Spirit Level

I was telling Vicky that I’d written about an old friend, Charlie. I told her the tale of Charlie’s cremation day … the two cars from Skye to Inverness, the four family members and two friends who took the coffin to the crematorium … the coffin on pine branches in the back of an estate car, back seat down. I told her Charlie’s wife’s words to me … ‘I don’t think they knew what toexpect … I don’t think they’d ever met people like us before …’.

The crematorium staff and chaplain must have been asked if this little group of six could carry out their own service in silence, and they were respectfully left alone.

Charlie’s son and a friend carried the coffin in from the car. Marion added that it wasn’t heavy, they could manage, the last time Charlie was weighed he was only six stones.

This story – Marion’s story – she told me before we began to talk about Charlie’s life and times, and it helped me to realise that Marion was at peace with Charlie’s passing, that things had been carried out in accordance with Charlie’s wishes. Marion was prepared and happy to talk about Charlie … the conversation flowed easily.

Having recounted this story to Vicky as we walked along Euston Road from Kings Cross to Euston Station en route to Glasgow for bloods and clinic, Vicky wanted to tell me something she wants at her funeral: a spirit level. A spirit level.

My mind worked overtime. What’s going on here? Had she found a new level of spirituality? Was she planning to control the spirits? … to make sure they didn’t upset her equilibrium as they have  during the past few years? Is she trying to ensure that she gets some peace? Was she making sure she’d be accorded due respect when being carried up the aisle by hookers, number eights and scrum halves?

What was the plan? How much can we control our lives post mortem?

So many questions, but the answer that came was simple: a sweet little neighbour had been carried lop-sided by un-evenly matched bearers at a recent funeral: the imbalance didn’t accord the right degree of respect.

Let’s hope I remember to put a spirit level in my bag and monitor that the bubble is respectfully kept in the middle, respect this simple wish … and raise a smile.

Written on the train, 4th

February 2013

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