Dark red leather chesterfields, endless blue wallpaper with a texture that reminds me of the border around school and university photos. A steam punk alternative reality/ computer game.
Over there, leaning against the wall, wooden crosses (stakes!). Opposite me, at eye level, the wooden wheels of a small horse carriage. Sunlit fields and forests on the front of remembrance photo albums. It reminds me to do something about the piles/ boxes of photos we have at home. Grief rituals are healing and while one may never completely heal, these mini processes, cycles can make us more connected with the memories of the dead and the living – ourselves and each other.
Sliding along the luxuriously smooth rice-pudding-hued seats of the jag, I filter out what seems like an inappropriate thought: What a nice car. I wouldn’t mind getting to ride around in a car like this… To my surprise, my friend voices my exact thoughts.
In the protective membrane of the vehicle, we move along the start of rush hour traffic. Rain on the dashboard confers and scatters. For the entire journey, ahead of us, a photo of my friend’s mum attached to the back of the hearse beams affectionately – at us and anyone watching from the street. She is attended by a choir of white lilies around a warm aqua blue, her nose wrinkling into a cheeky smile, responding to a joke from the cameraman.
Amidst the tears, my friend’s best brother jokes about him worrying about his hair getting wet when it rains. The resulting uproar under the rain sprinkled windows seems to reflect the sweet and hearty sparkle in the portrait we are following.
“Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole transforms the mourning space into a 50’s romantic movie. The celebrant – grey pin stripe suit over a dog’s collar, voice like an East End gangster character from a 60’s film – tells us that the shepherd is an outsider but is a symbol of the leader. The greatest of them all is love. I looked this up later, and apparently in the King James Version, it says, The greatest of them all is charity. Makes me wonder if the church was collecting for a new roof at the time.
My friend’s eulogy, a masterfully written, moving and humorously presented bouquet of anecdotes about her mother. Quick-witted, God-thanking, compassionate and courage woman. Determination against the many storms of life. Un-PC, “blue-tongued”, film-devotee. My friend’s impressions of her mum make us laugh and channels her personality.
Afterwards at the wake, I am talking to an old friend I haven’t seen or spoken to for a long time. I admire her coat. She’s always had amazing style. Today, she reminds me of someone from Blade Runner. She says her neighbour’s sibling was stabbed over a disagreement. The assailant immediately repented but it was too late. I’ve been to quite a few funerals over the year. It’s my funeral coat, she says.
We talk about our daily lives, and go for a second plate of food. I worry that I’m being greedy. I have no obvious appetite but I can see my fingers reach for food. Types of cheese I haven’t eaten for ages, strawberries, cold pizza, tea.
I realise something. After all the years of my friend’s gloriously vivid stories and impersonations, it really is the first time I’ve had chance to be in the room with my friend and all of her siblings. Eating, talking, laughing. And almost her mother too. The face in the turquoise background is smiling at us. A sudden brightness in the rolling breath of time. She is there.