sense of leaning in against these richly russet walls of leaves, of falling in step with the pace of this slow month of death, when the earth is also quietly seeping down to its deepest meditation.