Dust to Dust
The tiny church was beginning to fill as the time for the funeral drew near.
Judith had been standing at the back chatting to family members – some familiar, others whom she only seemed to see at weddings and funerals. There had been a lot of handshakes and hugs and forced smiles through held back tears.
The atmosphere was heavy with sadness, guilt, and anger, as people discussed the circumstances around the death.
Judith’s Gran, it emerged, had not been coping well with living on her own for some time and she had become ill. Her neighbours hadn’t seen her for several days. When the police broke in, they found her sitting in an armchair. The coroner’s report said that she’d been dead for at least a week.
‘Why hadn’t Social Services been involved?’ an uncle complained. ‘And what had the GP been doing?’
‘We should have done more.’ an aunt suggested.
‘But she was so stubborn and proud. She wouldn’t accept any help.’
‘At least she’s at rest now. No more suffering.’
‘Eighty-seven, though – she’s had a good innings.’
‘We’ll never forget her. She’ll live on in our hearts.’
‘I bet she’s here now casting her critical eye on today’s proceedings.’
‘Let’s just remember the good times,’ and funny incidents were recalled and anecdotes exchanged, lightening the mood a little.
Judith certainly remembered her Gran as the fiercely independent matriarch who spoke her mind and did not suffer fools gladly. But she also remembered the loving and doting Gran, who spoilt her only grandchild with lavender-scented cuddles and endless supplies of sweets from her handbag. She remembered being allowed to lick the bowl when Gran made cakes (something she wasn’t allowed to do at home). She remembered exploring Gran’s vast old house filled with seemingly ancient curiosities and dusty old books - far more interesting than any museum or library she’d ever been taken to. And she remembered the volumes of black-and-white photos of bygone generations in funny clothes about whom Gran told stories better than any Judith had ever read in books.
But Judith kept these memories to herself, suppressing her desire to weep. She knew that she would have to postpone her own grieving.
As the cortege arrived, Judith adjusted her robes, took a deep breath, and focused on the task in hand. This is for you, Gran, she thought, as she addressed the congregation.
‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ she began. ‘Would you all please stand.’