With a fresh pot of coffee made in the far too early hours of the morning, I piled up on the sofa while the rest of the house was sleeping to tune into the funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II. I had already decided to watch the coverage on BBC to avail myself of the dulcet tones of the British newsreaders.
Of course I watched from the very beginning, even though I knew it would be slow going at first. After about an hour or so, I switched over to American cable news coverage to find it, not only vapid, but being delivered in the most grating voices imaginable. It’s funny how just listening to the Brits for a short time can set one on the path to full-on Anglophilia.
By the time I needed a third cup of coffee, it was time for the arrivals of the guests at Westminster Abbey to begin. As expected, it was a sea of black, with most of the women wearing hats. Personally, I would have loved to see some gloves, too, but we can’t have everything, can we?
About those hats. It is true that a bad choice can be the difference between wearing a hat and having the hat wear you. But I was so happy to just see hats in such abundance that I won’t quibble too much about the bad ones, although what Dr. Jill Biden wore on her head did garner some bad press. Let’s just say that she should have followed Coco Chanel’s advice about looking in the mirror before going out and taking one thing off.
But it was the hats with the veils that won my heart. Queen Camilla and the Princess of Wales wore them with great style. And, really, if going to the funeral of the Queen of England isn’t the occasion for a veil, what is?
Following the funeral, the procession to Windsor Castle gave plenty of time to reflect on the proceedings and funerals, in general. The rituals associated with death have certainly changed over the years. Growing up, there were all sorts of comments and gossip that led up to and followed a funeral.
There was the oilman (he reportedly left behind $15,000,000—a huge amount back in the day) who got the big Catholic funeral mass, not because of his own faith, but because of his faithful wife. Besides, he had given the land to the church on which the Catholic high school was built.
At the death of another pillar of the community—Daddy said more people were there than at any funeral he had ever attended—one of Mother’s friends wore a red dress. I suspect that unfortunate choice was embedded in the minds of every lady in Tyler, although I’m fairly sure no one ever mentioned it to her. Her husband was very rich and very forward looking. He made his money in what today we would call technology, not oil.
There was an aunt who was known to always faint at funerals, so I remember keeping an eye on her throughout my grandmother’s service. Sure enough, as she backed away from the casket at the final viewing, I saw her ankles wobble, then her knees buckle, and then the complete collapse from the height of her high heels to the floor. A hand may have been extended to soften the fall, but I really can’t say for sure.
The best way to get an optimal turnout for the service was to have it on Sunday afternoon. This was specific advice I received from the funeral director when planning Daddy’s service—Daddy having the foresight to die late in the week. That way, everyone could leave the house dressed for the funeral and wedge lunch at Luby’s between church and the service. Otherwise, the best one could hope for would be to have the ladies say, “The service was well attended—for a weekday.”
While Queen Elizabeth II could, should and did pull out all the stops with her funeral, funeral planning here was walking a tightrope. Make it too showy, and one would be accused of putting on the dog. Cut too many corners, and “they certainly put her away cheap” would be the word around town. “That casket piece was all carnations, and pink ones at that.”
The funeral seems to be going the way of the rotary phone. Some people still have them, but those who do are really old.
Families, of necessity, come together in death, and then move back to their previously assigned and chosen places to adjust to the change in the balance of family power. The Windsors will probably be no different.
In case it wasn’t noticed, I preferred to write this week about death and funerals, rather than Donald Trump. Draw your own conclusions. Besides, it’s a pretty good bet that doing so will be unavoidable in the weeks ahead. More’s the pity.