Thursday was the funeral of a cousin, my father’s cousin to be exact – their mothers are sisters.
I can’t say I really knew Ada, but my father spoke of her often so I really went to support Dad.
I’m not good at funerals; who is? But I have a hard time not breaking down in tears. So, arriving early, I sat a couple rows behind my aunt and my cousin – there was no space on their row – and I saw on the programme that they were both participating – a poem (Do not grieve) and the eulogy. My Dad arrived with the family and casket.
One thing about Caribbean/ West Indian church services is the singing 🙂 so loud and passionate. Even though I couldn’t quite manage to sing the last couple verses of ‘All things bright and beautiful’, the singing uplifted me and the old man next to me sang wonderful harmony to Bill Withers ‘Lean on me’ the music on leaving.
Another thing about attending West Indian church services in my home town is that I am guaranteed to be recognised by someone that I don’t recognise. My dear husband has decided that I don’t recognise them because, in his words, “you’re not a people person.” !!!
So as everyone filtered out into the foyer after Bill Withers, two women (I DID recognise one, but I couldn’t remember her name) said hello and asked for my Mum, sister and brother. You see, growing up, our Mum sent us to the New Testament Church of God for Sunday school and we dutifully attended. My Mum was not a member and stayed home enjoying a peaceful Sunday morning with her Jim Reeves albums, I always suspected 🙂 I stopped attending Sunday school after my 16th birthday, not because I didn’t believe but because I did believe. That church did not have everything which I could see, from the Bible, that Jesus’ church should have. My sister continued to visit when she came home from university and so everyone knows her. Therefore, amongst this group of people, I am always seen in the context of my big sister, rather than as an individual, at least that’s how I feel.
Even one older woman who approached me – who I know I’ve not seen in about 30 years and I gave her a big hug – and asked if my sister has any children. I said no, waiting for her to ask for my own family, but no, this dear lady asked for my brother. He’s well, living in L, my sister’s in B and I’m here. Pause. I’ve got children, four of them. And that was the end of the conversation until I asked for her children, who I recalled were older than me, and who now live all over!
I began to wonder if it was the presence of my bright red coat, but I was carrying it and wore a dark work suit with white blouse. Sometimes families ask for people to wear bright colours, so I’d come prepared!
But I’ve decided it’s more likely that I am seen as rebellious, fallen or wayward. I was always a nonconformist in the small Sunday school. I was asked once to offer a prayer – I offered it with only Amen said out loud. Another time, I challenged the teacher by declaring that discos (this was the 1980s) weren’t inherently bad places – you could choose not to get drunk or do bad stuff. And let’s face it, a year after leaving the Sunday school I was baptised, with my mother, as a Latter Day Saint. I’ve never really expressed to them what a big positive impact Sunday School had on me! 🙂
So as I said farewell to our cousin, I felt I was saying farewell (again) to people from my past. I felt sad that although we all pleasantly speak, we go back to our own worlds, ne’er to meet again, except around the next casket!