I attended a funeral a while back. I was working, doing some photography. I wrote something about it. Here it is.
Dull, Dreary, Cold.
I was at a funeral today. It was for somebody I had never met. But at some point I had tears in my eyes. And a lump in my throat.
I had heard about him. Good things. Not so good things. Now he was no longer living and I was at his funeral. He was gone.
I watched people cry. I watched some laugh. Not at him of course, just laughing with each other. Probably remembering happy things about him. Happy times with him. Or maybe they weren’t even talking about him at all.
The weather was perfect for a funeral. Dull, dreary, cold. Just how I like it on a regular anyway. People came trickling in slowly. There was no church service. Everything was done by the graveside. And I was taking pictures. I was there to take photographs. And I wanted to do it in the most sensitive way I could. Without being in peoples faces as they bawled their eyes out, and held each other, and grieved for a friend lost. Without making them feel as though they had to keep themselves composed because there’d be a camera lens in their faces trying to catch the tears. I felt cruel. But I went on anyway. They wouldn’t mind. They wouldn’t even notice. I wouldn’t be invasive, or obtrusive. I would keep my distance, yet capture the sadness on their faces. Capture the grief. Capture the loss.
Some faces looked solemn, and stoic. As though they were doing something they did on a regular. As though they were waiting their turn, now that they had bade goodbye to so many around them, and were expecting to be next any day now. They looked as though their tears had long ran out, and death was just another part of the game. It was a game now. One they didn’t enjoy being a part of but had no choice but to play. They seemed strong, but it wasn’t strength I saw in them.
I saw anger on other faces. Anger at what they deemed unfair. Unfair that their friend was dead. That he had not lived longer. That he lost the battle. That he left them. Anger at the fact that they had to endure losing him. Anger because it hurt. Anger because they didn’t understand why. Why he had to die. Anger because he hadn’t finished living his life. Anger because they were not finished loving him, and they weren’t ready to stop. Anger at why death had to be. Anger at a ‘system’ that seemed too flawed to ever be praised again. Anger because they knew. Anger that it would be them too someday.
There was sadness on most. Sadness because they missed him. Sad because he had died. He was dead, and death was a sad thing. Sad because those left behind remain thinking about all that they could have gotten to do with their loved one. Wishing that they had. All the hopes and dreams that went unfulfilled. All that could have been. All that won’t be. Will never be. All the children they never got to have. The things they never got to do. The places they never got to visit. The rest of their story that never got told. The void that has been left that can never be filled again. Sadness because of the regret that gnawed at them. Regret because of what they should have done that they never had the courage to do.
I kept at the picture taking. Snapping away. Walking slowly round, trying to get the right angles, where the light would fall just right on the faces of the mourners.
Were they really all mourning? Weren’t some there to celebrate a life ‘well lived’? That’s what the obituary said anyway.
There was another funeral going on a few metres away. But those people were using speakers so loud, it felt as if we were there for that funeral. It made me angry. Angry because they were being disrespectful. Inconsiderate. But they were sad too. So I felt guilty about my anger.
I let them be, and returned to ‘our’ funeral.
I continued to click away. They were singing for him now. It looked painful. The singing. They looked like it hurt to sing. And it hurt for me to watch them sing. But I took pictures of that too. There were more tears now. More anger. More shadows across the faces. Shadows that had nothing to do with light. Shadows that appeared from within.
They were burying him now. Lowering the coffin into the grave. And they were quiet as they did so. It was heavy. The silence. It’s as though the silence was weighing down on the coffin. Pushing it deeper into the grave. Covering it. Drowning it. The lump in my throat grew larger. My vision became blurred. So I lifted the camera to my eyes. I didn’t want anybody to see me shed tears for someone I had never met. I would be like one of those well oiled, well practiced funeral wailers. It would be pretentious of me to cry. So I hid behind the lens. And clicked away.
He was under. They began to pick handfuls of dirt. And threw them into the grave. Like a final wave good bye.
And then the shovels came. Bright. New. And they quickly filled it up. The grave. And placed the flowers on top. Red roses. Whose petals fell off and began to roll away with the wind.
As if they didn’t want to be there.