Friday, June 11, 2010

Mother XI: The Last Post

The period between a death and the funeral of the deceased has something of a dreamlike quality about it. Emotion blurs, anaesthetised in some way.  There seems to be much to do but most of the necessary work is dealt with by professionals; registrars, funeral directors, clerics, caterers, lawyers, bankers.  Apart from dotting a few "i's" and crossing a few "t's" surviving family have little to do but  help with the travel and billet needs of the members of the extended family travelling, at short notice, from their distant homes to be present at the funeral.
For me the dream period ended at 1.15pm last Monday, 7th June when I and a surprising number of other mourners gathered together at Dunfermline Crematorium to pay their last respects to my mother, Gladys.  The 'Celebration and Thanksgiving Service' was conducted very competently and pleasantly by the Reverend Douglas Aitken.  Douglas, officially retired from the church for several years, is a practised professional and I like to believe that mother would have approved of his address which he skilfully balanced between gravity appropriate to the occasion and levity to relieve its sadness.  Douglas opened, and set the tone for all that followed, with the idea that death should not be seen as extinguishing the light but as putting the lamp outside because dawn is breaking.
Dunfermline Crematorium is an easy environment. It is a light and airy glass and polished wood building.  At the 'business end' of the chapel, floor to high ceiling windows look onto acres of undulating grassy parkland as I listened to Douglas reciting Helen Steiner Rice's, 'Legend of the Raindrop' and sang with the congregation through 'All Things Bright and Beautiful' and 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind', I watched through the windows eternal life continuing; birds flying through gently swaying trees answering to an unseen, unfelt breeze; cloud shadows on the grass.
After an emotional gathering among floral tributes outside the crematorium the 'Celebration' of mother's life continued, first over drinks and sandwiches at the local hotel here in Dollar, later at my sister's home.  At the end of the evening, as I reflected on a day that had been far from easy for me, I concluded that emotional release is a far more powerful intoxicant than alcohol!