I didn’t know the man speaking, but I didn’t recognise the woman he talked about either, reading out a list of dates and landmarks with the dry disinterest of a substitute history teacher. Even though not a church goer, I expected something more, a bit of humanity, a bit of warmth. It wasn’t his fault I suppose, he was just doing his job.
If I could have stood up I would have thrown some pizzazz in there, some Vegas. She deserved Vegas. She got Presbyterian County Down. I would have talked about summers spent sliding down grassy banks on tea trays. Her remarkable skill with wool that combined pure talent mixed with her frankly terrible taste in colours. Her ability to always want to shop for whatever wasn’t in fashion, and handbags and anything that may have had lavender waved at it at some point. The man didn’t know how she called Margaret Thatcher ‘that aul divil’ until Thatcher died and then she’d ‘always liked her’ or that she nearly peed herself laughing when I took her on a bouncy castle in her later years. Perhaps her hallucinogenic Pictionary drawings or her falling into our house tispy on Christmas morning after being fed Bucks Fizz by the boys wasn’t appropriate for a pulpit, but it meant so much to me. Most importantly the man didn’t know how truly loving she was, how you couldn’t hang up the phone to her without the blowing of hundreds of kisses and her telling you how much she loved you.
Grief is like the aftermath of a bomb, and you were the only one in it. It’s the quietest bomb. You carry on with your days but there is an echo, a distance you just can’t put your finger on, yet everybody else carries on just the same. Bakers still bake, hipsters still hip, the Daily Mail still pedals utter bullshit, but for you the world has changed completely. The tears come indiscriminately, on the bus, on the toilet, when you’re looking in the window of Urban Outfitters wondering if you’re young enough to carry off that top. It is easy to wonder what is the point of anything.
But there is a point, love. Real love. Not a photoshopped meme with a twee Hallmark quote in a fancy font in front of a photo of a sunset or a mountain. Real friendship. Not an emoji or a virtual hug under a shared video of a dog falling down a slide. It’s so easy to get carried away with the pace and busyness of life. We edit and filter our lives constantly, but when the time comes for a grey haired man to stand in a pulpit and talk about you, you won’t be the one adding the filter. The stuff you stress about won’t even get a side mention. No one will talk about how clean you kept your cupboards, or how you always stayed late in work. No one will give a fiddlers about how you always did the ironing straight from the machine or how you looked that day you didn’t bother putting your face on to do the groceries.
They will talk about the time you spent together, about love and friendship and laughter. Those are the bits they’ll remember. So don’t waste your weekends dragging round hoovers or cleaning stuff no one will see. Spend time with the people you love. The people who make you laugh. Blow kisses down the phone. The dusting will last a day or two, but the good stuff will last forever.