Posted on March 6, 2013
I went to a funeral yesterday and as funerals go, it was a jolly nice one, where being overtly sombre was not really on the agenda. For a lot of blokes of my generation and indeed the generations above, we have it in our DNA to try to keep emotions in check at these events, wrongly seeing that blubbing is a sign of a weakness in our characters. Fortunately, yesterday, apart from having to fake an early season hay-fever attack half-way through Joe’s (Tony’s son) brilliant and poignant poem, I was spared the ordeal having to emotionally equip myself for mass mourning. This was because of the uplifting almost celebratory nature of the event which was typified by a tribute from his best friend that could have only been delivered by someone who had known him for fifty odd years.
Unless of course, I go first, funerals are only going to become more common place in the years that lie ahead but as science continues to outwit and make a fool of religion, the shift from funerals being an event where someone is passed over to a better or indeed worse place, to a very final farewell, will take place. Yesterday, the funeral was conducted by a man of no faith, an independent funeral adviser if you like, a man who had no issue with the religious belief or non-belief of those attending as long as they were united in showing their respect for Tony. I presume that this was at Tony’s request and to attend a funeral without the pressure of adhering to a specific religion was a huge gulp of fresh air.
I went to a full Catholic funeral a few years back and to be honest with you, it scared the shit out of me; not only was I having to deal with the hysteria going on around me, I also felt like an extra in a scene from Harry Potter as these odd looking people started swinging lanterns around and shouting at each other. I have no problem with Catholic’s at all, I have worked with and know a lot of Irish people who are really struggling coming to terms with their faith at the moment and I feel genuinely sorry for people who have given a life to something only to have corruption and abuse scandals smashed in their face. However, after leaving that particular funeral, for several days after, I had disturbed sleep patterns and really struggled to get the whole event out of my head. It just felt weird.
As for Tony, my showing at the funeral yesterday was really as an appreciation of what I have learnt from him over the last few years. I guess I only met him twenty odd times in this time, but at social events we would naturally gravitate towards each other, bonded by a love of cricket, football and writing. Tony was a big fan of this blog but also its fiercest critic, perpetually picking me up on grammar and particular my apostrophe abuse or “apostrophe sprinkler” as he called it. Tony often guided me and corrected me on statistics and inadvertently made me a better writer as I lived in permanent fear of being ‘Tonied’ I can remember Tony picking me up on an apostrophe a couple of months ago that had been agreed by the grammar checker on this page and on Microsoft Word. His response was “Don’t listen to those Americans and remove that apostrophe dear boy.” He was right of course.
People reading this might think that Tony sounded like a pedantic old bastard and they would of course, be correct. However, if a pedantic old bastard can help you enhance your knowledge of the world and make you a better person for it, meeting that pedantic old bastard has to be worthwhile. Funnily enough, it was not writing, cricket, online Scrabble or football that I will remember Tony mostly for, it was actually a firm and very humbling private admonishment that he delivered to me after I stupidly and drunkenly called someone a c*nt on the social network Facebook. Tony contacted me immediately and told me that he had always thought much better of me as a human being and that delivering such vitriol on an individual did not suit my character or at least the character he thought I was. He was right of course and it was with poignant coincidence that I met shook hands and exchanged a gentleman’s hug with the said c*nt on the day of Tony’s death.
The day of Tony’s admonishment was a kind of turning point for me and it made me realise that whilst short term anger is an understandable human trait, vitriol and bitterness to another human being who has allegedly wronged you or one of your friends, is a fruitless activity where the only loser is the person dishing the hatred out. A pre-Christmas flirtation with dating websites introduced me to a world of seething resentment between people who had once shared children and wedding vows and made me thankful that because of meeting people like Tony, I have found it within myself to form a close friendship with my ex-wife and live a contented life where if people enjoy my company, fantastic, if they don’t, that’s just dandy.
That Tony has helped make think in that way is the biggest tribute I can pay him.
I remember sharing this on Facebook a few years ago and Tony saying what a great song it was, so I will play it again.