It’s the orders of service that stick in my memory –
Always the same, just the name and the photo would change.
Funeral dues for my far-distant family,
Seconds and greats twice-removed, from the sticks or the Grange.
The organ would parp but the bells never tolled,
And the bunches of flowers were lilies or roses or daffodils.
The pews were so hard and the stones were so cold,
As, forcibly suited and combed, I was begged to sit still.
The Lord Is My Shepherd, The Old Rugged Cross,
The same old hymns, in the same old badly sung.
The same “so sorry for your loss”
And same “they had a good life/died too young”.
And even the eulogies followed a formula,
Strangers with unrehearsed mumblings delivered too fast –
The reminiscences couldn’t be warmer,
But too late to tell me now, their moment has passed.
Then it’s the Lord’s Prayer, and into the home straight
With one final blast of All Things Bright & Beautiful –
Which always struck me as having the wrong weight,
Far too happy – though dirged into something more suitable.
But as I grow older, the deaths have grown closer,
And it falls to me for arrangements and guests to be planned –
When I’ve no time for grief, yet I need to bring closure,
I remember those orders of service, and I understand…