Unless you have spent the past week in a box buried 37 miles beneath the surface of Mars, you’ll have been aware that yesterday was the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, who was the Prime Minister of Britain between 1979 and 1990.
The funeral was an elaborate state occasion (though for reasons I cannot grasp it wasn’t officially a ‘State Funeral’), the coffin borne on a gun carriage through the streets of London, a vast service in St Paul’s Cathedral and so on and so forth in like fashion. As controversial in death as she was in life, the Noble Lady’s funeral arrangements did attract some criticism, even among her admirers. I, for one, thought Mrs Thatcher (as she was then) was great, but felt that the funeral was excessive. If it were me doing the organizing, I’d have recommended a quiet family funeral in Grantham (Mrs Thatcher’s home town) and maybe a memorial service later on in London for those who like that sort of thing.
But I digress.
The whole affair got me thinking about one’s own funeral arrangements, if that’s not too morbid a subject. As for me, I belong to a synagogue, whose membership fees include the costs of a Jewish funeral. These are pretty simple and quick affairs (or so I believe – I have never attended one,) as Jews like to get the stiff under the ground faster than you can say ver geharget. Moslems, too, go in for the same alacrity: the reason being, perhaps, that bodies in hot countries, whence these faiths originated, tend to go off rather rapidly.
Not that I haven’t thought of alternatives.
Cremation is a good plan. Were I to be cremated, I’d have the ashes scattered off Cromer Pier. Mourners would be advised to check the wind direction before doing this. It gets a bit breezy, it does, on Cromer Pier.
Mrs Crox recently attended a natural burial, which she found very affecting. As we Croxii are keen on recycling, a natural burial would do the most to return one’s corporeal remains to the Universe whence they came. Perhaps I can arrange to be buried at the bottom of the garden with the aim of providing nutrients for next year’s vegetables. Or buried standing up, in the compost heap.
One could, of course, donate one’s body to research. One should, these days, specify that any organs, if useful, should be harvested for medical or research purposes. My brain, for example, is likely to be in perfect condition, having been the property of one careful owner, and hardly used. I am a little wary, though, of having my cadaver carved up by medical students who might be tempted to do unpleasant and perhaps unseemly things with parts of my anatomy. I know, I know, I’ll be dead, and so won’t care … but still.
What I’d really like, though, is a Viking funeral. I’d be laid in a longship (a rowing boat would do), with my keyboards laid on either side, my amplifier at my feet, and the flag of Norwich City FC draped around my corpse. I’d be doused in oil and set adrift off Cromer. At that point an archer would fire a flaming arrow into the boat, producing a funeral pyre which would then give my ashes to the waves. I imagine that these arrangements might be prohibitive on the grounds of cost, and they might fall foul of regulations pursuant to the disposal of
animal toxic human waste … not to mention coming to the attention of the Sea Mammal Research Unit.
Consideration of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral set me thinking along musical lines, too – to one of my favourite jazz/blues standards, called variously St James’ Infirmary, or Gambler’s Blues. In the song, a gambler, who has just seen the body of his loved one at the morgue, waxes expansively (and probably drunkenly) about his own funeral arrangements. ‘When I die,’ he says:
… please bury me
In my high-top Stetson hat.
Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain
So the boys will know I died standing pat.
And get six gamblers to carry my coffin:
Six chorus girls to sing me a song:
And put a twenty-piece jazz band on my tailgate
To raise hell as we roll along.
What a send-off that would have been.