Another first today. My first secular funeral. I couldn’t help noting that some of those present were people I’ve seen at other funerals, where they complained at being subjected to religious rites when so many of the people there were not religious. I suppose they were quite content today, in so far as one is content at such reminders of mortality. I merely feel bleak. Today’s ceremony was like a longer version of a retirement do – the kind held in the school library during an extended interval. And yes, it was good to hear of the various personae of the person who had died – the anarchic student, the gifted and enthusiastic teacher, the terror of latter-day miscreants, the supportive friend.
But then? Well, then the curtain was drawn, with agonising slowness, in a silence in which no-one stood and no-one prayed and there was no music. Presumably that was a metaphor for what the non-religious felt was happening. The End. And then there was cheery, boppy music and we all filed out. We had been laughing at reminiscences, but now we were silent.
So did I start moaning? Well, maybe just a little. There’s no point, really. Did I say a prayer? Not really. It was difficult – I felt like Hamlet’s Uncle Claudius : “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.” Do I have a conclusion? Maybe. It’s this. I think humans need God more than 21st century people care to admit. They need hope, and light and comfort – and yet these days they choose to face the dark alone. It’s like rejecting the possibility of a hand to help you over the river, or the candle lit in a dark place. But does that mean that the hand, the candle are illusions? That they’re only there if you look for them? This begins to smack of the tree in the desert that no-one has seen (was it Berkeley?)
I can’t work through to the end of this line of thought, because I’m not sure that thought works all the way. But I know that for me the joy of a life well lived is inextricably linked with the faith in what we are in relation to creation, and to what I know as God. So I’ll reach for the proffered hand and look for the light – and be glad that right now the clouds have lifted and the sun has appeared.