Last week I attended the funeral of a person I had never met. I was there in support of the closest families members of this woman and it was a strange position to be in.
It was a sad funeral, as of course they are, not least because she was very young, and left behind a young family, but also because she came from a widespread and fairly fragmented family. My grief was for those children in particular, who I know have a tough road ahead of them coming to terms with the loss of their mother.
Funerals are the strangest things. A microcosm of society - people from all walks of life whom would otherwise have never met, coming together for an hour and little more. The ''religious'' and ''non religious'' both having to make sense of the possibilities or probabilities of an afterlife, as a way of coming to terms with death. Children who barely understand, and old people who have seen too many loved ones go before them. People who are truly grieving and others who are barely sad at all.
And for some strange strange reason , those who are hurting the most seem to end up comforting everyone else. Surely the children or parents or spouse deserve the most support and yet they are the ones who do the back patting, offer the condolences and have to be the 'strong ones''. And worse still, in some weird way, there is often an intangible competition about who is the saddest. Who misses the person most. Who had the closest relationship to them. Who had the most to lose. I am not convinced that our society has this right!
But there was also a positive that showed itself at this particular funeral, and that was the level of attendance from people who barely knew, or had never met the person who died, and yet came along, as I did, to support the grieving. What an amazing gesture, and a reminder that perhaps most people really are as decent and kind as I want to believe they are.