Of Weddings and Funerals.
A sure sign of getting older is when invitations to funerals exceed those of weddings. Both are good reasons for getting dressed up and going out and generally few of us would not accept the invitation to partake of rituals that are actually not as far apart as some might think. Both herald an ending to something, although, it has to be admitted, that with weddings there are more opportunities to extend life than with a funeral, which for many are pretty final in the ‘being alive’ department.
It seems strange that for both these events we prefer to call in experts to conduct the social or cultural obligations that go with them, so that the event follows a reasonable course. With a wedding there are usual more cheerful obligations attached and the choice of venue and its associated rituals differ from a funeral. For a start there would be few weddings with a dearly departed in a coffin about, not would there be a gloriously blushing bride dressed in white around at funerals peeping into the heat proof glass panel at the crematorium watching someone’s last fiery journey…
While I can understand someone wishing to be part of conducting weddings and perhaps following one’s heart into that profession in becoming a wedding specialist or celebrant, advising brides on what to expect at weddings and life afterwards, I have some trouble of choosing to become a funeral specialist. Do some of us grow up and have burning ambitions to become an embalmer or coffin specialist measuring the dead, stretching them, dressing them, stuffing cotton padding in orifices, applying rouge to deadly pallor, cutting nails?
I have heard that after death some reflexes still occur. Dead snakes for instance have been known to strike multiple times and still inflict deadly poisons. You would have to harden yourself if a hand would still wag a finger, admonishing a lingering warning to all and sundry, ‘this is what happens’ when you don’t do as told..
The weddings on the other hand are infused with expectations of happiness, the possibility of a future are bandied about. They can also be more lucrative. There are all sorts of commercial aspects joined to weddings. From wedding dress to lingerie to printed invitations, flower arrangements, the hire of cars, horses, ferries, prawn cocktails, table napkins, and the list is endless. Clever wedding specialist will soon detect the anxiety of many brides that no expense should be spared for this ‘one day’ of a lifetime. Cynics might well point out that in fifty percent of weddings the ‘one day’ often gets multiplied much to the delights of the wedding merchants.
Both events do often include the use of cars or even horses and invitations are sent to many people to attend and either celebrate, regret or rue the event. Actually in both events same feelings and sentiments might occur. A canny bride would be well advised to keep her wedding dress for the eventuality of future repeats.
Of course with coffins I haven’t heard of multiple uses. I do believe though that in the US one can actually rent a coffin to lower costs. It is a bit like renting those ‘rent a bin’ for household goods or building rubble to dispense with. The coffin usually can do about twenty or so bodies after which it becomes obvious, with all the bumps and scratches, that even coffins have a limited life-span.
Coffins have to be sled in and out of the hearse on its carriage that have legs that click into place, but it has been known that beginners in the profession have not waited for the familiar sound of the click and both coffin and temporary inhabitant ended up on the bitumen road. With the ‘rent a coffin’ the crematorium folk has to be alerted to remove the dearly departed so the coffin can be returned for future ‘clients.’
While taking the train to Sydney it never ceases to amuse me that at a place called Bargo some enterprising funeral enthusiast has erected a huge blue painted sign on the sloping tiled roof of a funeral parlor exhorting the train traveler to consider phoning them up if they are in need of a good funeral and solid coffin. In the backyard of that same place there are stacked ten high in an open shed with rusted corrugated iron roof, lots of coffins in different stages of their production, patiently waiting for those that have expired but not yet buried or cremated. That’s the beauty of life.
It pays to always remain positive.