I went to Ina’s funeral on Friday. There was no family, and no religion involved. In my limited experience, it was the best funeral I’ve ever been to.
My colleagues printed some photos of Ina that we’d taken over the last year. They were placed by the coffin, along with a basket of vegetables (she used to have an organic allotment.) Though it made me cry to see her face and some everyday things with which I associated her (we should have placed a packet of cuppa soup in the basket for the best effect, but didn’t think of it at the time) it lifted it out of the ordinary. It was as if in some way, she could still take part.
Ina had no family to speak of, so it was left to friends to make the arrangements. But friends often know us better than our families, they don’t have an image of us stuck in time – as an elderly aunt or an awkward teenager.
It’s not easy to give a speech at a funeral – I’ve done it twice now, and as we went in I didn’t know how I’d pull it off. But I gave my speech, even managed a joke or two (she would have liked that), though my knees were shaking and knocking together so much I was surprised that no one noticed. And the others had their turn, the son of a neighbour, and friends who’d known her since the sixties. All with their stories to tell.
The daughter of her oldest friend chose the music: Bruce Springsteen and Emmylou Harris. Not my choice – but it reminded me so much of Ina. We used to fight about music. I almost had to ban Bruce from the office, but I drove the point home with some hardcore Bhangra and we all got headphones.
In typical Dutch style, after the funeral there was a reception with coffee and “broodjes” – cheese or ham rolls, but I wasn’t in the mood for eating.
When it was all over, and there was time to reflect, I thought about all the things I could have done for her. All the promises unfulfilled. We were going to have dinner at my place, we were going to the theatre… but we ran out of time.
In the end though, I think we gave Ina the perfect funeral. What could be better than the people you loved listening to the music you loved, sharing a few thoughts, then getting together for a bite to eat?
Though when it’s my turn, I’d rather you went for a beer or raised a glass of wine in my memory. And if you feel peckish, I would recommend a curry.