I went to the funeral of a relative yesterday, Jack Fitzpatrick, the husband of my cousin Joan. I took my sister Denise with me; she is three hours older than me, and judging by the tedious frequency with which she refers to them must be the most important three hours of her life. So far.
Funerals are always sad affairs and seldom enjoyable but I must say I enjoyed this one, and in an odd sort of way it was a very happy occasion. There was plenty of grief flying about, obviously, especially when the three chosen pieces of music were played, My Way, Danny Boy, and a country and western song the title of which I didn’t catch (the tin ear again), which was clearly a very powerful emotional trigger. Easily the most moving part of the service was the oration delivered by one of Jack’s daughters Teresa, an heroic tour de force that blended sorrow with fond and humerous recollection that was exactly right.
After the service there was a bit of a do at a smart hotel, and the distress, or its open expression anyway, was left behind and it was as much as anything like a wedding reception, but without the fighting. I suppose a hundred years ago most, if not all, of the relatives would have lived within easy reach of each other and have known each other well; Joan and I, together with our siblings and grandparents, lived in the same street; unlike our parents’ generation, when we grew up there was an inevitable scattering and geographical separation, which while not breaking contact, denied the opportunity for close familiarity to develop. It was interesting to observe – and to be part of – an occasion when people close in blood but remote in every other way reconnected.
I picked up a lot about Jack that I had not known – that he was in the Royal Air Force, for example, where he was personally and single-handedly responsible for the crash-landing of an aircraft, and that he had at one time been a bouncer at a cinema, the very cinema in fact at which I was an enthusiastic ABC Minor, so he may well have chucked me out before he married my cousin. We were obviously a rough lot, needing a bouncer. What I had also not appreciated until I saw the photographs of Jack as a dashing airman, was that he had the benefit of what my mother would have referred to as “matinee idol” good looks. Joan obviously had a good eye. What I did know about him, and what always attracted me to him, was that he had a pawky sense of humour, rather like his father-in-law’s, which was very much to my taste.
Anyway, after a couple of hours or so and a good lunch, the playing cards came out and the whole occasion looked like turning into a whist drive so I took my sister, who tends to get over-excited during a game of whist, away home. It had been a very moving and enjoyable day, rather to my surprise.
Anyway, anyway. that was Jack – may light perpetual shine upon him.