A friend's father died over the weekend. It wasn't unexpected. He had had a pretty good innings, nearly ninety summers. The funeral was on Tuesday. If there is such a thing it was a nice funeral. A dignified service, a committal in a light dappled graveyard.
As you get older funerals become more and more a part of your life. Progressively you are reminded of your own mortality. Friends and relatives whose presence you take for granted are suddenly, or perhaps not so suddenly there. The sound of soil bouncing off wood echoes from one funeral to the next. Sombre thoughts envelop you as you travel homewards.
For most of us there are I think four generational stages in funeral attendance. Each one becomes progressively more personal.
Stage one. That of grandparents and aged relatives. These tend to be the first funerals which we attend. Whist we clearly regret their passing they are old people. They have had their day. We regret their death. We miss them, but we have the comfort of our own lives and ambitions stretching forward into what seems to be an unending future.
Stage two. Parents and aunts and uncles pass from our lives. Suddenly we are the older generation. Suddenly we don't have the benefit of older and wiser guidance. We are left orphaned with our thoughts and memories.
Stage three. Our contemporaries, friends, spouses and partners are now the cause of our funeral attendances. This is getting very personal, very close, very lonely.
Stage four. It is now your turn. You don't hear the wet clay hitting the coffin this time.