Many years ago I watched a documentary on the telly about meerkats in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. They would go off in little groups foraging for food and at the end of the day they would come back to the main nest and the groups would be all over each other, sniffing, greeting and getting reacquainted again and the social structure would be re-established.
I was reminded of the meerkats yesterday; I was at a funeral and once we left the graveside and came back to the convent where the reception was being held I witnessed much the same behaviour that the meerkats did. There was a great coming together of the extended family and close friends and everyone seemed to know absolutely everyone else, there was much sniffing, touching and even the pecking of cheeks and I could see the bonds between each member being renewed and strengthened.. And then I noticed something else, the matriarch of the clan was gone and I could see the younger females all subtly moving up the ladder one step, taking over roles and jostling/manoeuvring into different positions of authority within the extended social circle. There were an equal number of men there but they all seemed oblivious to this, perhaps it’s because I’m an outsider and I can step back and observe, I have no vested interest who becomes the next matriarch.
There’s many similarities between weddings and funerals, for example, it’s really only on hatch’em, match’em, depatch’em occasions that I get to wear a suit these days. Funerals are aberrations as far as I can tell, funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living, the dead are past caring. We have this idea of the funeral being focused solely on the one who’s passed away, with moving tribute’s but that’s not what I witnessed yesterday, yes, the church service was solemn (actually it was dreadfully boring and full of religious clichés that I doubt even the priest believed) but as soon as everyone got into the reception then it was like “ok, that’s that out’a the way, now to chinwag with Arthur, I haven’t seen him for years..”. Just like a wedding really. It reminds me of the old joke about Irish weddings and funerals; what’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral? There’s one less drunk at the Irish funeral…and there’s many a truth told in jest, I’ve been to funerals before where fights have started, of course this was in Ireland and that’s pretty bog stand behaviour. And it’s no wonder, even the word ‘funeral’ starts with those other three favourite letters of mine ‘fun’ and we Irish take this attitude of fun to our hearts and raise our glasses to the dearly departed, it’s a celebration of life, not a mournful death but I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy at a funeral and I realise I’m actually listening to it.
And there’s something else that both funerals and wedding have in common, we all get dressed up and put on our best clothes and some of us even get invites but it’s important to read the dress code instructions carefully, ‘somber’ while only 2 letters apart from ‘sombrero’ is a world apart in tone. Apparently.
And one more similarity, when I was much much younger I used to go the wedding and the old dolls would poke me in the chest like witches and cackle “You’re next!” but now I’m 50 I go to funerals and poke them in the chest and cackle “You’re next!” Is that evil of me? Am I going to Hell? Too effing right I’m going to Hell, care to join me?