Friday, 5 April 2013

Is it wrong to 'enjoy' a funeral?

It's strange, isn't it, how a life-event can have associated with it words that have come to be seen as appropriate, whilst other words which can have equal validity in describing that same event are almost always left unspoken (the sort of bastard child that people know about but are too polite to mention).
Take the following:
  • birth - joyful
  • fart - disgusting
  • wedding - beautiful
  • orgasm - mind-blowing
  • funeral - solemn
All of these (and countless more) sit comfortably with each other and do not give us any cause to furrow our brow or shift uncomfortably in our seat.
But what about...
  • birth - agonising
  • fart - satisfying
  • wedding - exhausting
  • orgasm - ordinary
  • funeral - enjoyable
Not such good bedfellows these, I wager, and yet, these adjectives can be equally apt for those same life-events, depending upon your perspective.
So why am I whittering on about adjectives and life-events?
Why am I not venting my spleen about the many events of the week that have made the blood inside our veins bubble and froth (oh I will...but not today)?

Well, as I drove home following the funeral that we had been to yesterday up in the badlands of the North, I found myself wondering if it was right to conclude that I had actually, in a very subdued way, 'enjoyed' myself.
Initially, I told myself that the use of the word 'enjoy' was inappropriate for such an event; after all, funerals are solemn affairs, awash with sadness, grief and the dark despair of the loss of a loved one. In fact, to even think about applying the word 'enjoy' to a funeral was bordering on the disrespectful. Funerals are, by their nature, serious, sober affairs, something which we must suffer and endure.
But why?
The day itself was a beautiful one...cold, yes...but the sky was a deep azure blue dotted with archetypal fluffy clouds. The sun was warming. The ceremony, a humanist celebration (the first one of these I have ever attended), was refreshingly positive and interestingly free of the often depressing religious trappings of hymn and prayer; it focused on Joan's life and the great memories which everyone had of her, reminding us (in an upbeat way) of what had made Joan special. At the meal afterwards, there was a chance to chat with relatives that we see too infrequently, to share a joke or two and to remark on how so many of us have less hair (and more girth) than when we saw each other last. There was the chance for comforting words, for hugs and handshakes...and for tears.
Yes, of course, there was never any forgetting the loss, and the terrible hole that is left by Joan's passing, particularly for Drew, Alison and Andrew; for them, the word 'enjoy' is likely as far from their current vocabulary as it is possible for a word to be.
But, if it is just one small crumb of comfort to those left crushed by Joan's untimely death, I would like to say that the day on which that passing was remembered, the day on which Joan's life and all that it had touched was celebrated, the day on which we all gathered to pay our final respects...well, I for one, enjoyed it.