Funny Matters

My “Big Day”: My Mother’s Funeral

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My Big Day: My Mother's Funeral - Funny Matters - Angela Brightwell

The day before my Mum’s funeral I went and did the food shopping.

A few people offered to come with me. But I had it covered.

It didn’t even occur to me. That I should take someone.

Since she’d died, I’d been bombing along. Doing all the jobs.

Registering her death. Notifying the bank. DVLC. DWP. Going through her paperwork. Insurance stuff. You name it.

As difficult as it was. Sorting out her things, closing her accounts. There was something oddly reassuring about ticking off administrative tasks when the world had just turned upside down.

A sense of order at a time when nothing else made sense.

So. A mere bit of funeral shopping?

No problemo.

There was an industrial park not far away. With both a massive Sainsbury’s and a Marks & Spencer’s side by side.

Perfect.

In fact. You could even walk directly from inside M&S to inside Sainsbury’s. It was that easy.

I’d just nip in.

Bish bash boom.

Done.

But. Almost as soon as I stepped foot into Marks. It dawned on me.

“I’m in Marks and Spencer’s. In Colney Heath. Shopping for Mum’s funeral.

How the hell did that happen?”

The last 18 months sprang out at me like a jack-in-the-box uncovered from a dusty attic.

I couldn’t think straight.

I was suddenly way out of my depth.

Had no idea what I was doing.

This was so totally Mum’s environment.

She’d normally be here. Sorting all this stuff out.

She’d know what to get.

I passed some bunches of lavender.

They reminded me of the nightdress she liked.

The one I’d bought for her just before she went into the hospice.

The nurses had dressed her in it. After she’d died.

I blankly picked up as many bunches as they had.

It seemed the right thing to do.

Okay.

So I didn’t have any food or drink.

But shedloads of lavender?

Check!

I managed to hold it together for a while longer.

Wandered up and down the food aisles with a shell-shocked expression.

And somehow. I made it through into Sainsbury’s.

Vacantly pushing my trolley up & down the huge aisles.

I could feel the panic starting to rise up. From the pit of my stomach.

My breath. Getting faster and faster.

By the time I’d reached the crisps and snacks aisle, I had to call my brother.

I explained. Through teary gasps. That I was having a full on meltdown. In the middle of Sainsbo’s

He talked me through it.

Calmed me down.

Helped me find my way to the cheese straws, Ritz biscuits, and the booze.

When he was sure I was past the worst, he rung off.

By this time I’d somehow managed to navigate myself and the trolley to the checkout. And was even in a queue.

I put my phone away. Dazed & confused.

Not really sure what was happening.

My eyes rested on the person in front of me.

It was Pat Butcher.

Yep. That’s right.

Pat Butcher was in the queue in front of me.

Or. Perhaps more accurately. The actress that played her in Eastenders: Pam St Clements.

Just when I thought this funeral shopping experience couldn’t get any more bizarre. Pat Butcher appears.

Of course she does.

And that wasn’t all.

When I eventually emptied out my items onto the conveyor belt. I found the massive stash of lavender from M&S next door.

Which. It turns out. I’d shoplifted.

Anything was possible after that. I even half expected Pat Butcher to arrest me.

Fortunately for me though. She didn’t.

***

In comparison. The day of the funeral went smoothly.

Except for the fact that my best friends kept referring to it as: my ‘Big Day’.

The night before. They left me a voicemail:

“Hope you manage to get some sleep tonight what with your Big Day tomorrow”

It’s a sorry state of affairs when the closest a 36 year old woman gets to having a ‘Big Day’, is her mother’s funeral.

***

So, I’d written Mum’s eulogy.

And my brother had designed the order of service.

I only recently realised. That’s pretty much what we did for my one-woman show back in May. At the Brighton Fringe: I wrote it. And he designed my posters and flyers.

Maybe we should start a business. Siblings & Co. Funerals and fringe shows.

Well. It’s a niche.

The order of service was lovely. He’d done a great job.

He’d covered the back with loads of lovely photos. Mum throughout the years.

The only problem was. That in the only picture he’d chosen of me – as an adult with Mum – I looked hideous.

Like some sort of Franciscan monk. With no teeth.

He sent me the draft beforehand.

It was the first thing I thought: How awful I looked!

And then: How everyone at the funeral would see it!

I was about to ask if he could change the photo. With a better one that I had.

And then I realised. Perhaps it wasn’t the most appropriate time for me to be so concerned by vanity.

I scolded myself.

What an awful daughter I was.

To be worrying about something as superficial at what I looked like in a picture. When it was for my Mum’s funeral.

And who was going to be looking at pictures of me anyway?!

So, of course. I didn’t say anything.

***

I’d arranged to split the eulogy with the vicar.

She’d read the first part I’d written.

And then I would do the second – my reflections on Mum.

She was a lovely woman. The vicar. Softly spoken. And caring.

But crikey! Never ask her to read at a funeral…

She mumbled the whole bloody thing.

I spent hours writing that eulogy. And she wasn’t reading it at all how I wanted.

She’d emphasise the wrong word in the sentence.

Or just not. Get. The. Flow. Right.

It was all I could do to stop myself from standing up and directing her.

Right there. In the crematorium.

“Right twinkle toes. From the top. But this time sure as hell stand up straight. Project to the back row. And pay attention to the grammatical marks in the script!”

That’s right. I turned into Martin Scorsese at my Mother’s funeral.

Never work with children. Animals… Or vicars.

So. Then. I did my part of the eulogy.

I asked my brother to come and stand next to me. For support.

It was all fine. I think.

I don’t really remember. Other than I know I kept it together.

Afterwards. My friend told me it was like something from a Richard Curtis film.

I wasn’t wholly sure how to take that. Didn’t he do Mr Bean?

Later on.

Back at the house.

When we were all working our way through the cheese straws, Ritz biscuits, and the booze.

One of my friends said how lovely the order of service was. All those photos on the back.

She commented on what a lovely picture it was of me and Mum.

That it captured the warmth and love between the two of us.

Then.

As an aside.

She added how refreshing it was. In fact.

That I’d okayed that photo.

For the order of service.

When I clearly looked awful!

***

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4 Comments on “My “Big Day”: My Mother’s Funeral

  1. Richard Pettitt
    December 4, 2015

    Angela, I can just imagine that meltdown in the supermarket when everyone else is going about their everyday. And Pat Butcher – hilarious! Except not hilarious, timing wise. It struck me when you said you were 36 at your Mum’s funeral because that’s how old I am now and the thought of losing Mum now would be awful. She brought me some porridge in bed the other morning just because I’d said the day before that I didn’t eat it but was thinking about it. What a star. It made me think of you and your Mum. By the way, if I pop off before you, can I hire you to direct my eulogy? xx

    • Angela Brightwell
      December 4, 2015

      Haha – you make me laugh, Rich! Yes of course, I’d be honoured to direct your eulogy! ;-)… And how lovely of your Mum bringing you porridge in bed, at 36 years old… you lucky boy xx

  2. Kathryn Hockey
    February 16, 2016

    I just happened across this one while I was checking that the link from my site to yours works (yup, thanks again for the quote). It’s so evocative, that heady mix of the mundane, the bizarre, the other worldly and the scent of stolen lavender. It made me laugh out loud, you’re right…Funny Matters Kxx

    • Angela Brightwell
      February 18, 2016

      Ha, thanks Kathryn, lovely surprise to hear from you! Really glad you liked it, and got it! xx

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