Phoenix - Excerpt
There is non-seasonal rain. Thunder rumbles and lightning splits the clouds into streaks of silver, black and grey. It is a perfect day for a funeral. A classic; the weather I always imagine for my own funeral. It seems fitting to herald David’s curtain-call with such inclement weather. It pleases me, though not obviously, I hope.
I feel cool and stylish and know I look attractive in my mourning dress. Black is my favourite colour. Today is the perfect day to show off my new outfit. I love it. The veil covers my face and drapes over my shoulders in deep cascades of cool, black chiffon, totally covering my hair. I hide behind it. The unnatural stoop of my shoulders, however, now bowed in grief and mourning, cannot be disguised by the veil, nor can the thin, black gauze hide the trembling in my hands and the unsteadiness of my gait. Yet, I play my part to perfection.
They’re holding the service in the little chapel in the centre of the graveyard. The celebrant is wearing a black suit adorned with a flowery cravat and kerchief. Very, um, nice. (That celebrants conduct funerals is a new one on me. I thought they were the domain of the marriage ceremony.) Bright flowers cascade over the casket and beautiful bouquets adorn every pew. The organ music softly plays some unfamiliar hymns but the overall feeling is one of well-being. I feel at peace, knowing David is getting the well-staged farewell he deserves.
Friends and family fill the little chapel to capacity. The numbers surprise me, as I had no idea David had so large a family or that he was so popular. In all the years I knew him, I had met few of his friends and because of the distance, his family was a shadow in the background. It pleases me to see so many people there. I feel a little awkward, however, and somehow out of place. This is so unlike me, as I enjoy the opportunity to perform.
The service starts promptly. Idly, I wonder how many more funerals the celebrant will perform today. I read somewhere that every second, two people die at some place in the world. The odds are there are many people being buried today. Some of those people must have died around here, and they will probably also be buried today. A marriage celebrant shares a family’s joy. A funeral celebrant shares their grief and sorrow. It takes a special person to officiate at funerals.
“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today....” Is this a funeral or a wedding? “ ... to join with family and friends of David Whittaker Caldwell in bidding David a final goodbye and God speed, as he concludes his journey throughout this life, and embarks on the next chapter of his eternal existence.” Beautiful words. Borrowed from a priest, perhaps.
“Mrs Caldwell,” the celebrant continues, “has requested that several of David’s friends and family address us today, to speak to us about David, who he was and the person he was.” I am looking forward to this. Do other people see David the same way I do? I think perhaps not. Ours was a special relationship. No other person on earth could have known David the way I knew him. The first person to speak is David’s brother, Mark. I knew Mark. He is ten years older than David and his hero. Mark could do no wrong in David’s eyes. How did Mark feel about David?