It’s a quiet Wednesday morning in Mont Albert. It’s not 9am yet, the sky is clouded over with off-white clouds, there is no breeze. Soon enough, we’re promised, the clouds will dissipate, the sun will show, and all this quiet about me will be usurped by people and noise and colour.
Today is the day of my mum’s funeral. It’s a big day in my life I suspect; it feels so anyway. Since mum died on Saturday I have been a frenzy of activity. Necessity demanded it – there was much to do – but it was fortuitous as well, and I threw myself into it.
There have been moments when the situation has got to me – when I first heard of course; and yesterday opening up some cards of condolence, and random times in between. For the most part I have been focused on what must be done. I want this day to be everything mum would want it to be. She has famously high standards, and as it happens, so do I.
And so I’ve kept busy managing myriad details, almost alone. The days have been tiring, my head buzzing, but the activity has kept at bay the creeping sadness the occasion entails. Now the day has come and for the moment I think we are in good order, everything organised, everything ready to go.
This time is mine then. Soon I’ll shower and look to the final arrangements. The post-funeral reception is here so I’ll go through the place tidying it, I’ll arrange the furniture outside, I’ll give the caterer a call to confirm all is on track. I’ll have a shave then, and dress in my suit, I’ll welcome the early arrivers here, mainly from interstate, then I’ll walk around the corner to the church where I’ll greet the mourners as they arrive for the service. Then the rest happens.
I wonder what I feel. I don’t feel that particular prick of grief for now. More a slow melancholy, an enduring stoicism: this is what has happened, this is what I must endure. It is a fact of life.
In actual fact I think there is some dread deep down. I have been so busy racing around that I fear lurking deep in me is the sorrow poised to assert itself. This day is necessary, and it’s important that we do justice to mum’s memory, but, even though I have my very critical duties, I can’t help but think all of this is for other people. It is the occasion for others to gather and express both their appreciation of mum’s life and share their grief at her passing. It is part of the ceremony of life.
I will stand up, say my piece, will sit there as others do the same. Later I’ll do the rounds of the crowd with a smile on my face, I’ll stand as surrogate for my mother, will receive their kind words, their happy stories, their memories, then I’ll move on to the next. I don’t mind this, and in fact I’m quite good at it, but I don’t really look forward to any of it. For me it becomes real when most have gone and all who remain are us, the inner sanctum, talking and remembering and sipping on a wine, recalling our own memories finally as we attempt to understand what has happened, and what it means.
It probably becomes more real tomorrow, the great ceremony past, people flown back to their homes, real life – or some version of it – returning, but in this reality, minus my mum.
It’s just on 9am now and the clouds have dispersed, the sunlight gently falls. If there is any such thing, it’s a good day for a funeral. I must begin.