Archive for May, 2011

A Funeral like a Wedding: 11 May

May 11, 2011

Graham Jeffery, a good friend and contemporary of mine, died before Easter; his funeral was last Saturday. Before the service we had a delightful slide show of pictures of Graham on the big screen at the front of church (a practice which will surely grow.) The first song, There is a Redeemer, began with a tremendous wall of sound from the congregation behind us, uplifting, enveloping, comforting. There is nothing like wholehearted singing for togetherness.

Graham was Treasurer of his local church inSouth London, a member for well over 20 years. Most of the congregation at his funeral were fellow church members, hence the gusto singing an untraditional song. A few Sunday mornings ago Graham presented the accounts at the Annual Meeting, answering questions clearly and inspiring people to give. Someone commented on what a good job he had done. ‘What if anything were to happen to you?’ ‘You’d be in a mess,’ was Graham’s forthright, amused, reply.

Later that day Graham was in his study upstairs when the call was shouted up for dinner. He didn’t come down. A rogue blood clot had lodged in his lung and he was dead. His church has known two men in their forties dying in recent years. Graham’s death was the greatest shock. A woman who runs a Christian community drama project, which Graham supported, described his death, cheekily, as ‘a shocking exit.’ Bizarrely it was almost the same as his father’s death, also from a blood clot, also following a broken leg, also from a skiing accident. Graham lived 10 years longer than his father.

Graham’s funeral was a time of tears and laughter, good food and wine. Most poignantly, his Vicar ended the burial of his body with tears in his eyes. Graham and his imperfections were remembered fondly. He enjoyed good wine, of which there was plenty. Church members brought food to share: best olives and smoked salmon and much else. Graham enjoyed dressing up, so everyone was given a button hole to wear. We had been told we needn’t wear black, although Graham’s widow had bought a lovely back hat for the occasion, crying all over the shop assistants. As we drove away, we wondered if we looked like we had just attended a funeral or a wedding.

Roger Harper