Tag Archives: funeral

2641. An exciting cruise

Thank goodness Hubert and I booked our Caribbean cruise before David took ill. It would be a bit on the nose to book a luxury three weeks on an ocean liner once news came out that our son has terminal cancer. Still, it’s a bit of a worry that he might die while we’re away. We’d possibly have to fly home and it could ruin our long-planned adventure.

Mind you, David hasn’t really made much of his life so attendance at his obsequies could be debatable. It’s not as if he would be alive to notice we’re not there, and the few friends he has are so insignificant they probably wouldn’t even notice.

We wanted David to be a doctor or a football star. Something like that. But he not only failed Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics at school, but he didn’t even make the bottom sports team. He ended up getting a job at the local museum. Goodness knows what he did all day. Everything is dead and in glass cabinets. There’s nothing to do.

I’m about to go shopping for our Caribbean cruise. Hubert wants something nice to go swimming in and I want a couple of pretty sun dresses. Something brash and Hawaiian I think. Something that will make a splash. Although I’m not sure which island in the Caribbean is Hawai’i.

Mind you, I joked to Hubert that what I’m buying would hardly be clothes one would be seen dead wearing at a funeral, but if we do go to the trouble of attending the funeral at least everyone will notice that we’re there. In fact, if we tell everyone to wear something bright and cheerful I won’t have to change out of my Hawaiian get-up!


2624. Pet rat’s lifespan

The good thing about a pet rat, said Cameron, is that their lifespan is generally only two to three years. At least it’s a pet you know you’re going to outlive, and don’t have to worry about making arrangements for it if you die first.

Anyway, at Cameron’s funeral Maisina, his second cousin twice removed, said she would be happy to look after the rat.

2457.  Clothes don’t maketh the man

It could be construed that Sean was perhaps overly fussy. No sooner had he been diagnosed with terminal cancer than he went online and bought himself a complete new set of clothes.

“One doesn’t want to look shabby lying in a coffin,” he declared. “Or for that matter look shabby for an eternity.”

His new clothes arrived. He tried them on. He looked smart indeed!

He didn’t last much longer. He died.

Nora, his widowed wife, was a realist. “I’m not having him buried in those perfectly good clothes,” she said, handing the undertaker a set of old clothes that Sean wore when mowing the lawn. “They’re clean. I’m taking these lovely new clothes to the Opportunity Shop.”

2329. A jolly funeral

Louis was dead. He had been a fanatical breeder of dahlias. When the word “fanatical” is used it simply means he was pretty keen on the idea of developing new varieties of dahlia, and most people thought that was boring, which is why they called him a fanatic.

When Louis died, neighbour Ursula would normally have attended his funeral but she was getting near the end of quilting a bed covering to give to Raewyn for her birthday. Besides, Louis was a bit of a fanatic when it came to dahlias, and Ursula had better things to do than attend the funeral of a fanatic.

When Louis died, neighbour Selwyn would normally have attended his funeral but he was getting near the end of repainting the veranda in preparation for the barbeque season, and Selwyn loved his barbeques! Besides, Louis was a bit of a fanatic when it came to dahlias, and Selwyn had better things to do than attend the funeral of a fanatic.

When Louis died, neighbour Raewyn would normally have attended his funeral but she was getting near the end of removing the labels off the jars she was going to use for pickling later in the season. Besides, Louis was a bit of a fanatic when it came to dahlias, and Raewyn had better things to do than attend the funeral of a fanatic.

When Louis died, neighbour Olive would normally have attended his funeral but if she didn’t have her daily exercise and workout in the gym then it was grumpiness for the rest of the day. Besides, Louis was a bit of a fanatic when it came to dahlias, and Olive had better things to do than attend the funeral of a fanatic.

It could be construed that the few who attended Louis’ funeral were a fairly boring bunch; none of them had any hobbies worth writing home about.

2272. Vera’s generous help

It was a special day for Vera. It was seven weeks since her husband had passed away, and she thought she had better get off her backside and starting doing a few things. Of course doing nothing was only in her head; she had written over a hundred thank you notes to those kind enough to attend the funeral or communicate a message. Even the man who came every year to clean their chimney had left a kind note on the online obituary message board.

I had known Vera from way back. In fact we had gone to school together, although we were never girlfriend and boyfriend.  I had attended the husband’s funeral of course. Today – it was Saturday – Vera was off to help a friend run a stall at the market where they sold herb plants. I didn’t exactly need any herbs but I thought a little plant for the back door would be a good enough thing to get, so off I went to the market’s herb stall.

And there she was: Vera in the herb stall!

“Aloe Vera,” I said.

2124. A lonesome funeral

It was a very sad funeral. It wasn’t sad simply because there had been a death; it was sad because to all intents and purposes Natalie was the only person who attended it. Some might think for a small funeral that the undertaker and pallbearers and the musician paid to sing Be Still My Soul all count as mourners. But the truth is a funeral attendance headcount can really only include the genuine mourners. Hence, the funeral Natalie attended had a headcount of one.

Natalie sang at the top of her voice. She didn’t care. As far as she was concerned, she was the only one there:

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.

In fact there was no organist to help out. She was singing the hymn to the accompaniment of a recording.

She had loved Randolph. They had been together for seven years.  The volume of Natalie’s singing spoke volumes of her love.

When the singing was over she carefully place her dear dead canary in the hole she had dug and filled it in.

1992. Things that quickly fade

Annette loved flowers. She always had several vases of flowers in her living room and a little retro corkless medicine bottle on the window sill of the kitchen with a sprig of rosemary and a twiglet of this and that.

When her husband died the undertaker quietly asked Annette in the cemetery if she wished to have the flowers sitting on the coffin when it was lowered or would she prefer that the flowers were placed on top of the grave once it was filled in.

“Oh God no!” exclaimed Annette, speaking slightly louder than the undertaker. “I’m taking all the flowers home!” And she did! It’s not that she didn’t love her husband. But what use are flowers dying on a grave? Flowers from the funeral arranged in her living room were a much better reminder of her sad loss and a heart-felt tribute to her husband. That way too she could appreciate in full the kindness of the people who had sent condoling flowers.

Great-aunt Matilde paid a sympathy visit, mainly because Annette always served with a mug of coffee some homemade chocolate chip cookies that used ground oatmeal, nuts, and lots and lots of extra chocolate. In fact, Annette grated into the mixture several chocolate bars more than the recipe called for.

“I think flowers at funerals are a complete waste of money,” declared great-aunt Matilde surveying the living room bouquets. “When I die I don’t want people spending money on things that quickly fade.”

As occasionally happens, great-aunt Matilde was 88. She went home and sadly passed away shortly after. Annette arranged the surviving living room flowers and took them to place on great-aunt Matilde’s filled-in flowerless grave.

Not a dime was spent on things that quickly fade.

1986. Pulling a few strings

Today is the Feast of All Hallows or All Saints; hence yesterday’s Halloween (All Hallows’ Evening). It is my favourite day of the year to remember the dead. It is the feast day of all who have gone before us. It’s a pity that the first two days of November, which used to be reserved to recall everyone who has died, has been smothered in candy and reduced to a previous evening of pretend ghouls. I want to commemorate the real first of November by telling you a personal story – simply because it’s a coincidence that happened in my life that I’ve always marvelled at. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence at all. I hope you don’t find it too long and boring!

I’m not sure how most university systems work overseas, but in New Zealand it goes Bachelor’s degree, Bachelor’s Honours, Master’s, Master’s Honours, Doctorate. I had long finished my Bachelor’s degree in English and Music. As many of you know, I was a monk at the time and after ten years of teaching I was sent back to university in Wellington, New Zealand, to get an Honours degree in Music. That went very well, and not simply because the mother of the Professor of Music had been my piano teacher when I was a kid at school!

During that year my father had died and in between assignments and the like I had an hour’s drive every day to visit him at home. My father had been an Anglican and was from a very VERY anti-Catholic family. He was also a plumber and among his plumbing clients was the local convent of nuns (known as the Leper Sisters for their work throughout the Pacific). Dad got on especially well with the Mother Superior, Mother Camilla, who was an American. This is long before I was even thought of. Anyway, Dad died and I did the funeral.

At the end of the academic year I was visited by “the head monk” who asked if I had anything to say. I said two things: The community’s fridge is broken and we need another one, and secondly if I got an extra year at university I could complete a Master’s degree. The next day a new fridge arrived! I thought, Aha! he did listen after all. Some weeks later I got a message: we think you should go ahead and complete your Masters, BUT you should do it in Boston, USA!!!! Boston America!!!! Me? In Boston America!!! Little me from the backblocks of New Zealand?!!

The first thing to do after being accepted at the university was to find somewhere to live. I wrote to a number of catholic parishes in Boston asking if I could live there in exchange for weekend services. St Joseph’s Parish in Waltham in Boston answered. They were a French-speaking parish but that didn’t matter. I was very welcome to stay and help out! Off I went!

After a couple of weeks there was a phone call one evening. It was the local convent. The visiting priest’s car had broken down and could someone come around and take the church service. I said I would go. When I walked into the room an old nun said “Goodman from New Zealand? Do you know a Frank Goodman?” I said he was my father. The nun, called Sister Basil, had been in charge of the convent buildings in New Zealand. She said, “I have spent more time in the toilet with your father than I have with any other man!” Mother Camilla (Dad’s friend) had died around the same time as Dad. She had donated her body to Harvard Medical School. When the bones come back, could I do the burial?

A few weeks later I did the burial. Her name before becoming a nun had been Mary Borke. I told the pastor of St Joseph’s. He said that the rectory was the old Borke Family homestead. Mother Camilla would have been born in this house, possibly in the very room I was sleeping in.

Anyway, on this Feast Day of All Saints, I cannot help but think that perhaps Dad and Mother Camilla had been pulling a few strings.

1846. A sometimes over-sombre occasion

This, declared great grandmother Thelma at her husband’s burial, this family is now matriarchal. I am now the person at the top; not grandfather. He did a grand job holding this family together, and now it’s my turn.

I didn’t at all like the way he favoured some over others. From now on we shall all be equal. None of this privileged nonsense of boys over girls when it comes to handouts. Yes, I know there is some Chinese blood crept into the tree, but they are children of grandchildren, and therefore they don’t count. I can’t be responsible for everyone in the human race. After all, we’re all descended from Eve – and Adam.

To help out those in the family less fortunate I would ask those families well-off, and let’s face it that’s most of you, to make a generous donation to the memorial fund for Dennis. You would have seen a box for donations at the church door. Or you can mail it.

I reiterate, this is now a matriarchal family, and…

Come along now Thelma, said Nurse Sherry. Nurse Sherry was in charge at the retirement home just across from the cemetery. Thelma was forever dashing out when there was a burial, standing on the artificial grass mound, and making her regular speech. In fact, some mourners grew to be a little disappointed if Thelma failed to turn up. She cast a certain insobriety to a sometimes over-sombre occasion.

1842. A garden makeover

It was possibly the most exciting thing that had happened to Clarence in a long time. It had been a terrible year; a terrible, terrible year. And now this happened! How wonderful!

In January his wife had died after a long and painful illness. He had nursed her over the weeks. It had brought him to the edge of life. The only thing that kept him going was the thought that if he went there would be no one left to care for his wife. Their only child, a daughter, had long disappeared overseas in pursuit of an alternative lifestyle.

It’s amazing how sometimes lifelong friends abandon you in times of need. Only a few came to her funeral. Friends over the years had drifted away during his wife’s illness and proved themselves no friends at all. That hurt Clarence more than anything. In fact he had trouble drumming up enough pallbearers to carry the coffin.

Clarence thought that the only solace would be in his garden, but that had gone to wilderness during his wife’s illness. Somehow, after the funeral, the heart had gone out of the garden. Clarence tried to tidy it up a bit but he didn’t make much progress. And then he entered a competition for a free garden makeover. There were a number of conditions; the garden had to be substantial in size; the owner had to go away (all expenses paid) for a whole week while the garden got its makeover; the owner had to trust the garden designer’s ability to come up with a creative concept. Clarence thought he fulfilled all the conditions.

The phone went. It was the television company. They were to record the makeover. Clarence’s garden was on the shortlist. Would he mind the television cameras coming to film the garden before anything was done?

Next, a garden designer visited in person. She interviewed Clarence. What would Clarence like to see in the garden? Did he want a water feature? A patio/barbecue area? Trees to block out not the sun but the neighbour’s prying eyes?

Clarence said he’d like to be surprised. They could do with the garden whatever was creative, whatever would make it lovely. He had just the one request; his late wife’s name was Iris. Would it be possible to have a garden bed of irises in her memory? Of course it was! What a fantastic idea!

Anyway, Clarence’s garden wasn’t selected in the final choice, so none of the above mattered.