Monday, June 15, 2009


I went to a funeral today. I hate funerals and I avoid them where necessary. This one was a bit fraught because it involved people that I have mixed feelings about. But I decided to go in the end because I wanted to support my oldest childhood friend, and because this 93 year-old woman had written me birthday and Christmas cards for years and years when I was young, and she had always given me thoughtful nanna-ish presents such as handkerchiefs and mini sewing kits. 

Anyway, the funeral was OK. It was quite religious, which was a little bit uncomfortable for an agnostic-rapidly-heading-towards-atheist such as I. I told my sister I was going to sing the hymns loudly and lustily, but when it came time to do so, they were too high and I didn't know the melodies. My aim at funerals is to hold it together and not cry, and I did manage to do that. I also remembered all the names I should of, and made polite conversations of appropriate lengths. 

But I did have an odd experience on the way home. An elderly gentleman who had attended the funeral took the tram with my sister and I, and conversed with us, and then me alone after my sister got off the tram. This elderly gentleman was most dapper. He had clearly been very successful in his former work life, was handsome in a silver-haired sort of way, very faintly roguish, and had very charming old-fashioned manners. I rather think he enjoyed talking to a young, female stranger. And I equally enjoyed talking to a man who was at a very different stage in his life. I was quite looking forward to reading my book on the tram, but soon found myself enjoying conversing with a stranger. He was from interstate, and had come to Melbourne for the funeral because his late mother had been pen friends with the lady whose funeral it was. 

When we came to saying goodbye, he revealed an extraordinary amount of personal information about his life to me in the matter of seconds. We exchanged email addresses and went our separate ways. I felt bad that I hadn't agreed to have a cup of tea with him, but I wanted to get home and do some yoga after what had been a difficult day. I'm not the sort of person who changes their plans on a whim; sometimes I wish I was that sort of person. I wondered why he felt he could tell me those things. I wasn't worried that he had, in fact I felt privileged that he would entrust those details to me. I guess funerals put people in a vulnerable state, the kind of state where they seek connections with other people. It was a day of family skeletons and private sadnesses. 

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