I have done readings in all kinds of places; boats, towers, hospitals, schools, old workhouses, streets, churches, barns, stately homes and care homes; but the request I had recently left me slightly stunned. In a funeral home? Really?
The last time I was in a funeral home, me and my husband were selecting a little box for his mother’s ashes.
The time before that we were selecting the coffin that now formed part of the ashes we were about to put into this new box.
The time before that, it was a coffin for my mother. Twelve years ago now, but I still remember it vividly. After a long drawn out and emotionally and physically exhausting death bed vigil, I was punch drunk. It was a surreal experience; the attendant showing us round the ‘showroom’ as we tried to decide between oak and mahogany, between brass or gold handles, as if any of it mattered. My brother insisting on the most expensive; his final opportunity to please our mother.
We bring in ‘good suits’ or Sunday ‘going to church’ dresses so that our dead look their best, and we view the body, consider whether the undertaker has done a good job, whether they have managed to wipe away the suffering from the faces of the newly dead, whether the deceased ‘look like themselves’ again. The smell of embalming and the necessary chill. To me a funeral home is the saddest of all places. It is the place where the aftermath of death really begins, where the grief takes its awful shape, amongst the practicalities of life.
So the only way I’m ever entering a funeral home again is if I absolutely have to, and that certainly does not include a poetry reading. I’m not saying it is wrong to have a poetry event in a funeral home – of course it isn’t – it’s just inexplicable to me why anyone would want to. And who will go along to listen? Or is it just me that thinks it’s strange?