My sister, Iris, aged ninety-four, has died after a short illness. The funeral, my sister Sylvia tells me, Is at Exeter Crematorium, in Devon.
We set off in good time on our long journey, as we neared Exeter, Wendy asked.
“Do you have the address Alan?”
“Yes, The Exeter Crematorium.”
“I know that, but what is the actual address?”
I thought this was one of her trick questions, as I was sure she knew perfectly well.
“Ah, you can’t catch me out on that one.” I said.
She gave me one of her looks.
Then she said in the very deliberate way, without looking at me, that lady’s have when they are displeased.
“Alan, we have been driving for over four hours, please tell me, you know where we are going.”
“Don’t you worry love, everyone will know where the ’Crem’ is, we will just ask in a garage.”
Just as I said this, we came to a jogger, I stopped and asked him the way.
There are times, when the answer to a perfectly reasonable question, makes the blood in your veins freeze, this was one such a time.
“Yes” he said, “Which one do you want?”
I felt the car shudder as Wendy sat bolt upright in her seat.
“Which-one? Which-0ne? How many bloody Crematorium’s are there?”
The jogger continued. ”The nearest one is a mile away, the other around six miles.”
“Six miles, I don’t believe it, I just don’t bloody believe it”
Wendy slumped in her seat, she looked at the end of her tether for some reason, but we soon arrived and I went ahead to see this group of people standing outside the chapel, hoping against hope that some-one would say. “Hello Alan.”
All I saw was sad people trying to work out, which part of their family I came from.
Most married men will tell you, that they have a sixth sense when all is not going well. It takes the form of wishing you were dead.
We went inside a waiting room, once again, no one stood out.
Then we heard a service in progress. We went in and sat at the back, and sang a couple of hymns. Wendy, having never met Iris, whispered.
“Is that a picture of Iris on the coffin?”
As I looked at the picture, I could feel the icicles returning to my blood stream.
In moments of acute stress such as this, I have found that humour is the best way out.
“Wendy, Love, now I haven’t seen Iris for a while, but the last time I did see her, she never had a beard, and I have a feeling this may be the wrong funeral.”
It worked like a charm, Wendy went into quiet hysterics, at least that’s what I thought, I may of course have been wrong.
We left quite quickly, with Wendy still shaking, the man at the door gave her a sympathetic nod, he must have thought she was too distressed to carry on with the service, which in a way was quite right.
As we drove away to the next Crem’, it was all too much for Wendy, she seemed a bit subdued, but after a while she started laughing, I mean really laughing out loud.
It just goes to show that my method, of making a terrible situation bearable, by making it into a joke really does work.