Saturday, 1 September 2012

A neighbour's funeral

The lady who used to live opposite me died a short while ago, and her funeral was the day before yesterday. This wasn't the first non-family funeral that I'd ever been to, but it was the first for someone who had lived actually on my doorstep. We had frequently spoken. And now she had suddenly gone, at only 61. It's just not the same without her.

The funeral took place at the Woodvale Crematorium in Brighton. About 100 people attended. I was not surprised. She was well-regarded by her neighbours, and a lot of family and friends came. It made me wonder who would turn up at my own funeral - nothing like this number! I went with my next door neighbour's wife, mother and sister, and the sister's eleven year old daughter. We all had to stand in the packed chapel. As always, it was strangely moving, despite the brevity of the service, despite the fact that this woman, my dead neighbour, had been to me only a pleasant person to know, a decent neighbour, and not a close friend or family member. Perhaps any ceremony that marks the end of a life has meaning, and affects those left behind in odd and unpredictable ways.

I was rather on view in the chapel. I was demurely dressed in a silky grey top with short sleeves and a scooped neckline, loose and flowing silky black pants, black shoes, best black Prada bag, and silver jewellery. The top and pants tended to reveal my well-rounded figure, but nevertheless seemed entirely appropriate to the occasion. Nobody stared at me, except one man in his sixties standing nearby. I wondered why, because it was really easy to blend in, and I thought I was behaving very naturally. I even managed the hymn, singing it in a high, clear and consistent voice: some progress there. Some women weren't even attempting to sing. The girls in front of me just mimed. It was obviously a myth that all women had the voices of angels!

As I guessed would be the case, there was a spread at the local pub. Parking Fiona at home, I walked to the pub in my finery. This had once been the pub that J--- (the old me) had been to for regular meals with M---, or with Mum and Dad. When my transition began, I stopped going there. Now I was confidently stepping into the place as Lucy. It was seething with men standing around in dark suits, and women sitting in groups earnestly talking. I politely pushed my way through, getting welcoming smiles from the girls. The men gave me no attention.

I ended up sitting for over an hour with my chapel companions, and I didn't mix. I could easily have introduced myself to other women at nearby tables and chatted with them, but I loyally stayed where I was. It was pleasant enough to play computer games with the daughter. And I felt perfectly accepted.

But I would have liked some of the men to talk to me. Not because I fancied them, but as a kind of test. I wanted to see whether I looked interesting enough to be worth talking to; and then to find out how well I could deal with whatever line of chat was thrown at me. But not one of the men said anything to me. I must have been either invisible, or else written off as one of the visiting mums. Never mind.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think the occasion was suitable for anything other than was intended. Had you gone to the pub for an evening out just to socialise, things might have been different Lucy, the men may be more open in that case. One thing this post reminds me is that we are mortals and can depart this life at any given moment and in your neighbours case seemingly without warning. No doubt you will be missing her presence from your life. The death of anyone is a sad affair, for some it marks the end of everything but for others the start of something far better. Enjoy your life whilst you can.

    Shirley Anne x

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