I went to my great Aunt's funeral today. I've never been to a burial before, only ever cremations. She died a few weeks ago but it had been on the cards for a while, she'd just sort of stopped eating. She'd withered away to nothing, she'd just given up I think after my Great Uncle John had died. She used to be so full of life and such a funny character that In the end she just wasn't her any more.
The church service was really lovely, lots of singing and funny eulogies. Then the pall bearers came in and we followed them into the cemetery. Its an old cemetery and Dorothy nearly didn't make it in as they said there wasn't room. When we explained to them (when organising the funeral) how many of our relatives were buried there they relented and said we could use one of the few remaining spaces.
So picture us following this coffin, through 2 inches of snow and mud all dressed in mourning attire, skirts and suits in shades of black and grey. We get to the grave, the hole is dug and the edges of the pit and the pile of soil are covered in one of those pretend grass carpet thingies. I guess the carpet is an attempt to make the hole look nicer, but its still just a hole.
We gather round and the undertaker hands each of the ladies a yellow rose from one of the bouquets, I take mine and hold my Granny's hand, Dorothy was her older sister. The Vicar lady recites a prayer as they begin to lower the coffin into the grave. I say begin because it only gets about half way before they realise it doesn't quite fit. A few relatives begin to giggle a little, as quietly and respectfully as they can manage as the pall bearers sort of jiggle the straps they are using to lower my Great Aunty Dorothy into her grave trying the shuffle the coffin in.
After a few minutes of this they lift the coffin up again and put it back on its supports. the head undertaker puts his hat on and begins to walk away. "where's he going?" someone asks, "Maybe he's going to get a shovel?" says my Granny grinning. The pall bearers look very uncomfortable, trying to remain solemn as possible in the midst of people laughing saying that this was just like Dorothy and did anyone happened to have a spade handy? One relative asks if we can put the coffin in sideways but my granny mentions that Great Uncle Johns ashes are in there and if we put the coffin in sideways he'll spill. My uncle Russell starts looking under the green carpet over the pile of dirt to see if the grave digger has left the spade there for filling in the grave later. He has, and a fork too for good measure. The pall bearers continue to stand there, heads bowed occasionally sharing an uneasy look with one of their colleagues. I'm guessing this doesn't happen often.
A couple of minutes later the undertaker returns with the gravedigger in tow. They try taking off the carpet from one of the sides of the hole, to see if that'll help. After a few more minutes of shuffling and my Uncle Steve saying things like "looks like Dorothy did manage to put some weight on in the end" it looks like its still not going to fit, the grave isn't wide enough. So the poor grave digger grabs the spade and starts leaning into the grave to widen it. Eventually he has to jump into the grave to widen it lower down. So there we are 20 odd people in our best clothes, standing in the mud and the snow laughing at the absurdity of it all as we watch a poor man in a 6 foot hole digging a grave for our Aunty Dorothy. He's there for a while, digging away and people are telling stories, memories and anecdotes about funny things that Dorothy did when she was alive. Eventually he jumps out of the hole and they start lowering the coffin, the Vicar resumes her prayer and we all give a hearty cheer when Dorothy reaches the bottom. Everyone agreed that she'd find it all very amusing if she was watching, at least she's given us all one last memory of her to hang on to.
Eccentric to the end, that's my Aunty Dorothy.