After the burial it was time to head for the hotel for refreshments. I was going to be in the limo for this journey. Philip, the undertaker, said the car would take us wherever we wanted. Within reason, he added after an infinitesimal pause. I looked at him questioningly. The day before, he explained, one woman had asked if it could take her to the coast. Mind you, he added, if you promise my father (the driver of the limo) fish and chips at the end of the journey he’ll take you anywhere.
We settled for the hotel.
A few hours after Aunt died, Older Nephew looked at the will. Aunt had left instruction that *substantial* refreshments should be provided after her burial. This immediately made us want to know what had caused her to make this specification. Annoyingly, she had gone where we could not follow to find out. My cousin Tom, charged with co-ordinating the family in NI to come to the funeral (a task as easy as herding cats), and a clergyman, laughed when I read it to him. *Light* refreshments, he had seen specified often enough, but *substantial*? This was a first.
We speculated that she must have been to a funeral where afterwards the mourners were offered a meagre selection of crisps and a packet of iced gems. Of course, we shall never know what the real reason was. A death sparks lots of questions and topic of conversations you’d like to have with the person who has just died. In my case, being charged with the arrangements, I shouldn’t have minded a little more clarification about what substantial meant. A number of people have suggested it meant quantities of alcohol, but as Aunt drank seldom and little, and the family in Ireland is almost tea total, I didn’t think that was correct.
After much studying of the menus at the local hotel which was to host the post burial part of the day, I asked them if we could swap some things, exclude all egg dishes when they said (in answer to my question) that the eggs they used were not from range birds, made a decision, and then worried about if I had made the right one until last Thursday.
A quick survey of the mourners decided I had, and at the end of the day, when the hotel staff were clearing up around the family who were the only people left, gathered around two tables pushed together and sharing stories, we had the sense to ask for doggy bags.
If I were to do it again, and that’s not likely, I would say no to sandwiches. They were the only part that disappointed. They had been made slightly in advance of our arrival and refrigerated. The result was that they were a bit dry. Otherwise, the food was great, and people tucked in and chatted. Although I obviously knew my family, and some of the friends and neighbours, there were quite a few people there whose names were familiar but whose faces I did not know. I had had the bright idea of asking people to email their memories of Aunt so that these could be included in the Order of Service.
If you caught the whiff of sarcasm in the adjective *bright*, you were spot on. It was a good idea. The end result made me glad I had done it, and lots of people said how much they liked it, but it was a headache getting some people to write more than “she was a good Christian with a lovely smile”. I felt instances of her good Christianity would build a clearer picture. The ex-teacher in me came out, and some people received returned work, where I pressed them for particular memories, rather like the Point Example Explanation pupils need to remember when writing essays. I mean, saying Shakespeare was a good writer and he had a beard won’t get you many marks in the exam, mainly because it says next to nothing about him. Continue reading