I couldn't sleep very well last night, I am not sure if it was the meal I had or the anticipation of another funeral with my first burial. I was well prepared, I had all my words, but I couldn't stop thinking that something could go wrong! I eventually got to sleep and I woke up to another freezing day and wishing I had bought myself a cloak at the Tat Fair at college! It was going to be a cold morning.
I always get to the church in plenty of time and the first thing I do is make sure that all the technology works - candles will always light and they can be done later, but the PA system and most importantly the CD player need to be checked!! I switched on the PA, pressed the CD button on the mixer, pushed the volume up. I put in a test CD and pressed play - nothing. No sound. Oh no! About 32 seconds into the song Frank Sinatra had already started singing – mild panic sets in - a dodgy CD player! I have no contingency plan and the family are expecting three songs during the service. I tried the next track, that worked fine. When the CD for the service arrived with the undertaker I immediately tried it in the CD player and the same problem. No sound. I tried fiddling around with it and eventually got some noise – not much, but enough. I got the first song cued up and on pause – ok, candles next!
Before the service began I went out to meet the undertakers and the family and we processed in together. When we arrived at the back of the church the undertaker called out, ‘please stand’ – cue music - *silence* OH NO! I paused for about three seconds and realised I just had to get on with it, so we proceeded with a quick prayer up to God, ‘please let the other two songs work’.
Once the coffin was placed on the trellises I was very conscious that all eyes were now on me. Should I apologise for the lack of song or just begin? “Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life…” I decided to just move on and hope the other songs worked.
The rest of the service went smoothly. The family had asked me to read the eulogy and two poems. I was very aware of my own voice – there are a lot of words in a funeral service and so I felt it was important to give time and space for people to be silent and think of the memories they had of their loved one.
The other two songs were patchy at best, but at least we heard something!!
After the funeral service I rushed off (!) to the cemetery to conduct the burial. The last burial I went to was that of my step-father, so there were lots of memories flooding back to me about that day, but this morning I was very conscious that this was the end of a long process of the family. There is so much to organise for a funeral and for the grieving family it can be a distraction from the grief. Putting all your energy into a big family event like this is important to a person (that’s why you should have a contingency for a rubbish CD player). After the very short service that is the burial your part is effectively over and I was very conscious of stepping backwards and letting the family step in for ‘their part’ of saying good bye for the final time and moving on to the next stage of their grief. Now the distraction of the funeral is over there is nothing but the grief left. I made sure the family had my number and an offer of a follow up visit if they needed me.
It was strange to walk away having done ‘my bit’. What do I do now? The rest of today has been very strange. A lot of emotional energy goes into facilitating an event like this. It has been helpful to write about it here, but out of everything that happened today I will always make sure there is a contingency for a dodgy CD player!