Mon | Nov 23, 2020

Gordon Robinson | Some funerals are necessary

Published:Tuesday | July 2, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Everybody who knows me well (a minuscule group) knows I detest funerals.

I despise all ceremony, but funerals are, for me, most disliked. They’re barbaric rituals involving unseemly chanting of gibberish and waving of symbols, including magical vapours, in the morbid presence of a coffin or urn containing either the bodily remains or post-cremation ashes of what was formerly a human being. And we want to demonise and criminalise obeah?

DWL! Why? Too much competition?

Then there are some graceless routines. Some attendees (more like profilers) must be ‘seen’, so they approach the deceased’s family ostensibly to offer personal condolences that could’ve been presented elsewhere in advance. Some blame for this public display of attention-seeking must go to holier-than-thou family members who make mental lists of attendees, non-attendees, those who offered commiserations, and those who didn’t. Reviews are often published.

Then there’s the ‘repast’, where some attendees, including those uncertain they’ve been marked as ‘present’, mooch off the deceased’s family before stuffing eco-unfriendly styrofoam boxes with free food to take home. With one notable exception, I’ve refused to attend any of these farces.

Don’t forget the Church, for whose benefit this uncivilised custom is entrenched. Some religiously blind have challenged me to particularise how I allege church benefits. Sigh. Apart from churches who accept ‘voluntary’ donations (like PBS TV) and the public-relations coup churches gain from captive audiences, the crass commercialisation is most exposed by some churches’ attitude to required subcontracting work. Take, for example, floral arrangements. If you don’t use the church’s preferred (usually connected) florist, God bless the treatment your family friend will receive when he/she tries to do the work. As for flowers sent by absent family members? Don’t get me started!

STRONG SUBCULTURE

It’s a strong subculture. Weeks after my father’s funeral, a friend called. He berated me for not telling him of my father’s death. He said he would’ve attended the funeral. “You better come to mine!” he concluded.

I’ve already left instructions (which, if the Old Ball and Chain acts true to form, will be disobeyed) forbidding any funeral for my body after I abandon this life. Family members still speaking to me may gather at Casa Tout with both my close friends to try to remember me fondly, however difficult that may be. I’ve directed that Messrs J. Wray and his Nephew should be subcontracted to ensure high spirits. Old BC will bake Apple Crumble!

All this is background and context for my wholehearted congratulations to ‘Babsy’ Grange and her team on a world-class production of Edward Seaga’s state funeral. Some funerals are necessary because the volume and variety of genuine mourners can’t be accommodated at other ‘celebrations’, or the deceased’s national contribution calls for national respect. This one was foot perfect (pun intended, JDF). Sequencing and content was of the highest quality. Due respect was shown.

I watched TVJ’s coverage. It was also out of the very top drawer. Champion historian Earl Moxam, always comfortable behind the scenes and extremely camera-shy, somehow overcame his naturally reclusive inclination to perform excellently as co-anchor with his protégé, Dionne Jackson-Miller, who even outresearched the master on a couple of occasions (naughty, naughty).

The team of reporters inside and outside Holy Trinity did an exceptional job and gave appropriate respect, save for one who I won’t name because it’ll expose me as old-fashioned and give undeserved publicity. Simone’s obviously ad-lib effort to show an aged and infirmed mourner determinedly making his way to the church, despite severe physical challenges, was the type of sidebar that makes great TV.

THIS is why you have live TV. It’s for those at home to see what they wouldn’t see, even had they been on the scene. It’s for the event to be placed in a proper perspective. It’s to enhance the event, not overpower it. Kudos, GOJ! Kudos, TVJ! More of the same in future, please.

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.