Thursday, 16 June 2011

Pictured above is one side of my father's coffin.  It was delivered to us as a white cardboard shell (reinforced and safe - we wondered too...), and we gathered as a family in the summer house to decorate it.  Photos, handprints, paintings, all poured out of us as we chatted about him, and laughed, and cried, and tried to incorporate symbols of all that was important to him in life.  I feel it was particularly beneficial for the children - they had an opportunity to contribute something (and their decorations were deeply thought out, individual and beautifully done), and the horror of the object was hopefully somewhat lessened.

It certainly helped me to giggle at the numerous double-takes it provoked as the cortège moved slowly through town to his funeral at the magnificent Beverley Minster.  The occasion went as well as such things possibly can; when it is well-thought-out, the ritual is strangely uplifting, and I was desperately proud of my entire family on such a sad day.   The public response was overwhelming, and I hope Daddy would agree we gave him the best send-off we possibly could (although when I was wielding my paintbrush at six in the morning in a chilly summerhouse, having woken in panic because we'd forgotten to include any windsurfing, I could hear his voice clearly, grumbling that he didn't know why we were making such a bloody meal of it when it was only going to go up in smoke on Thursday...).

Two observations from a singer's point of view:

Firstly, I had no thoughts of singing a solo in church; it would have felt too self-important, and I didn't know how far I could trust my voice at such an emotionally difficult time.  I made sure the hymns we chose were strong and beautiful, and hoped to be able to add my voice to those of the congregation.  Anyway, as I was drawing a shaky breath for the first line, I suddenly realised that my inner volume pedal was not going to function.  It was all or nothing.  In a split second, I considered my options - would the silence of a scrunched-up larynx or the shock of a singer in (literally) full cry be preferable for my family?  I opted for the latter, on the grounds that they would all be able to then sing exactly as much as they could, knowing that no-one would hear any hiccups.  (This has worked wonderfully at carol services etc - people sing louder en masse if they reckon no-one can hear their wobbles.)  In conversation at the wake I realised it had backfired slightly - half the people I talked to said they stopped singing just to listen to me, and the other half were convinced we had had a choir hidden away somewhere...

Secondly, and this must surely apply to any aspect of performing, I can say definitively that it is INFINITELY easier under such circumstances to sing the demanding and pivotal lead role rather than a bit part where you have Time to Think. 

Once again I must thank my family, friends and colleagues for the wonderful love and support they have shown throughout.  A blessing indeed.

1 comment:

  1. I love that coffin. That's what I want for mine! It's covered in love!

    Now that I have a regular job singing funeral masses, I see a lot of coffins and observe a lot of families saying good-bye to their loved ones. The picture you describe of how you decorated and sang is such a contrast to the "formula-style" send-off manufactured by the modern-day funeral business for the people we love. Thanks for sharing your intimate moment that is full of hope and love.

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