Stop all the clocks

Our neighbour very unexpectedly passed away at the age of 71 last week. We weren’t close but we were friendly and her sudden passing came as a bit of a shock. Her husband and two grown up children were left devastated. The funeral was held this morning, we attended with a few of our other neighbours and it brings home to me yet again how much I hate funerals… It’s so tough seeing the ones who were so close to the deceased struggling to deal with their loss and brings back memories of my own loss. The programme is always the same: there is music, there are speeches, sometimes readings – with every funeral I go to, the words of WH Auden, beginning with “stop all the clocks”, ring in my head (also so beautifully performed by John Hannah in Four Weddings and a Funeral) …

… and afterwards there’s coffee and tea and people lining up to give their condolences to the grieving loved ones.

I’m thinking that maybe, when I go, I don’t want a funeral… it’s too heartbreaking for the loved ones left behind. Just everyone have a party if they must and then have everyone just leave… No endless sad speeches and sad music, no endless line of people shaking hands and paying respects… Just party, send me on my way with images of things I have loved, like this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this…

… or this most recent one….

RA eyebrows by Veloce

… and be done with it!

10 thoughts on “Stop all the clocks

  1. Thank you for this most personal post, Esther!
    There are persons in my neighbour- or childhood too whose passing has that kind of impact or impression you describe.. Had it about 2 months ago when a former neighbour of my husband died at 59, though our contact had become loose over the years. I loathed the stereotype, impersonal ceremony of the protestant parson who just reeled off psalms without much personal detail which made me instantly think ‘Why ask a parson for this?’ We know how dear the late husband and father was to the family … I would not want or need this just to comply with ‘the usual’ in society. or community…
    I love the Auden poem too and that very scene from ‘4 weddings and a funeral’! And I also share your reluctance towards common middle-European funeral habits… I quite sympathize with the idea of a woodland burial with music because my life has been full of music and so some music might be nice at the end too. My grandparents had planned their funerals years before they passed which appeared strange to me at that time. But maybe it was even helpful for those who were left behind giving the farewell some kind of structure and so even ease the grief a bit?
    So preparing a choice of photos might be a similar method to remember the person who ceased
    and sounds like a good idea…
    Btw we seem to be similarly socialized regarding the photos you chose… 😉


    1. Servetus

      As someone who’s buried a parent now, I have to say I was thankful for everything that she had planned ahead of time. I wasn’t capable of rational thought, and neither was my father or brother. Knowing what she wanted (and in part had paid for in advance) made things so much easier to deal with.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. This ceremony was not a religious one, so there wasn’t a parson, but there were 4 people speeching and a ceremonial lady guiding through the programme. There was music played through the speakers inbetween. It was fine, I just hate it…. I know a proper send off is important for those left behind. I know that when I look back on my dad’s funeral, I feel we had a ceremony for him that was very personal and very fitting for who he had been as a man. In that sense it was good… but I still hate funerals! Writing this on Friday was a knee-jerk reaction but the feeling remains.
      Yes, it is a great idea to think ahead and prepare what you would like for a funeral… On the other hand, it’s not something I really am ready to delve into deeply right now.
      Yeah, those pictures were good, right? Make me smile!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Servetus

    I’m sorry for your and your neighbors’ loss!

    I know I’m hopelessly conventional. My childhood BFF’s mother died this week, someone whom I spent a lot of time with as a tween, as she was one of those mothers whose house was always open to her children’s friends. I knew the end was coming, and said my goodbye about three months ago. They are having the funeral private and a visitation for friends and family (this is common here — open casket funerals are still the norm), because she was a mover in the community and her family has lived here for five generations, and many people will attend. I will go to the visitation, but I’d much rather skip it and go to the funeral service. I appreciate the predictable quality of the ritual and the sermon, knowing what is expected at all times, and being free to mourn as I wish and not be subjected to others’ insistence about how I should be feeling for the sake of politeness, which is often the case at visitations, I find. The narrative at this visitation will be “she fought bravely against cancer,” a narrative I abhor but will be compelled to listen to for hours as I make small talk to different people (most of my high school graduating class will be there). Frankly, I’m dreading it. I’d rather go and pray and cry in church than be required to put on a happy face for our neighbors and friends. No one cares if you cry in church, but doing it in public at a party would seem excessive and maudlin, even if it is earnestly felt.

    That said, when I die, I’ve left the choices about the funeral in my executor’s hands (currently my brother). My very close friends are scattered all over the country and the world, and it’s not usual to come in for something like that. The only people who might come will be relatives, our neighbors, and the much smaller group of friends I have around here. The vast majority of my mourners will be non-Jews, so it seems unfair to subject them to Jewish rituals, which are quite austere in comparison to a Christian funeral. And as I won’t be there, it won’t matter to me, and they should do as they choose. If they prefer a party, they can certainly have one! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m sorry for your loss as well!
      Yeah, I don’t like visitations either, I never go to those and prefer the funeral as well where you can sit in your own hidden corner and process in peace.
      You know, I’m really not sure what I want, party or not, and as I won’t be there, maybe I shouldn’t care. I just hate to burden my loved ones but I guess no matter what I do or don’t plan ahead, it will always be difficult for those left behind…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Liebe Esther, die Rede aus Four Weddings and a Funeral ist einfach nur wunderschön und berührend. Es tut mir leid um den Tod deines Nachbarn, der Verlust ist bestimmt sehr schmerzlich für die Familie, 71 ist noch nicht wirklich ein hohes Alter.
    Ich war jetzt schon auf 2 Beerdigungen in diesem Jahr, beide sehr unterschiedlich und ich möchte keine weitere mehr besuchen müssen. Bei meiner Freundin hätte ich mir eine Rede wie die von John Hannah gewünscht aber der Pfarrer hat nicht die richtigen Worte gefunden und kein anderer war dazu in der Lage……aus diesen Worten spricht so viel Liebe >3

    Liked by 1 person

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