Following the death of my writer friend Margaret at the age of 90, last week I attended her funeral in Coventry.
No mean and mumbled half hour at the local crem for Margaret. It was a beautiful hour-long tribute in her local historic church immaculately arranged by Margaret herself some ten years previously (yes, that's how well organised she was!). Embossed invitations arrived through the post as if to a wedding, a heavenly choir sang her favourite hymns and little slips of paper inserted in the order of service booklets requested the contact details of all who attended. Surprising revelations in her son's eulogy about the secret passion for fancy dress and how Margaret was held at gunpoint twice on her travels over the years when venturing to regions where angels fear to tread.
I'm now half expecting a thank you note from Margaret through the post as that's the kind of lady she was!
A sumptuous spread awaited us in the flower-festooned church hall next door afterwards replete with wine waiters. All her photo albums were on tables. I was fascinated as I'd never seen the young Margaret before.
Struck by how lovely some of the photos were (one distinctly regal!) I discreetly snapped my favourites above when the opportunity arose as I knew Margaret wouldn't mind, being a fellow writer and documenter of life. In addition I have often been to funerals and seen at least one special photo I have never seen before and am likely never to see again, but felt it unseemly to bother the grieving loved ones for a copy.
Such was the case with a magical photograph of an ex-boyfriend at his funeral two years ago that I wished I had photographed a copy of. I suppose I am sentimental like that. I like to have a keepsake that makes me smile when thinking about a lost friend or loved one. And actually I prefer a nice photograph to any physical keepsake.
The photos of young Margaret reminded me of a nursing home where I used to visit my Great Aunt. Each doorway had a framed photograph affixed to the wall next to it containing a favourite photograph of the resident when young. This was not just an aide memoire to those residents who were losing their memories and looking for the right bedroom door, but a stark reminder to the mostly young care staff that their clients were also once young and to encourage them to see them as people like them who just happened to have lived longer, and not merely as they were now. It seemed to work. An ethos of respect permeated the home and Great Aunt Alice was well cared for.