Solving a grave problem
lye had a St Patrick's night dance last week in the function suite of a local pub. With nowhere of our own to hold them we have few social functions, so it was a great gathering of the clans and a very enjoyable evening. The place had been decorated with flags and bunting and shamrock motifs. There was a certain amount of consternation when the "band" turned up, for it turned out to be a middle-aged, bearded Hell's Angel minus motor bike, but correct in all other respects, with beard and tattoos and piercings. Here, you said to yourself, is a strange band, the kind that if you asked did it know the Siege of Venice would probably roll up his sleeves and show you scars. He duly assembled a variety of hardware which seemed to provide him with a sophisticated electronic accompaniment for the guitar or banjo which he would play while singing. He seemed to know which buttons to press I mean in the sense of selecting the right tunes, a fair mixture of Irish, and sort of country and western, folksy music, what one might call easy listening, though the volume meant that it wasn't that easy. Certainly any conversation had to be carried on in a shout, so that by the following morning I had ringing in the ears and was hoarse.
I have no wish, however, to join tht ranks of the begrudgers. Inevitably there were some who said as it was too cheap, some who said as it was too dear, some who felt that the music was not lively enough and others who felt it was too lively, some who would have preferred more food, and some less. What's the good of these things if there are no talking points, after all? At one stage I feared I was going to be drawn into an unpleasant raffle-fixing scandal when I managed to draw winning tickets for two of its organisers and another one for my mother whom they had kindly invited. There's no doubt though that it was a fun evening and a great boost for parish morale. We raised over £1,000 profit towards our hall. So there you are. Just another dance every week for the next five years and we will be able to build it!
I have to say that, for me, one of the best things about the evening was seeing Jack there. He lost his wife about this time last year and they had both been away from the Church for a long time. Since then he has become one of oar most regular attenders and is becoming involved in the life of the parish more and more. It was lovely to see him there with his daughter and some friends. It made me realise how, even in trying to build a hall, we are already building a community. I will always remember Jack's wife's funeral vividly because when we got to the committal at the graveside the coffin was too big for the grave. It couldn't be lowered it stuck in the mouth of the grave. I was told afterwards by another local clergyman that this is a better outcome than lowering it and finding it gets stuck half way down. If it is actually in the grave, even by just a few inches. you apparently need a Home Office permit to take it out: it is technically an exhumation. I am assured also that if a mourner should accidentally drop something into a grave a handbag, for instance you cannot simply fish it out again; you require special permission from the Home Office.
To give them their due, the cemetery staff and gravediggers were absolutely mortified at what had happened, the cemetery warden apologising profusely, saying it hadn't happened to him in all the 30 years he had worked there. It seems there was some kind of breakdown in communication between them and the undertakers about what size the coffin was.
What could we do? We had to just stand there and wait while the gravediggers fetched their spades and shaved a few more inches of earth off the foot of the grave, until finally the coffin could be lowered. In the strange, tense moments of waiting I went over to Jack a . great gentle giant of a man without much idea of what . could say.
"You will tell this story over and over again," I toll him, "and in time to come you will perhaps even be alle to smile about it."
"I know,he said, with a rueful smile. "I will tell then how she didn't want to leave me."
I have always rememberd his dignified bearing in the midst of what had potentin either for farce or outrage . I am so happy that he has become part of our comma pity, that he felt he wanteth come and join in the dance