02 June 2010

A passing

This past week saw the passing of a wonderful man in our little village. Last Monday, St. Peter’s Church was filled to capacity and overflowing with mourners paying tribute and bidding farewell to the man loving known as “The Doc”.

The DEB and I had had the very good fortunate of meeting and becoming acquainted with Chris, his wonderful wife, Maggie, and his delightful family. Our blossoming friendship was a meeting of kindred spirits and like minds.

As we sat in one of the makeshift extra rows at the rear of St. Peter’s, the DEB and I shared a deep sense of regret, as we listened to tales of the Doc’s remarkable life from those who had known and loved him best.

How longed and wished we had had more chances to know him better; to have shared more stories, theories and philosophies with him; to have heard more of his travels and his spiritual quests.

Previously, I would never have thought of describing a funeral as “beautiful”, but that is precisely the best word to describe the celebration of Chris’ life. It seemed to me that this, his final journey, was a true encapsulation of his life path as a whole; and so very like him: moving, inspiring and deeply meaningful. Every moment of the service was a reminder of his incredible magnanimity and largess of spirit.

It seemed to me that this celebration of Chris' life was in a way itself like one of the many provocative conversations one could have with him. I left the service, with a saddened heart, but a prompted mind and spirit; inspired by what, whom and all that this great man has left behind. His was a life well lived and well-loved. A challenge to us all.

Chris’ funeral was the first such service I have attended here in England. The elegance and grace of the service and its customs, including a formal procession led by a stately and somberly clad funeral director/undertaker, was fitting tribute to this dignified and soulful man. He shall be sorely missed.

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During Victorian times no funeral was complete without some degree of pomp and ceremony provided by undertakers with black-plumed horses, elaborate horse-drawn hearses, funeral coaches, and attendants. Dickens immortalised an image of the grim, money-grasping undertaker with Mr Sowerberry, in his classic tale Oliver Twist, but the reality was that undertakers became essential to the community because everyone, irrespective of status, wanted a decent burial for their kinfolk. – Ian Waller, “Undertakers: A Decent Burial”, Your Family Tree magazine, 7 Oct 2005)


Pictured: Louise Ryan (aged 20) in Newport, South Wales, believed to be Britain's youngest, female funeral director

(Daily Mail, 23 April 2009)



1 comment:

soggibottom said...

I can think of better things to do when your 20 years old !
x x x