by, 19-Sep-2011 at 10:41 (443 Views)
Dad lived in a wine-growing region in southern France, and generally funerals happen fairly fast over there. The usual rule of thumb is three days after death, but because we were unusual in asking for a cremation rather than burial we went for the following week.
The days between dad's death and the funeral were the worst. We were all wondering exactly what to do next. Obviously no-one wanted to start the round of phone calls to banks, credit cards, phone etc, but aside from setting up the funeral there was a kind of emptiness about it. I found myself withdrawing to the far end of the house to avoid the rest.
The setting up was quite a lot of work. If you've never encountered French bureaucracy, lucky you (unless you are American, in which case it's marginally better than what you are used to). We did have one particular laugh because the first set of paperwork had dad's name mis-spelled, and we asked them to correct it. Mum then had to re-sign one paper authorising the funeral director to drive dad's body from hospital to the funeral home when the body was already in the store next door. We asked (in jest) whether they would have to take it back if we refused to sign...
But the event itself was just that. We did it in the village church. Now that's a Roman Catholic church, but my dad (who lived and died a member of the Church of England) was for a long time the one who kept it clean and open every day. The Anglican priest took the service, assisted by the local Catholic priest - so we had a Mass in French and English (and Latin... and a little German too, a choir singing Bach) where everyone took bread and wine together. The place was packed: there were people standing outside the door listening to the eulogy. The highest compliment of all was that several of the local vignerons stopped their wine harvest for the morning to attend the funeral - that's not just a job, that's their whole living.
Finally, after lunch we drove over to the crematorium. There's not much you can say about crematoria - they are basically machines - but at least this one didn't do what so many British operations do and push you through in twelve minutes. There was time for the one last goodbye...