I’ve been to a lot of funerals, and since I have a large extended family I suppose its part of the family dutiful tradition that we get together for them if any of us can. Since my Mum died more than five years ago there have been three other funerals of her generation, the latest one being last week and for her sister-in-law.
When I knew that the funeral was imminent, I wondered which of my cousins would be there and knew that at least two of them would be, but after that I wasn’t quite sure who would be able to make it. I arrived early to make sure I was in good time, and found I was the first to arrive which gave me time to reflect at the past funerals I had been to at that crematorium. A couple of minutes later the door opened and in walked two of my female cousins with their husbands, we kissed cheeks in greeting and caught up with each others news and five minutes later the cousin who lives the furthest away appeared, to my delight. He comes to all the funerals and he and I hugged with a big smile and we were joined by two more male cousins one with his wife, and one on his own. Its funny that we don’t see each other much, other than funerals, but having that family connection of roots and the past keeps us together as a group.
Then it was time to pause the conversation and stand with respect as the coffin arrived and the accompanying immediate family as we went through into the chapel and went through the service, listened to the eulogy for my aunt about the high lights of her long life and the last few months when her health declined.
In reflective mood we filed out, the people who had gathered for this last goodbye, thanking the vicar for his words and then making plans for the next part at a favourite hostelry for food and a chat over a drink or two. And of course I wanted to go and join them for the get-together. We might all be there for a sad reason, but my aunt had had a good long life, and as I always say there is more love at a funeral than a wedding, and the affection I feel for my cousins meant I wanted to spend some time with them catching up on news and being in their company.
After we’d eaten the delicious buffet, it all got a bit more relaxed and in a lull in the conversation, I asked if I might be introduced to the daughter of my cousin. I hadn’t yet met her, due to the usual difficult logistics of getting all the family together at any one time. She and I half hugged in greeting, and smiled at each other as we chatted and got to know each other. And talked about art. We talked a lot about art. Since we are both professional artists and were on equal terms regarding that subject. I am older than her by many years and she has been accepted by a large gallery and is established there. I can fully understand why, since her work is of a very high standard, is well thought out, and appeals to a lot of people. And even though I had not spoken to her before, we had a large shared knowledge of our art.
What the conversation reminded me of was the rapport between people who are connected. In communication about family, or art, I feel an ease in the conversation. There may be other things going on in our lives, we might have things that have to be dealt with that are stressful or challenging. But the conversation between family, and between artists is natural for me. I suppose when we feel a connection we feel more empathy for the subject matter, and the person we are communicating with.