As the hearse passed the mourning onlookers, Toby slipped a hand in his mother’s more for reassurance than anything. This was the first time he had been to a funeral and from what he’d seen so far he didn’t plan on visiting another one any time soon. There were too many people crying, too many sad faces. This wasn’t what he had been promised, he had been promised a party. Mum had told him it was a celebration of life, celebration, this was no celebration. P-A-R-T-Y he screamed silently in his head, imagining all the black clad mourners wearing party hats and blowing those funny party blowers that once blown reverberate in your head. This wasn’t fun, he wondered how he could liven things up a bit, after all Grandad Pete had always spouted the old clichés like, “life was for living” and “you’re a long time dead”. Toby thought he might as well be dead too as this funeral malarkey was not for him. He looked at his Mum, eyes all swollen and red and hated his Grandad for doing this to her. Why did people die, why couldn’t they just go on forever?
The mourners silently filed into the drab crematorium that had seen more tears than was natural for any building, the magnolia walls even screamed out for life. The quiet sobbing by the mourners was starting to make Toby giggle. He didn’t know why but he had this strange thing happen to him whenever he was supposed to be quiet or morose, he just wanted to giggle. It happened to him when he was sitting in assembly at school. He had received many a stern look from Mrs May whilst trying to retain his composure. Funerals were obviously going to have the same effect on him, much to the dismay of Aunty Vera who was now shooting him a disapproving look and tutting. She wasn’t really his Aunt but it was the done-thing to call anyone of matriarchal superiority Aunty. Toby didn’t get it, either she was his Aunt or she wasn’t, and didn’t that undermine the seniority of his real Aunty in terms of who gets to tell him off when his Mum’s not about? He just assumed everyone had equal rights to tell him off regardless of bloodline.
The service began and Toby sat with his hands on his lap, starring into it trying to concentrate on the impending giggle that was about to surface again. Arhhh, All Things Bright and Beautiful sung by the cats’ chorus, Aunt Vera was in her element, belting out at the top of her voice. That was enough to make anyone laugh, Toby started to choke, luckily it was drowned out by Aunt Vera’s singing. Toby was getting bored, he enjoyed listening to the Minister talking about Grandads life, his time in Burma, the sock factory he had foundered and the patent he had on a sock design and meeting Nanny, but the singing yuck. He loved Nanny but it was always Grandad he went to when he hurt his knee or needed advice. It was always Grandad who took him shopping for presents for Mum or took him down the garden to tender to his tomatoes which were his pride and joy. Where was he now? The coffin sat before him, lost and lonely, he couldn’t imagine Grandad in there, he couldn’t imagine Grandad lying there lifeless and all alone. Grandad was a people person and the full congregation was testament to that.
As the service drew to a close Toby’s giggling had subsided and a morose feeling swept over him. This was not good. This is not what Grandad would have wanted. The Pallbearer was now standing at the open door indicating for everyone to file out into the foyer. Before Toby knew what was happening he was up and out of his seat, leaving his Mums hand dangling, waiting for his hand in hers but Toby had other ideas. He headed for the door sweeping his hands in the air and behind his head in rhythm whilst kicking his legs out one at a time and skipping. In his head he could hear the music to “Bring me Sunshine”. Grandad loved Morecambe & Wise. Behind him Toby could hear the chuckle of laughter. He smiled to himself. Job done.