Being fifty-something, I seem to be attending funerals with unsettling frequency. The generation that went before is moving on, one by one.
So I’m feeling qualified to make this personal observation.
Those slideshows of photographs they show at funerals are growing on me. More and more, I look forward to the moment when everyone in the chapel turns their face towards the big screen and watches the passing parade of images against a soundscape of meaningful, carefully chosen music.
I used to think they were naff, these pictorial life stories, when they first started popping up at funeral services a couple of decades ago. I viewed them a bit like the crappy desktop publishing and clipart we were bombarded with in the nineties. Kitsch and bad taste. Just because the technology means you can, that doesn’t mean you should.
But I’ve changed my mind (as I’m doing with unsettling frequency).
A few days ago I attended a funeral service for Ernie, a man related by marriage, someone I’d met when he was fifty-something and since only seen at occasional family gatherings. My whole “knowing” of Ernie was based on the last thirty-odd years of his life, and then, just on a narrow window into it.
Yet, through the magic prism of his funeral slideshow, I saw someone else.
I saw a young boy with mischief on his mind, a teenager with sparkling eyes, a motorbike rider, a car restorer.
I saw young love and a gorgeous wife with a cheeky grin.
I saw Ernie become a proud dad, three times over.
I saw him travelling, carving out a career, working hard to build a good life.
I saw him surrounded by his family as they grew into one another and a whole new generation of grandchildren.
I saw laughter and love and living. I saw all the things I want to celebrate at a funeral.
I felt uplifted and filled with new memories of Ernie to carry with me.
And I felt those around me lift and respond to the Ernie in the photos, to their own memories and connections, to the good living that had been done.
Yes, I’m totally converted. If I must be at a funeral, please let it be one with a soul-stirring slideshow.